low impact cardio for bad knees

The Best Low-Impact Cardio for Bad Knees

Stay fit with the Best Low-Impact Cardio for Bad Knees

Chronic knee pain, or pain after surgery, can prevent you from performing actions we all take for granted, like walking. Once the pain begins, it can also prevent you from completing the things that you need to do to improve your condition, including knee-friendly cardio.

The Best Cardio for Bad Knees

  • Low-Impact Jumping Jacks
  • March with an Exercise Ball
  • Strengthening joints and muscles
  • Overhead Back Steps with Exercise Ball
  • Med Ball Knee Lifts
  • Med Ball Straight Kicks
  • Band Side Knee and Kick
  • Common Questions About Exercises for Bad Knees

    How Can I Exercise with Bad Knees?

    You might be thinking to yourself, "I'm afraid of the pain or possibility of further injury if I exercise." I can empathize. Doctors, therapists, and trainers would encourage both of us to go for it anyway.

    We need to keep exercises simple. They also need to be low-impact. Finally, our routines should avoid sudden changes of angles or range of motion that exasperates what is causing the pain to begin with.

    What's the Best Cardio for Someone with Bad Knees?

    Health professionals consider cardio workouts a key to maintaining flexibility and strength in your knee and surrounding muscles. It is important, however, that your routine stays low-impact and doesn't you to move past your comfortable range of motion.

    What's the Best Exercise Machine for Someone with Bad Knees?

    There are a few low-impact exercise machines that you can use at home or in the gym:

    Treadmills - Can take the place of walking and should absorb some of the impacts from your steps.

    Elliptical machines - Are low-impact and will help work the upper body as well.

    Stationary bicycles - are discussed further under the next question. They belong on this list, however.

    Is Cycling Low-Impact on Knees? 

    Not only is cycling low-impact, but it can also help you emulate running without placing your body's weight on your knee joints. You can adjust the gears (or resistance knobs on stationary bikes) to provide a workout without straining your knee or surrounding muscles.

    Cycling also offers you this range of movement and resistance without creating sudden changes in directions, something that can twist your joints and cause increased pain or further injuries.

    How do I Strengthen my Legs with Bad Knees?

    Trust me, taking the time for a few sessions with your physical therapist will do more than an apple a day in keeping you out of your doctor's office. If you don't have one, speak with your primary care physician, and they can help.

    This will help you to discover exercises that provide stretching and strengthening without agitating your existing condition. Stick with low-impact routines that focus on contracting your muscles. Avoid heavier weights and uncomfortable movements that cause your knees to hurt due to the direction they're moving.

    What Exercises should I avoid with Bad Knees?

    Chronic sufferers who begin to feel relief may be tempted to take on more complex exercises Don't! Find a different one that produces similar results that can be done correctly. Some to avoid include:

    • Deep squats
    • Full-arc knee extensions
    • Hurdler's stretches
    • Lunges


    Younger adults (I'm only 28) or those recovering from surgery can push too hard while exercising. Sudden pains or pains that are sharp or shooting are telling you to stop.

    low impact cardio for knees

    How Can I Exercise with a Sprained Ankle?

    You'll want to focus on exercises that you can do while sitting or lying down. Bicep curls, chest presses, dumbbell rows, and seated trunk rotations are all appropriate until your doctor approves you to make use of your ankle again. 

    Exercise Types

    Yoga and Pilates

    Pilates is low-impact in nature and can be a good selection if you suffer from knee pain. Building your core can help with keeping pressure off of joints along with keeping things in alignment.

    Yoga is an excellent choice for improving your range of motion. That includes in the ankle and hip joints that are above or below your knee.

    These can offer you an excellent aerobic workout without adding too much stress to your knee joints. Upright bikes are great for providing more range during the exercise, as well as helping to work a bit of your core. Recumbent designs might be a suggestion for older users or those with balance issues.

    This type of machine does a good job of simulating jogging or running. It is low-impact, and won't stress your knees while maintaining a solid aerobic routine. They also let you work your upper body as well.

    This device will assist you in maintaining bone density as well as flexibility. The nice thing is, many manufacturers include special features that will reduce stress on your knees while working out.

    They are associated with cardiovascular workouts and exercise both the upper and lower body. However, they can be problematic for users with bad knees caused by non-muscular issues such as arthritis.

    Home Cardio Workouts for Knee Pain

    Warm Up

    To prevent further pain or injury, it is important that you warm up before you start your workout. This should include:

  • Marching in place (or around the house) for five minutes
  • Stretch the muscles of your lower body - including calves, hamstrings, and quads
  • Perform each exercise for up to one minute - make this range between 30 to 60 seconds per exercise
  • Workout at a manageable intensity - for increases go faster, add variety, or add resistance
  • Keep your routine to 15-minutes - repeat routine for longer workouts
  • Stretch again as you cool down - make sure to stretch again
  • Low-Impact Jumping Jacks

    Traditional jumping jacks can cause pain for those suffering from joint problems. Some alternatives are less stressful on your knees, including the low-impact version that follows.

    Half-jack

    This uses half of the motion of standard jumping jack while it helps to eliminate the joint stress generated during the active phase.

  • Start with feet together and arms dangling
  • Raise both arms to shoulder level
  • Move one foot out to your side while keeping your weight on the stationary leg
  • Transfer your weight to the foot to your side while bringing your legs together
  • Repeat the process, starting with the other foot
  • March with an Exercise Ball

  • Hold the ball with both hands over your head
  • Bring up one knee while moving the ball down to meet it
  • Lift the ball back above your head while lower the knee
  • Repeat the process using your other leg
  • Overhead Backsteps with Exercise Ball

  • Hold the ball with both hands over your head
  • Keep the ball overhead as you step back with one foot
  • Return the foot forward to its original position
  • Repeat the process with the other foot
  • Med-ball Knee Lifts

    Use a med ball that weighs four to eight pounds for variance in your routine.

  • Hold the ball with both hands over your head
  • Bring up one knee while moving the ball down to meet it
  • Lift the ball back above your head while lower the knee
  • Repeat the process using your other leg
  • Med-ball Straight Kicks

  • Lift the ball with both hands as you step back into a lunge with one leg
  • The other leg should be slightly bent to maintain balance
  • Bring the back leg forward and kick up as you lower the ball
  • Return to the original position before repeating with your other leg
  • Band Side Knee and Kick

  • Grab your resistance band while shifting your weight to one leg
  • Move your arms straight up while pulling your hands away from themselves
  • Lift the knee on the leg your weight is not on while bringing your elbow to it
  • Lower your leg and lift your elbow back up
  • Shift your weight to the other leg and repeat for the opposite side
  • Conclusion

    Using proper exercises for people with bad knees can improve your mobility and might reduce your pain levels. If you are looking for some equipment to assist in your goals, don't forget to review my list of the best low-impact exercise equipment for home

    About the Author Kara McMahon

    Hi, I'm Kara! I am a stay-at-home mom with a 5-year-old son and a 3-year-old daughter. I enjoy getting lost on Pinterest, going to Starbucks, and baking healthy cookies. I’ve decided to share my love of fitness by building this site. I hope you enjoy your stay!

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