The oldest members of our generation reach forty years of age. I’ve seen friends sharing various memes with jokes about knee and back pain associated with getting older. Memes are a cultural touchstone that has a unique relationship to millennials. They are a form of media that ages alongside us like the Harry Potter series once did when we were children.
Those of us who work in jobs that keep us under protracted tension from remaining in a static position for long periods will be particularly prone to developing aches and pains associated with aging. Retail and office workers, restaurant waiting staff, teachers, and even long-haul truckers may not be able to implement a full workout schedule when balancing their life obligations.
Whether you want to guard against chronic pain, snap out of a 2:00 p.m. crash, or are just looking for something productive to do when bored, here are two easy and helpful exercises anyone can do.
Ben Patrick’s Story
Ben Patrick suffered knee injuries as a young man as a result of his basketball training. He had to undergo surgery to get an artificial replacement in part of his left knee. During Ben’s rehab journey, he concluded that the current view of avoiding positioning the knee’s over the toes during training was leading to widespread underdevelopment of muscles that protect the knee.
It is a culturally regular exercise in China to walk backward. As you step back and put weight on the back foot, your knees are positioned over your toes. In China, There is only one knee replacement surgery performed for every nineteen in the United States.
One study compared the training progress of two groups of athletes. One group practiced by running back while the other trained to run forward.
Over time the running speed of the first group averaged faster than the second. For every inch of vertical jump gained in the second group, the first group gained four.
Ben saw similar results when training backward and has better jumping ability than he did before his knee replacement.
“Step 0” of knee ability
The ground floor level of Ben’s program is based on three progressions. For ordinary people that aren’t undergoing rehab or athletic conditioning, the first two will be enough to stay pain-free longer in everyday life.
Levels of Progression
Ben recommends doing these exercises as a warm-up or wind-down routine. They can be done safely for ten minutes at a time, no more than twice a day, three times a week. They can also be done as a standalone exercise.
Simply walk backward for ten minutes a day. Take smaller steps at a slower pace depending on what is comfortable for you. By taking longer steps, you increase the lever length of your gait and increase the resistance from your body weight.
Younger people can progress the level into a running stride at the highest level of progression. It’s recommended that older folks simply move on to level two instead to minimize the risks of injury.
Instead of moving faster, which can risk placing sudden shocks on the knee anatomy, you can more safely increase the difficulty of this exercise by adding resistance. Ben suggests walking backward on a still treadmill, using your legs to roll the belt forward. You can also tie a band around your waist to a bag of sand or chains on the ground instead.
There are specialized devices that are designed to provide internal resistance as well. As a simple activity that can be squeezed into everyday routines, I recommend the still treadmill as the best option.
Stay moving longer
Walking backward with or without resistance is a great way to guard against atrophy in muscles that aren’t normally challenged in day-to-day activities. Keeping these muscles adapted to support your bodyweight with these exercises can help long-term joint health.
If you don’t have a treadmill or a place to drag weights, I recommend combining level one another exercise that trainer Jeff Cavaliere says everyone can benefit from. As an alternative to adding resistance horizontally with progression to level two, add dumbbells or weight to reinforce better posture and strengthen the whole body frame.