Updated on July 7th, 2023 at 07:44 pm

Recently, I’ve been experiencing joint pain when I climb stairs or take long walks. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this started when I gained considerable weight. To make sure my hunch was right, I went researching, ‘does being overweight cause knee pain?

Scientists have established a clear link between obesity, overweight, and knee pain. A high body mass index (BMI) can exert additional pressure on your knees, increasing the chances of chronic pain and damage. If you are obese, doctors suggest losing 5% of your current weight and going for an 18.5-25 BMI. This helps to reduce knee pain and avoid causing further damage.

Aside from this, there’s a lot you should know about the link between obesity and chronic knee pain. Below is some information to get you started.

How does weight affect your knees?

image of a woman suffering some knee pain - Extra Large LivingWeight gain puts more pressure and strain on your knees and the cartilage between the bones designed to reduce friction. Moreover, the extra body fat can release more chemicals into your blood, resulting in inflamed joints.

These factors contribute to the development of knee osteoarthritis (OA). This condition causes the slippery and smooth cartilage between the bones in the knee joint to wear away. And instead of the bones gliding, they rub against each other, causing knee pain, stiffness, swelling, and reduced range of motion.

Moreover, the extra fat can lead to gout. The extra fat triggers insulin resistance, a condition where the body stops responding to insulin normally. This forces the kidneys to work harder to excrete uric acid. Unfortunately, the kidney misses some uric acid which builds up in the knee joints forming crystals that cause pain. Gout is often found in the ankles and big toe, but it also affects the knees and other joints.

Will losing weight make knee pain go away?

For obese people, every pound of excess weight lost reduces the load on the knees by 4 pounds. So if you lose 10 pounds, you relieve 40 pounds of pressure on your knee joint. Attaining healthy weight means lesser pressure, lesser wear and tear on knees, and a reduced risk of developing Arthritis. Moreover, when you lose weight you reap many health benefits.

Health experts recommend losing 5+% of body weight to feel the difference in pressure and pain on the knees. Aside from reduced knee pain, losing weight also leads to reduced blood pressure, increased levels of good cholesterol, balanced blood sugar levels, and reduced levels of bad fats.

Health experts follow the Federal Guidelines on Obesity released by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases to assess obesity. Under these guidelines, they use waist circumference, body mass index and risk factors for conditions and diseases associated with obesity.

How can I lose weight with bad knees?

The goal is to focus on exercises that don’t apply extra pressure on your knees. If you’ve never exercised, have underlying conditions like heart disease, experience severe pain when you move your legs, see a physical therapist. The therapist will help you work through the fear of pain and ease you into correct movements.

Without a physical therapist, it might not occur to you that exercising your legs with weights in the gym isn’t good for your knee pain and osteoarthritis.

What is the best exercise for someone with bad knees?

Generally, low-impact exercises that help stretch and strengthen the knees and quadriceps are perfect for big people who want to lose weight with knee pain. Some good exercises you should consider:

  • Walking – it lubricates the knees and helps to burn calories. It also improves blood flow to your quadriceps and strengthens them. Slower and longer walks are generally knee-pain friendly.
  • Cycling – cycling has strengthening and aerobic benefits. It targets the quadriceps and improves the range of motion. Peddling strengthens the glutes and hamstrings too.
  • Water exercises – swimming and general water aerobics are perfect exercises for strengthening knee muscles. The water’s buoyancy lets you exercise without exerting too much pressure on the knees. According to a study done in 2016, experts determined that regular water exercises helped reduce knee pain and stiffness caused by osteoarthritis.
  • Strength training – you can improve knee function through weight machine workouts like seated knee extensions. These workouts help to strengthen the knee to support more weight. Instead of weights, you can use your body weight through squats, and straight leg raises.
  • Stretching – having tight leg and knee muscles adds to the pain. As such, it’s critical to stretch before and after exercises.

What exercises are bad for knee pain?

High-impact exercises like deep squats and lunges can worsen the pain. Also, avoid kickboxing, jumping, and running as they exert more stress on the knees.

Be sure to check out other reviews from Extra Large Living including some recent reviews that we have completed for knee braces.

Best knee brace for arthritis
Bariatric knee braces
Best knee brace for torn meniscus

What next?

Knee pain caused by obesity is manageable. Weight loss is one way of fixing the problem. As you exercise, remember to start slow and build momentum as your knees grow stronger.

The success of your weight loss journey hinges on developing a healthy and lasting lifestyle. Also, it’s crucial to get the right form for different exercises, not to overdo exercises, and adhere to healthy eating.