Knee pain got you down? There's great news for runners and would-be runners, as easy and inexpensive hip exercises have proven to prevent knee injuries and keep you on the road.

“I like the simplicity of it,” says Dr. Reed Ferber (PhD), director of the Running Injury Clinic and an associate professor in the faculty of kinesiology at the University of Calgary. “There have been lots of gimmicks with shoes and orthotics. This is a piece of eight-dollar surgical tubing. Doing two simple exercises can have such a positive impact on runners. It is very exciting.”

Dr. Ferber believes that hundreds of thousands of Canadians could benefit from these exercises. “Four million people are engaged in formal running programs. Triple that for running recreationally,” he says. Scientific studies show that 50 per cent of runners get injured every year, and about 80 per cent of those injuries are from the knee down, half are at the knee. “Let’s say all Canadians who run did these two exercises, even if we were able to reduce injuries by 10 per cent, that’s 400,000 runners.”

Even in those with mild to moderate knee osteoarthritis, these hip strengthening exercises can reduce pain in the knee.

Using gait analysis technology, Ferber and colleagues found that doing the hip exercises (strengthening the hip abductor and the hip gluteus medius muscles using an exercise band) for three weeks led to a 40 per cent increase in hip strength and close to a 50 per cent reduction in knee pain. Their study was published in a recent issue of the Journal of Athletic Training.

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How not to run

Many injuries are preventable by avoiding training errors. Here are some tips from Dr. Ferber.

  • DON’T increase your distance by more than 10 per cent a week.

  • DON’T run faster than you are ready for just to keep up with another runner.

  • If you’ve been running 5K on a treadmill for several months, DON’T all of a sudden you go outside and run 5K.

  • DON’T run 8K if you are only supposed to run 5K.

  • DON’T run if you are injured. Seek help from a sports medicine professional.

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