Are your bad knees holding you back? If you're struggling to rack up the miles or workout like you used to, you may be feeling down in the dumps.
When you struggle with chronic knee pain, the simplest activities can feel like climbing a mountain, and getting back into the swing of a workout can feel like an insurmountable task.
If you follow the right guidance and do the right workouts, there's no reason why a healthy dose of cardio (in moderation) should be off the table.
In fact, a careful cardio workout can help relieve those stiff knees without exacerbating your existing knee pain. Let's take a look at the best cardio workouts for bad knees.
The Best Cardio Workouts For Bad Knees
The Couch-To-5K Program
If you've never run before, this is the perfect program for you! This five-week training plan will get you running fast — even if you have bad knees.
It starts by walking 30 minutes every day, gradually increasing to 60 minutes on week two, then 90 minutes on week three.
You’ll be ready to tackle a 5K race by the end of week four. However, there's no pressure to reach this goal.
If you can't see yourself running a 5k race, you can take the Couch-to-5k at your own pace, so you won't have to worry about overdoing your knees.
Swimming is one of the easiest forms of exercise around that it is also one of the recommended cardio for beginners. It doesn't require equipment and it does not need to hurt your knees, either.
Since water provides cushioning, you can swim longer distances without worrying about your joints being stressed out.
Plus, it helps strengthen your core muscles, which is especially important for people with joint problems.
If you want to try your hand (or knees) at some low-impact exercise, all you need to do is throw on some suitable swimwear and get to work.
There's no exact stroke you should be performing for bad knees, just don't go throwing crazy shapes in the pool and damage your knees.
You could start off slowly swimming any lengths you feel comfortable with and gradually build up your time in the pool if your knees can handle it.
Ellipticals are great for people with bad knees because they provide gentle resistance that allows you to move your body through a full range of motion while exercising.
They offer a lower impact than other types of cardio machines, making them ideal for anyone looking to avoid injury.
As long as you keep your form correct, ellipticals shouldn't cause any damage to your knees.
Elliptical training carries minimal risk of a new injury, and since your feet never leave the pedals, you're unlikely to exacerbate any existing pain in your knees or other joints.
However, ellipticals also offer a little more support than regular cross-trainers, which makes them highly recommended by professionals.
Stair climbing is another type of exercise that requires little effort but offers a huge amount of benefits.
Stair climbing burns calories, but it also strengthens your heart and lungs, and improves your balance. It's an excellent way to improve your cardiovascular health and reduce stress levels.
It is an easy exercise for inner thighs and strengthening the entire lower body. Stair climbing is a fantastic option for people with bad knees, too.
You don’t need a stair climbing machine to get the benefits of this exercise. All you need to do is find a set of normal stairs that you enjoy climbing. Start slow and increase your speed as you gain confidence.
However, a stair climber is also a fantastic machine to level up your routine. Unlike treadmills, stair climbers aren't intimidating, and most models come equipped with safety features like brakes and handrails. Check out the best stair climber machines for your home gym here!
Yoga is a wonderful workout that's been proven to help reduce stress, relieve tension, and improve flexibility.
It's also a great way to stretch out sore muscles and ease aches and pains. The key to yoga is finding a class that suits your needs.
If you have bad knees, there are plenty of classes designed specifically for those with mobility issues. These include:
- Hatha Yoga
- Vinyasa Yoga
- Ashtanga Yoga
- Iyengar Yoga
- Bikram Yoga
- Kundalini Yoga
- Prenatal Yoga
These are just a few examples of what's available. Find a class that works for you, and stick with it!
Walking is a simple activity that doesn't require much equipment, so it's the perfect exercise for busy individuals who don't have time to devote to a gym, or cardio for seniors who are looking for low impact exercises.
Just make sure to take it easy when walking, especially if you've had knee surgery.
Your doctor will likely recommend that you walk around 10 minutes every hour during your recovery period.
Cycling is one of the most popular forms of cardio because it's relatively inexpensive, accessible, and gives you a chance to see your surroundings.
Plus, cycling provides a ton of benefits, including improving your posture, strengthening your core, burning fat, and increasing your endurance.
You can ride indoors on stationary bikes, outdoors on road bikes, or even on recumbent bicycles (also known as trikes).
Cycling is also an excellent form of exercise for people suffering from knee pain.
Cycling is a low-impact form of cardio, meaning it won't aggravate your knees or cause joint damage. In fact, cycling has been shown to be beneficial for people recovering from ACL tears.
Other Exercises For Bad Knees
If none of these suggestions take your fancy, why not try out some of the other exercises listed below?
You probably already know how effective bodyweight training can be at building muscle mass and strength.
But did you know that it can also provide a number of other benefits, such as reducing inflammation, improving bone density, and boosting metabolism? Bodyweight training is a particularly useful exercise for stiff knees after a surgery as it focuses on stabilizing joints and preventing injury. Here are a few options to get you started:
- Squats (ONLY partial squats)
- Leg Press
- Calf Raises
Stationary rowing can be an excellent exercise for people with bad knees. Stationary rowing also burns plenty of calories without putting any additional stress on your knee joints.
With a stationary rowing machine, you can also slowly increase your resistance to suit your workout needs.
This makes it easier to tailor your workout to suit your knee pain, and there'll be no risk of pushing yourself past your limits.
Are you looking for the perfect middle ground between running and walking? Try speed walking! Speed walking is a great exercise for people with joint and mobility issues.
It's less intense than running but more challenging than walking. So, if you're looking to burn off some extra calories while still getting in a good workout, speed walking could be right up your street.
Upper Body Ergometer
An upper body ergometer is another option for those who want to work out their arms and shoulders without having to worry about bending over.
These machines allow you to perform various arm movements while sitting upright.
They're typically used by athletes and physical therapists to help them strengthen and rehabilitate their shoulder girdle.
However, they're also a great way to tone and sculpt your arms and shoulders.
An upper body ergometer puts virtually no pressure on your knees, so it's a great way to get some extra cardio in without worrying about straining your muscles!
The Benefits Of Exercise For Bad Knees
Exercise has many positive effects on the human body, including reducing inflammation, improving blood flow, increasing bone density, and helping prevent osteoporosis.
When it comes to bad knees, however, there are two main reasons why exercise is important:
Improves Blood Flow
When you exercise, your body releases endorphins into your bloodstream. Endorphins are natural painkillers that can reduce swelling and inflammation in your knee joint.
In addition, they can improve blood circulation, which helps keep your knee healthy.
Increases Bone Density
When you exercise regularly, your bones become stronger. This means that even if you suffer from osteoarthritis later in life, you'll be less susceptible to arthritis because your bones will already be strong.
How To Prevent A New Injury With Exercises
If you want to avoid getting injured while exercising, follow these tips:
Make Sure You Have Proper Shoes
Shoes should fit properly, and they should provide adequate support. They shouldn't cause blisters or chafing.
Wear Appropriate Clothing
Wearing loose-fitting clothing is ideal since tight clothes can restrict movement and limit your range of motion.
Use Good Form
Avoid overstretching your joints by keeping your back straight and your head upright. Also, try not to bend at the waist unless you absolutely must.
Work Out At Least 3 Times Per Week
This will ensure that you get proper rest between workouts, which is essential for preventing injuries.
Knee problems are common among older adults, especially if you've been doing high-impact exercises regularly.
However, if you want to find new ways to get in your cardio workout without putting extra stress on your knees, why not try out some of the exercises listed above?