Why Staircases May Be Bad For Your Knees – And 5 Exercises To Help

For many people, staircases are the main route between floors of a building.

Unfortunately, they may also be one of the worst things you can do to your knees, especially if you have any kind of joint problems or if you regularly participate in activities that require strong knee muscles, such as basketball and running.

The answer to the question, are stairs bad for your knees is, yes and no, although depending on the type of staircase you’re talking about, it can be one or the other.

A lot of people are afraid to climb stairs because they don’t want to hurt their knees, but with proper exercise and training, staircases may be good for your knees instead of bad. Let’s talk about why that might be the case.

This can cause discomfort and pain in the short term and even chronic knee issues in the long term.

Keep reading this article to learn more about how staircases may be bad for your knees!

Do Stairs Damage Your Knees?

Some of your joints (like your knee) will become more susceptible to injury as you age.

And, if you already have joint issues, walking up and down stairs could potentially make things worse.

If you want to maintain healthy mobility—and stave off further joint damage—limit climbing to one flight at a time (preferably using an elevator or ramp).

Or, better yet: use a lower-impact exercise like walking or swimming instead.

With just a little bit of planning, you can safely burn calories and stay in shape without stressing out knee joints!

Why Are Stairs So Hard On Knees?

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Although there’s no one specific cause of knee pain while walking upstairs, there are several factors that can lead to joint discomfort.

For example, if you have a bone spur or loose cartilage, it can make it difficult to get up and down steps without pain.

Stairs also tend to be steep and unforgiving on joints; when you walk up a staircase, each step is about four inches tall, with very little in-between support from your toes to your knee.

Your body must make micro-adjustments with every step you take—the knee joint has two major bones (femur and tibia) that are each hinged together by ligaments and muscles in order to function correctly.

Causes of Knee Pain When Going Down Stairs

One of the most common causes of knee pain when going downstairs is because you’re trying to pick up too much speed at once.

While there are a number of different ways to address knee pain, it often stems from improper movement and poor posture when bending or squatting.

A set of stairs or a large hill can test even an athlete’s limits, which is why it’s so important to always pay attention to proper form.

Going down hills should never force you into a rapid descent; instead, let gravity do its work and allow yourself time to hit solid footing on each step before lowering yourself into another squat.

If you try descending in one go, there’s no stopping point—your momentum will just keep carrying you forward.

What Are The Best Exercise For Bad Knees?

Low-impact exercise options are best to ease pain associated with knee arthritis, according to Everyday Health.

Low-impact exercises can help strengthen and tone muscles around achy joints without jostling them too much, which can further aggravate stiffness and swelling. Water exercises are particularly beneficial.

A pool or spa offers buoyancy that eases pressure on arthritic limbs while also encouraging them to move in their full range of motion without generating jarring impacts.

Aquatic activities such as swimming, water aerobics, and even simply walking on a treadmill in water provide ample resistance and weight support for physical therapy routines yet still give joints room to move freely during rehabilitation. 

Other low-impact exercises include cycling, rowing, and elliptical workouts. Even strength training is easier on joints when done at lower weights; try using light dumbbells instead of heavy barbells when doing bench presses or squats.

Stair climbing is another common activity that puts extra stress on knees—especially if you’re carrying extra weight—and should be avoided if possible.

If you have no choice but to climb stairs regularly, take breaks whenever possible by standing off to one side (rather than holding onto a handrail) and pausing at each landing so that your legs don’t have to work harder than necessary.

Related Post: 8 Best Types Of Cardio For Bad Knees

How Can I Strengthen My Knee Joints?

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You can strengthen your knee joints by working on flexibility and strength exercises to help it better deal with activities of daily living and sports.

A solid strength-training program will not only improve muscle development, but it’ll also enhance joint mobility, which is important for helping to reduce pain.

So let’s not waste any time and jump right into the 5 best exercises you can be doing to strengthen your knees.

5 Best Exercises For Strengthening Knees

There are several simple exercises that can help strengthen weak knee muscles.

Your leg’s quadriceps, or quads—made up of four muscle groups along the front of your thigh—help extend and straighten your knee.

If you find yourself experiencing pain in one or both knees, chances are that it’s because you’re having trouble activating your quads.

Stair climbing requires significantly more quad strength than walking on a flat surface because it involves lifting and swinging each leg upward, which can exacerbate knee pain if not done properly.

To avoid knee discomfort when climbing stairs, work to build strength through these five simple exercises before taking on a new fitness routine.

Add these moves to your workout routine at least three times per week to get stronger quickly.  

Wall Squats

Holding a squat against a wall even adds resistance to help build strength in key leg muscles such as the quadriceps and glutes.

To perform a wall squat, stand with your back against a wall and then take one or two steps away from it so you can lean forward with hands-on knees.

Squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor, but don’t allow your buttocks to protrude past your knees.

Keep shoulders aligned over hips and head facing forward throughout the entire movement, keeping the spine straight and avoiding hunching over toes.

Check out this video below where I try out the impossible squat challenge!

Lying Leg Lifts

You don’t have to spend a lot of time on an exercise machine to see results.

In fact, you can perform effective exercises in as little as two minutes!

One of these exercises is called lying leg lifts.

To do lying leg lifts, all you need is a flat surface and some space. (You don’t even need a mat!)

This quick and simple exercise helps target your quadriceps muscles—the large muscles on top of your thighs—while also helping build strength in your glutes and hamstrings.

Give it a try: Lie down with your back flat against any hard surface, like a carpeted floor. 

Your legs should be straight out in front of you.

Bend one knee and place that foot on top of your other knee so that they are touching.

Press both feet into each other tightly while keeping them together.

Now lift both legs up off the ground until they are straight up in front of you, then lower them back down slowly to complete one rep.

Repeat 10 times before switching legs and repeating another 10 times for a total of 20 reps per set.

Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift

are stairs bad for knees - pregnant-woman-doing-single-leg-dumbbell-deadlift

A single-leg Romanian deadlift is an easy way to strengthen and balance out your glutes.

This variation of a standard Romanian deadlift uses only one leg at a time but still provides you with substantial benefits in muscle strength, stamina, and tone.

Stand on one foot while holding a light dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand.

Bend over slightly at the waist, keeping back straight and shoulders square; slowly lower until hips are slightly below knee level.

Lift dumbbells to starting position by extending hips and knee, then repeat 15-20 times before switching legs.

If you don’t have weights handy, try using soup cans or bottles of water instead.


This exercise is done by standing on a step, platform, or box with one foot (the higher surface should be under your chest).

The other leg should hang relaxed to provide balance.

Slowly rise up onto one leg, using hands as support if needed, until you’re standing on one leg with both feet together.

Repeat 10-20 times per side as part of an exercise routine.

Box Squats

So you want to do squats but are concerned that doing so on a typical barbell might put too much pressure on your lower back.

Luckily, there’s an easy solution: box squats.

You sit down on a raised platform with box squats and squat down into position.

This puts less weight on your lower back while also allowing you to take advantage of force absorption created by going through a full range of motion with each rep. 

Related Post: Anterior Knee Pain Exercises

How To Deal With Knee Pain

The first step in figuring out how to deal with knee pain is figuring out what’s causing it.

There are many different knee problems you can develop over time, but knowing your symptoms and researching what could be causing them can help narrow down a potential cause.

If left untreated, knee problems can eventually lead to surgery, especially if the pain is severe or you experience damage to other parts of your knee.

However, most knee problems are treatable and even preventable.

As long as you keep an eye on your body and regular exercise, you should be able to stave off most issues before they get worse.

Here’s how to protect against knee injuries

Is Climbing Stairs A Good Exercise?

Climbing stairs can lead to some unexpected health benefits.

Using stairs instead of an elevator has been proven to improve bone density and help fight off osteoporosis in both men and women, but did you know that stair climbing can also improve cardiovascular health?

The American Heart Association recommends climbing thirty flights of stairs daily as a way to increase heart function.

The combination of increased blood flow and lung capacity creates a healthy exercise option that won’t drain the energy out of you quickly like running or biking might. 

If you want to try stair climbing as a form of exercise, it’s best to start small by taking one flight at a time.

Once you build up endurance, try going up two or three flights at once—just make sure there are no dogs around!

Final Mop Up

Stairs don’t have to be the end of your knees.

With the 5 exercises, we mentioned you can bulletproof your knees against stairs.

And all the exercises we went over can all be done at home, or wherever you want for that matter.

If you want to take back control of your exercises routine and train when and where you want, you need to download your FREE copy of my Ebook. Train Wherever The F*ck You Want.