Top cardio workouts when you have bad knees

man on stationary bike

When suffering from knee pain, it’s easy to avoid exercise, especially cardio workouts. You may assume that the repetitive movement and pounding on your knee joint will only lead to more knee damage and discomfort.

Fortunately, it is possible to get an effective cardio workout without causing additional pain and suffering. In fact, performing exercises strengthening the muscles supporting the knees help keep this largest joint in the body, flexible and in good working condition.

Always modify your exercise routine if you experience any increase in pain, stiffness, or inflammation and consult your doctor for their guidance before starting any exercise program including the following cardio workouts for your knees. The knees are very prone to injury the last thing you want to do is cause any further damage.

Here are the top cardio workouts often recommended for people with bad knees:

  • Walking

The majority of us should take advantage of this low-impact cardio workout, including those with knee pain. Running or jogging are likely not a good option, but if your doctor gives you a thumbs up, invest in good walking shoes with good support and be sure to stretch before beginning your walk. It’s advised to choose a flat walking surface (avoid hilly, rocky trails or uneven, broken sidewalks) and gradually build up your stamina and speed without causing pain.

  • Stationary bicycle and elliptical machine

Both a stationary bicycle and an elliptical machine are considered low-impact, but each activates muscles differently. While both help strengthens all the supporting knee muscles, it’s important to adjust the equipment to fit your body type and set the range of knee motion and resistance levels to keep them pain-free.  With the guidance of your doctor, be sure to monitor your time, intensity, and frequency when exercising in either piece of equipment to prevent making your knees worse. Modify your exercise routine if you experience any increase in pain, stiffness, or inflammation.

  • Aquatic exercises

One of the best forms of exercise for people with knee problems is swimming or aquatic exercises. Not only will you burn a lot of calories, but also working all of the muscles surrounding your knees. From jogging in place to water walking, aquatic exercises are not only refreshing and invigorating but a lot of fun.

  • Step-ups

When it comes to cardio workouts for bad knees, be sure to consider step-ups. Low-impact with heart-boosting qualities, this form of exercise can be an excellent addition for maintaining cardio fitness while protecting and strengthening knee health. Here’s how to do step-ups:

  • Step up onto a step with your right foot.
  • Tap your left foot on the top of the step so that you’re standing on the step for a split second, and then lower. As you step up, your knee should stay tracking over your ankle, rather than going over your toes, to ensure you’re protecting your knees.

Final thoughts

Protecting knee health is imperative for enjoying a good quality of life. To prevent your knees from further damage or increased stiffening and loss of range of motion, work with your doctor and a physical therapist to find the best cardio exercise suited for you. That way you have the best of both worlds of protecting your knees and gaining improved cardiovascular health.

Top cardio workouts when you have bad knees
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Dr. David Samadi

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Dr. David Samadi