Knee pain affects many people and is sometimes severe enough to require rest from everyday activities. Although there are other causes, knee pain is often a result of osteoarthritis or OA – which is a degenerative condition that affects over 27 million Americans.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce knee pain and keep your joints healthy. These five exercises can help you manage your knee pain and with consistent practice, help your knees to become stronger.

Warming Up Is Important!

As long as your health care provider says it’s okay for you to exercise, start slowly by preparing your body for exercise to avoid any injuries. Riding a stationary bike or taking a brief walk can help you warm up safely. If you have access to a gym, another no-impact way to warm up is to use the elliptical for 5 to 10 minutes. This can help stimulate the secretion of synovial fluid, which lubricates the knee joint.

Straight Leg Raises

This seated exercise helps strengthen the quadriceps, which are the muscles located at the front of the thigh. This exercise is helpful because it places no strain or weight on the knee. Strong quadriceps also help keep your knees injury-free. Lie on your back on an exercise mat or other flat surface. Bend one knee and place your foot flat on the floor. Keep your other leg straight and raise this leg to the height of your other knee. Repeat this exercise 8 to 10 times for two to three sets.

Hamstring Curls

This exercise strengthens the hamstrings, the muscles located on the back of the thigh. To start this exercise, lie flat on your stomach on an exercise mat or other flat surface. Slowly move your heel as close to your buttocks as possible and hold that position. Do not strain or push yourself to the point that you feel pain. Remember to repeat the exercise with the opposite leg. Complete two or three sets of 15 hamstring curls. You can also do hamstring curls while you stand and hold onto a chair, if more comfortable for you.

Step-Ups

For this exercise, you’ll need a step or 6-inch platform. Step one foot onto the platform or step, making sure your entire foot is on the platform. Lift your other foot off the floor, letting it hang relaxed off the platform. Work on holding this movement for up to 3-5 seconds. Slowly lower your hanging foot to the floor. Next, bring your stepping foot down. Step up with the opposite leg and repeat each side six to eight times. Never lock the knee of the leg that is stepping on the platform.

Wall Squats

Wall squats can also help strengthen your knees but it’s important to work up to this exercise slowly. Using good form is critical so that you do not injure yourself. Stand with your back touching a wall and be sure to keep your feet shoulder-width apart. Carefully bend your knees while keeping your back against the wall. Hold this position for 5-10 seconds. Repeat this exercise six to eight times and try to hold the position for longer each time. If this exercise bothers your knees, do not continue.

Remember, if you have any type of injury, it is important to talk with your doctor about your readiness for exercise. Exercise can help you build strength and flexibility—but using good form and staying injury-free is equally important.