8 Great Cardio Exercises for Knee Pain

Updated on January 25, 2021

If you have bad knees, it can be painful to do some of the best fat-burning exercises. Still, that doesn’t mean you have to be in pain to stay fit.

Many workout routines don’t offer modifications or tailor their program for people who need low-impact options.

Luckily, we’ve got you covered with these 8 exercises for knee pain below. Use these next time you need a great cardio workout that won’t make your knee pain worse.

1. Circuit Training

Gyms like Curves or Planet Fitness offer circuit training centers, where you can work on one machine for 30 seconds to 1 minute, and then rotate to the next. This is more difficult when you have to clean the machines in between because of Covid-19, or you can’t go to the gym at all.

Yet you can create these circuit training cardio exercises at home. Here are a few ideas:

  • Pushups
  • Bodyweight squats
  • Planks
  • Dumbbell rows
  • Lunges

If you find circuit workouts online, be sure to eliminate the jumping reps because those can be hard on your knees.

2. Swimming

Swimming is a great option for a workout with bad knees. It’s low impact and challenging.

If you aren’t great with swimming laps or you’ve never had swimming lessons, consider taking a few classes to build your skill set.

You can use kick boards to isolate muscle groups while swimming and help you float. For example, put a foam brace between your legs and propel yourself forward using only your arms. You can also hold the paddle board in front of you and use only your legs to propel yourself down the lane.

You can find water aerobics classes that are great for building motivation or providing an alternate pool workout.

3. Resistance Bands

The one downside to swimming is that it requires access to a pool, which can get expensive or challenging with closures due to the pandemic.

One way to get the resistance that you need without water is to use resistance bands. These come in all different levels, and you can use them to get focused resistance on specific body parts. It’s not the same as swimming, but it can help you dial in on particular muscle groups.

They’re also very portable. You can put resistance bands in your purse and use them whenever you’re out and have free time, whether it’s waiting for color to set at the hair salon or waiting for a flight to board at the airport.

Try putting one around your thighs and doing leg lifts behind you. That works your glutes really well. Be careful putting resistance bands around your ankles because it may put unnecessary pressure on your knees as you lift.

4. Biking

Riding your bike can be a great exercise if you have a knee injury. It provides a more circular motion than running, and it’s low impact. 

Cycling is something you can do all year round. Get a nice bicycle you can take with you to trails in your area to experience the gorgeous scenery. In the winter, ride your exercise bike at home or get a kit to convert your own bicycle to a stationary bike.

If you plan to do a lot of cycling, you may want to invest in some extras to make it more comfortable. Chamois butter can help with chafing, and padded bike shorts will make those long rides more tolerable. Don’t forget to wear a helmet while you’re outside to help you stay safe.

5. Walking

Former runners will be sad they can’t run anymore when they’re suffering from knee pain. Yet walking is a good cardio exercise, too, and it allows you to travel and be outdoors like running does. It’s also easier on your knees than running.

Like running, you don’t need any equipment except a good pair of shoes to get started with walking. You may decide later you want to get an arm band for your phone or a nice pair of headphones. Extras like that are nice to have but not at all a requirement for healthy exercise.

6. Exercises for Knee Pain: Get a Boost from the Inside

Working out depletes your body of some of the help it needs, especially if you’ve been injured. You can get help with building muscle, healing from injuries, and keeping up your energy from workout supplements and bioceuticals.

LYF FIT has helpful supplements and other help specific to your health condition. You can find at-home exercises and workout supplements that will suit your level and body needs.

7. Rowing

Using a rowing machine is helpful if you need to do some cardio with sore knees. You can use a machine at your gym or you can make your own.

Use two resistance bands and a strong bar or stick. Attach one band to each end of the stick and to a solid anchor. Then sit on a mat and pull the stick toward you while the bands provide resistance.

Rowing is a great arm workout, but it’s also really good cardio. 

8. Elliptical

Using the elliptical machine at your gym is a good way to get a run in without the hard impact of the treadmill or the sidewalk outside. The machine incorporates a similar circular motion to that of a bicycle, giving you a low impact workout and the cardio you need.

Your feet stay in the pedals, which are much longer and wider than bicycle pedals. While you work, you burn calories just like you would on any other high-impact exercise.

A Healthier You

If you’re used to doing a lot of cardio, you don’t have to give it up and trade it for strength training if you have a knee injury.

Instead, just trade out your cardio for low impact exercises for knee pain. The suggestions above will provide you with some options to stay healthy and fit without giving up your cardio intensity. Try swimming, cycling, or walking, as well as these other ideas, to keep you on track and pain free.

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