How Much You Should Walk After a Knee Replacement

elderly couple walking dog in park

After undergoing a knee replacement surgery, it’s normal to want to get back on your feet as fast as possible. Regular exercise can help restore your strength and improve your range of motion so you can return to the everyday activities you love. At the same time, too much strain on your healing knee can cause post-operative swelling and pain. Wondering how far to walk after knee replacement? This guide will help you navigate what to expect.

Knee Replacement Recovery Timeline

Most patients are discharged one day after surgery. On your discharge day, you may be able to stand and walk out of your hospital room, or you may need assistance with walking, which is completely normal. In the weeks following, most patients gradually expand their physical abilities. Every case is unique. Your surgeon and your physical therapist will coordinate to progress you as quickly as possible. Although everyone progressed at a different pace based on numerous factors, some common timeframes are:

  • 3 weeks after surgery: At this point, you should be able to walk for more than 10 minutes at a time, without a walker or crutches. Your physical therapist may challenge you to go on longer walks and stop using an assistive device like a cane.
  • 6 weeks after surgery: Between weeks 4 and 6, you may be able to start driving again, if your doctor clears you.
  • 12 weeks after surgery: Typical physical therapy programs last for up to 12 weeks. At this point, you should be able to walk for several blocks at a time and may even be able to pick up hobbies like swimming and cycling. As your therapy program ends around the 12-week mark, stick with your walking schedule and gradually challenge yourself to walk further and longer. 
  • One year after surgery: You will continue to make progress for an entire year after knee replacement. By this time, your knee should reach its full strength and you should be able to return to most activities.

Recommended Exercises After Knee Replacement Surgery

After your knee replacement, it’s important to stick with the recommended physical therapy plan and continue challenging yourself without overexerting your healing knee. Following an exercise regime can help  reduce swelling, increase your range of motion and strengthen your body. These exercises may include stretching, muscle pumping, bending your knees and working your quadriceps. 

One of the most highly recommended exercises is walking. Walking regularly throughout the day will help you regain your independence. Once you’re discharged, try walking around your home using crutches, a walker or a cane as prescribed by your doctor of therapist. Use a heel-toe pattern to keep you from walking with a limp. Over time, you can increase your distance and level of effort until you’re able to walk without any discomfort or limitations.

Exercise Limitations After a Knee Replacement

Can you walk too much after knee replacement surgery? Like any activity, moderation is key. While walking is generally a highly recommended post-surgery activity, your excitement to get moving should be balanced with a respect for your healing body.

How much walking is optimal after knee replacement surgery? Most physical therapists say to walk as much as you’re comfortable with. Start small with little steps over short distances, using an assistive device as needed. Gradually work your way up until you can cover longer distances without discomfort. Doing too much exercise can lead to pain and swelling, hindering your recovery.

Schedule Your Consultation With OrthoBethesda

Are you considering knee replacement surgery for yourself or a loved one? We know the questions and concerns can be daunting. OrthoBethesda is here to help. We specialize in orthopedic care, including surgical consultation, treatment, and pre-op / post-operative physical therapy. Our team of medical professionals and PTs can walk you through every step of your recovery. Book your consultation appointment today.