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    Knee Rehab While You Brush Your Teeth

    fitnessThe last two columns have been about helping you to help your knees feel better. We pointed out some sitting, standing and sleeping positions that hurt your knees and what you can do instead. We also offered a great way to strengthen the muscles that support your knee: “The Miracle Knee Exercise.” Today we’re going to look at some other easy exercises to benefit your knees and more.

    For people who are not naturally athletic or drawn to exercise, getting stronger is the key. The stronger you are, the more mobile you will be. The stronger you are, the better you can manage or reduce joint pain. The more strength you gain, the more stamina you will have. The good news is that strengthening is easy do. You just start where you are and take a small next step, building strength slowly and safely.

    At Inside Out Fitness we are always thinking of ways that you can get stronger with in as little time and effort as possible. In this column I will give you some ideas on how to gain leg, thigh and core strength while you brush your teeth! These exercises can also be done while you are standing in line, waiting for water to boil, waiting for the microwave to finish, and at other seemingly non-productive times.

    We all know how important balance is as you get older. The problem is, if balancing is hard, you won’t want to do it. And the fact that it’s hard makes it more important to do it. These tooth brushing exercises are all about strength and balance.

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    These exercises were inspired by my impatience with the 2 minutes that the electric toothbrush wants me to spend brushing my teeth. Now I look forward to brushing my teeth in the morning because I do my knee/hip rehab at that time. When I do the strengthening exercises that support my mobility and well-being (rehab exercises), I feel happy anticipation on most days. I love thinking about how much fun I’ll have doing my favorite activities like motorcycling or walking my dog. Rehab strengthening helps make that happen.

    I love that my toothbrush has a signal at 30 seconds (when I’m supposed to change quadrants in my mouth), so I can use the signal as a guide. If you don’t have an electric toothbrush with a timer, or if you brush by hand, then you can count repetitions or seconds.

    The exercises will be done standing; so first, I’ll give you the best way to set up your standing position. Try it with me right now. Start with your feet at a comfortable distance apart. Your toes can be pointing straight ahead or slightly turned out. Let your weight sit mostly in your heels and the balls of your feet while you wiggle your toes. If you can wiggle your toes a bit while standing, you know you’re in a pretty good starting position. Soften your knees so they are not locked straight. When you soften your knees, it’s a good idea to gently squeeze your butt muscles. Then lift your ribcage as you drop your shoulder blades.

    Did you try that standing posture? If not, go back, really, and give it a shot. Just standing like this will strengthen your legs, core and back. Think of all the times that you are standing around. You might as well make such moments useful to your body.

    We are going to do some single leg standing exercises. You will probably notice that one leg is easier than the other to balance on. This is normal, and often will correct over time with practice.

    Balancing: Start in the recommended standing position. If you can, stand on one leg for 30 seconds while you brush your teeth. Be sure to squeeze the butt of the leg you’re standing on while you keep your ribcage lifted and your shoulder blades back and down. Then do the other leg. If that is easy, close your eyes (this is extremely challenging). You can also balance on one leg while you move the other leg forward and back 5 times, and then switch. Remember that you are likely to have a very different experience from one leg to the other.

    Pre-balancing: If standing on one leg feels too hard or impossible, or hurts your joints—stop! We’ve got a good way to build up to balancing. It’s called weight shifting. It’s pretty much what it sounds like except you want to intentionally recruit your muscles. Begin in the recommended standing posture. Shift your weight to your left leg. Be sure to squeeze the left butt while keeping your ribcage lifted and your shoulder blades back and down. Hold for 5, 10 or more seconds. You can keep your right foot flat or use just your right toe for balance. Let this be easy. Eventually you will be able to lift the right foot up and balance for a few seconds. Then do the other side. Remember, you will probably notice it’s easier on one side. Be kind and gentle with yourself about all this.

    Here’s to standing strong and moving forward!

    Cinder Ernst, Medical Exercise Specialist and Life Coach Extraordinaire, helps reluctant exercisers get moving with safe, effective and fun programs. Find out more at