June 14, 2024
Best cardio for bad knees

Did you ever feel that your bad knees are simply limiting your efforts to get fit? I can understand how frustrating it may be to desire to get your heart racing but your knees say, “Nah, we’re okay.” However, there are still a lot of exercise choices available that won’t put more stress on your poor knees, so don’t let that stop you. 

I’ll discuss the best cardio for bad knees in this write-up so you can achieve your fitness objectives without facing further knee discomfort. Do this now!

What are the Common Causes of Bad Knees?

Bad knees can be a result of various reasons, and it can be difficult to know what is causing the pain and discomfort. Some of the most common causes of bad knees are —

  • Arthritis 

Your body’s joints are affected by this disorder. It frequently affects the knees and can result in discomfort and stiffness there. The difficulty with arthritis is that it’s a chronic condition that can worsen over time. In rare circumstances, people can even require surgery to correct it.

  • Meniscus tears

A common knee problem that frequently necessitates surgery is a meniscus tear. Usually, it results from a swift shift or twist. The cartilage in our knees weakens with age, making tears more likely. 

Visit a doctor to determine whether you have a meniscus tear and receive treatment if you experience knee discomfort, especially if it occurs after an abrupt movement.

  • Knee Ligament 

There are many various ways that knee ligament fractures can occur, but they can result from extreme events like vehicle wrecks. Ligaments are powerful tissue bands that attach to the bones of your knee. They’re the things that keep your lower leg bones (tibia and fibula) and thigh bone (femur) together to hold your knee stable. 

If you hurt one of these ligaments, you might feel some pain in your knee.

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis 

The joints in your physique are impacted by rheumatoid arthritis. It thickens and swells the tissues around the joint. The immune system can wrongly target the joints, which can result in this. 

Long-term inflammation has the potential to harm cartilage, wear it down, and eventually cause it to disappear.

  • Post-Traumatic Arthritis

After a knee injury, a condition called post-traumatic arthritis may appear. This form of arthritis develops when a joint experience wear and strain due to an accident, such as a fractured bone or torn ligament.

Recommended Cardio Exercises for Bad Knees

You undoubtedly already know that jogging and leaping can be quite painful if you have injured knees. However, there are still many alternatives to get a solid cardio workout without harming your knees, so don’t panic. 

You can try the exercises listed below —

  1. Swimming

Your knee will thank you for swimming. It’s a low-impact exercise since the buoyancy created by the water helps to ease the tension on the joints. Additionally, it’s a very calorie-efficient full-body workout. You can learn the freestyle as it’s the fastest and most efficient stroke, which takes about just 10 minutes to burn around 100 calories.

Give it a try, it’s a fun and healthy way to stay active.

Related: Learn about effective and avoidable cardio exercises for people with ACL tears. Discover how to use targeted workouts to protect your knee joint and increase your recovery.

  1. Cycling

Cycling won’t just make the knee discomfort go away; it’ll also enable you to become stronger overall and more flexible in your knees. The best thing is that getting started is simple with a stationary bike.

Plus, if you suffer from knee flexibility concerns, consider gradually lifting your seat to reduce the amount of knee flexion you experience when pedaling. 

You’ll be surprised at how much better your knees feel if you give them a try. And gradually you’ll be able to make the necessary adjustments as you gain strength.

Related: Cardio exercises can greatly enhance the appearance of your glutes, but it’s important to note that not all workouts are suitable for targeting this muscle group. Learn about the effective and inappropriate cardio exercises for toning your glutes.

  1. Elliptical Machine
The 5 Best Ellipticals Under $800

It’s an excellent choice for those with painful knees as low-impact exercise won’t result in discomfort or inflammation as treadmill jogging would. Besides, it greatly reduces the danger of damage and is quite supportive of your knees.

Yes, I understand that some people believe treadmills can burn calories more effectively. But believe me when I say that an elliptical is far better for the health of your knees. Try it out; you’ll notice the difference!

Also Read: Elliptical training can alleviate knee pain caused by achy joints and overuse injuries. Guidelines are provided to protect your knees while using the elliptical machine.

  1. Speed Walking

Jogging and running with sore knees is a horrible concept, I know. Speed walking, on the other hand, is an entirely different option that won’t harm your knees. It’s a low-impact workout that’s nonetheless beneficial to the entire body.

If you’re just getting started, stay on flat, smooth surfaces. However, after your leg muscles become stronger, you may be able to go on higher treks. The key is that you don’t need to undergo knee discomfort to get your exercise done.

Related: Say goodbye to flabby legs with the best cardio exercises for lean legs. From cycling to stair climbing, learn how to get toned and shapely legs with these effective workouts. Get ready for gorgeous gams with our top picks for cardio.

  1. Dance Class
Dance Cardio

Do you want to learn a great exciting method to get your exercise in while avoiding injuring your knees? Dance lessons!

Ballet, salsa, tap, contemporary, and anything else that keeps you moving come to mind. They’re not only low-impact, but they also maintain your heart rate stable for an extended period.

Also, you’ll get to stretch and warm up your muscles during the class, making it a fantastic method to stay injury-free and get in shape. You’ll love it and be pleased you gave it a go, I promise.

Recommended Water-Based Exercises for Bad Knees

Water-based workouts can offer a low-impact option for pain treatment and rehabilitation if you have damaged knees. Classes especially created for people with knee issues like arthritis are available at many neighborhood gyms and community pools. 

Water-Based Exercises for Bad Knees

A few exercises to attempt in the pool are listed below:

  1. Walking and Jogging

Jog or walk normally while standing in water that reaches up to your waist or chest.

  1. Sidestepping

Take long steps in both the left and right directions when facing a wall, and switch between the two.

  1. Arm Raises
  • Arm paddles should be worn when standing in the pool
  • Maintain your elbows arched at 90 degrees 
  • Raise and lower your arms while holding this posture
  1. Jumping Jacks

Jump jacks as you would normally. You can also intensify the exercise by gripping water dumbbells

  1. Deep Step Lunges

Take a big stride forward or to the side while standing near a wall. Also, lower your body such that your front knee is precisely over your toes. 

  1. Hip Kickers
  • Hold towards the pool wall, for stability
  • Bring your forward leg up to waist height
  • Try to maintain a straight leg
  • Do repetition on each leg
  1. Pool Planks
  • Stand with your toes on the pool floor, gripping a pool noodle in front of you
  • Bend forward, maintaining a straight and rigid posture with your body
  1. Push-Ups
  • Stand in chest-deep water, with your hands resting on the pool’s edge.
  • Use your arm strength to lower your body, bringing your chest towards the pool’s edge.
  • Push back up to your starting position using your arms.
  1. Cycling in the Pool
  • For support, hold onto a kickboard, the pool’s edge, or a pool noodle
  • By using your legs as pedals in the water, you can mimic riding a bicycle
  1. Squat Jumps
  • Stand in the water with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Lower your body into a squat position, keeping your arms extended in front of you.
  • Explosively jump out of the water, bringing your arms down to your sides as you lift off.

Related: Get relief from Achilles tendonitis with the best cardio exercises. Find out which workouts can improve your condition and prevent further injury. Start your journey to a healthy Achilles today.

Recommended Pilates Exercises for Bad Knees 

Pilates Exercises for Bad Knees

Pilates is a wonderful alternative that is easy on the joints and will assist in increasing your flexibility and strength. Try out the following ones —

  1. Bridge

The bridge exercise is a common Pilates move that effectively reduces knee discomfort. It focuses on the back muscles, which aid in supporting the knee joint. 

That being said you can modify this exercise to accommodate various knee ailments.

  1. Thigh Stretch

This exercise will help to develop your core strength while also improving and toning the muscles at the front of the thighs. For a complete workout, it also works the feet and the muscles at the rear of the body.

  1. Quads Stretch

Stretching your legs out in front of you can assist loosen up your hips, which releases pressure from the front of your knees.

  1. Assisted squat

It’s just like sitting down and standing up. When you use some help, it can help you build strength, confidence, and movement in your hips and knees. This will allow you to do it without any help in the future.

Caution: Before you determine what is causing your knee pain and have a good diagnosis, it is advised to avoid specific Pilates exercises including single-leg bird, magician, and Russian splits.

Related: Discover the best and worst cardio exercises for powerlifting performance and injury prevention. Find tips on how to optimize your cardio routine for success in weightlifting.

Types Of Cardio Exercises to Avoid

Types Of Cardio Exercise to Avoid

It’s important to remember that not all exercises are suitable for bad knees. Some of them that you must avoid are given below —

  1. High-impact Exercises 

Running and leaping are two high-impact workouts that put a great deal of strain on your knees and might even hurt or injure them. Avoiding these workouts is advisable, particularly if you’ve damaged knees.

  1. Stationary Cycling

Additionally, stationary cycling with a large amount of resistance could be extremely hard on your knees. Keep the resistance low and concentrate on pedaling gently.

  1. Weightlifting

Weightlifting activities like heavy squats and full deep lunges can also be strenuous on the knees. Instead, focus on workouts such as step-ups, raises, etc that strengthen your legs without placing strain on your knees.

  1. Knee Extensions

Full-arc knee extensions can impose an extra strain on your knee joint. Since it’s a hinge joint it’s not intended to move in this manner. To minimize potential injuries, it’d best for you to avoid these activities if you have poor knees.

  1. Hurdler’s Stretches

Although Hurdler’s stretches may appear to be a terrific technique to stretch your thigh and hip flexors, they can be quite bad for your knees. You’re placing a lot of strain on your knee joint by sitting on the floor and stretching one leg out in front while the other is bent.

It’s preferable to avoid this bend completely to protect your knees.

Also Read: Unsure if cardio or weight training is best for reducing belly fat? Learn about the pros and cons of both and discover which approach is right for you. Get tips on creating a workout plan to target belly fat and achieve your fitness goals.

Tips For Safe Cardio Exercise with Bad Knees

If you’re someone who suffers from bad knees, it can be a bit more challenging to incorporate cardio exercise into your routine. However, it’s still possible to get your heart pumping and burn some calories, even with bad knees. 

Here are some tips to help you stay safe and comfortable while doing cardio with bad knees.

  • Intensity and Duration

Start with shorter, less intensive sessions and gradually increase your time spent exercising, whether you’re walking, riding, or swimming. This can help you avoid damage and give your knees time to adapt to the new activity.

  • Use Knee Support And Proper Shoes

Make sure your shoes are comfortable to wear and offer your legs and knees the support they need. If you want to keep your knees stable while engaging in cardiac activity, you might also want to think about utilizing a knee brace or support.

  • Properly Warm up and Cool Down 

When exercising with bad knees, you must warm up and cool down. Spend a few minutes warming up your joints and muscles with some mild stretches and exercises before you begin your cardio workout. 

Similar to this, take a few minutes to stretch out your muscles gently after your aerobic workout to calm them down and assist prevent injury.

  • Listen to Your Body 

It’s critical to respond to your body and to pause if you experience pain. If your knees start to hurt or feel uncomfortable while you are exercising, stop and take a break. Instead of pushing through pain and running the danger of becoming hurt, it’s preferable to take a little pause and relax.

Why An Elliptical Machine Can Be an Ideal Exercise for Bad Knees?

An elliptical machine is the best option if you want a workout that won’t put undue stress on your knees. On this machine, you stand up and move your feet in an oval or circular manner, just like you would when riding a bike. This relieves strain on your knees and may help guard against further harm.

iFit Strength Training

Plus, you can engage more muscle groups on an elliptical since it has grips you can hold with either hand. As a result, you’ll be able to work out your entire body without endangering your knees.

This machine will also help you to strengthen the muscles surrounding your knee and enhance blood flow to the cartilage in the knees. If you have arthritic knees, in particular, this can aid in maintaining the health of your knee joints. 

However, it’s crucial to make sure that your body type and height are taken into account when setting your hands, feet, and inclination. If you continue to experience pain when using the elliptical correctly, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional. 

Daily Workout Plan for Elliptical Training

ExerciseSetsRepsRest (sec)Intensity
Warm-up15 minutesLow
Forward Pedal31030Moderate
Reverse Pedal31030Moderate
Single Leg310 each leg30High
Resistance Intervals330-sec high resistance / 30-sec low resistance30High
Cool-down15 minutesLow
Total Workout Time30 minutes


As you’ve read, there are a ton of efficient cardio that you can do to still get a fantastic cardiovascular workout without placing too much more stress on your knees. The idea is to select the best cardio for bad knees suitable for your body and your limits, whether they involve low-impact choices like swimming or cycling or the use of an elliptical machine. 

Always pay attention to your body’s cues and seek medical attention or physical therapy if necessary. Even if you have terrible knees, you may still enhance your heart health and reach your exercise targets with the appropriate technique.