5 Best Cardio Exercises for Bad Knees

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Are you struggling with knee pain but still want to get your cardio workout in? Look no further! There are plenty of options out there for people with bad knees who still want to stay active and healthy.

In this article, I will share some of the best cardio exercises for bad knees that will help you get your heart rate up without causing unnecessary pain.

5 Best Cardio Exercises for Bad Knees

1. Swimming

Swimming is not only a fantastic way to stay cool during the hot summer months but also one of the best exercises for people with bad knees. Since swimming is a low-impact activity, it puts minimal strain on your joints, making it an excellent option for those who suffer from knee pain or arthritis.

When you’re in the water, the buoyancy provides extra support, reducing the pressure on your knees. This makes swimming an ideal choice for those who want to get their heart rate up without experiencing any discomfort.

swimming for bad knees

Additionally, swimming is a full-body workout that engages almost every muscle in your body, including your arms, shoulders, back, and legs. Not only does it help to build strength and endurance, but it also improves your flexibility, which can help to prevent future injuries.

Whether you’re looking to improve your overall fitness or just want a fun and refreshing way to exercise, swimming is an excellent choice for anyone with bad knees.

2. Cycling

Cycling is not only a great way to explore the great outdoors, but it’s also a fantastic low-impact exercise option that can benefit your overall health in many ways. Whether you prefer to ride a bike outside on a sunny day or use a stationary bike indoors, cycling is an excellent choice for anyone with bad knees.

Unlike high-impact exercises like running or jumping, cycling is gentle on the joints and won’t put any unnecessary pressure on your knees. In fact, it can even help to alleviate knee pain by strengthening the muscles that support your knee joint.

Cycling is also a fantastic way to improve your cardiovascular health and burn calories. By pedaling at a steady pace, you can get your heart rate up and work up a sweat, helping to boost your metabolism and promote weight loss.

Cycling for bad knees

Additionally, cycling can also help to build muscle in your legs, core, and even your arms and shoulders, depending on the type of bike you’re using.

You can even adjust the resistance of the bike to make the workout as easy or challenging as you want it to be, making it a versatile option for people of all fitness levels.

Whether you’re looking to explore new trails or just want a low-impact exercise option that can help you stay healthy and active, cycling is definitely worth considering.

3. Elliptical Machine

An elliptical machine is an excellent option for anyone looking for a low-impact cardio workout that can provide a range of benefits.

Not only does it simulate the motion of running without putting any stress on your knees, but it can also help to improve your cardiovascular health, build muscle, and burn calories.

Elliptical Machine for bad knees

Using an elliptical machine is a great way to get your heart rate up and work up a sweat, helping to promote weight loss and reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, and other chronic health conditions.

The elliptical machine can also help strengthen your muscles, particularly those in your legs and core. By adjusting the resistance levels and incline of the machine, you can tailor your workout to your fitness level and goals.

Some elliptical machines even come with built-in programs that can help to vary your workout and keep you motivated. And, if you have any injuries or joint issues, an elliptical machine can be a great way to stay active without risking further damage to your joints.

Whether you want to improve your overall fitness, build endurance, or just want a low-impact cardio option that won’t exacerbate your knee pain, an elliptical machine is worth considering.

Also Read: Understanding Sciatic Knee Pain

4. Walking

Walking is a fantastic form of cardio that is often overlooked, but it can offer a host of health benefits, especially for those with bad knees. Walking is a low-impact exercise that puts minimal stress on your joints, making it an ideal choice for people who are looking for a gentle yet effective way to stay active.

Whether you prefer to take a leisurely stroll outside or hit the treadmill at the gym, walking can help to improve your cardiovascular health, lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and reduce your risk of developing chronic health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

Walking can also help strengthen your muscles, particularly those in your legs and core, and improve your balance, which can help reduce your risk of falls and injuries.

Walking for bad knees

Another great thing about walking is that it’s easy to do and requires minimal equipment or preparation. You can start with a slow pace and gradually increase your speed and distance as your fitness improves.

You can also walk with a friend or a pet, which can make the activity more enjoyable and social. And if you’re looking for a way to incorporate walking into your daily routine, consider walking to work or doing errands on foot.

Walking is a simple yet effective way to stay active, improve your health, and reduce knee pain.

5. Rowing

Rowing is a fantastic full-body workout that offers a multitude of health benefits, including improved cardiovascular health, increased muscle strength, and reduced knee pain. As a low-impact exercise, rowing puts minimal stress on your joints, making it an ideal option for people with bad knees looking for a challenging yet gentle workout.

Rowing engages your legs, core, back, and arms, providing a complete and balanced workout for your entire body. It can help to improve your posture, reduce your risk of injury, and enhance your overall fitness and well-being. Rowing machines are often available at gyms, but you can also purchase them for home use, allowing you to enjoy the benefits of rowing at your own convenience.

Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or a beginner, rowing is a great way to challenge yourself and take your fitness to the next level. You can adjust the resistance and intensity to match your fitness level and goals, and you can track your progress over time to stay motivated and on track.

Additionally, rowing is a fun and engaging activity that can help to relieve stress and boost your mood, making it an excellent way to improve your mental health as well.

If you’re looking for a low-impact cardio workout that is easy on the knees and provides a full-body workout, rowing might be just what you need to take your fitness to the next level.

Benefits of Low-Impact Cardio for Bad Knees

1. Accessible

Low-impact cardio exercises are often more accessible than high-impact exercises. They can be performed in a variety of environments, including indoors and outdoors. This means you can choose an exercise that fits your schedule and your preferences.

For instance, walking is an excellent low-impact exercise that can be done almost anywhere, while swimming can be a refreshing alternative during hot summer days.

2. Great for rehabilitation

Low-impact exercises are also an excellent option for individuals who are recovering from knee surgery or knee-related injuries.

In fact, many physical therapists recommend low-impact exercises as part of the rehabilitation process. They can help to improve mobility, flexibility, and range of motion while minimizing the risk of further injury.

3. Can be modified

Another benefit of low-impact cardio exercises is that they can be easily modified to fit your fitness level.

For instance, you can increase or decrease the intensity of your workout by adjusting the resistance on a stationary bike or elliptical machine. This allows you to challenge yourself without putting too much pressure on your knees.

Overall, the benefits of low-impact cardio exercises for individuals with bad knees are numerous. They effectively improve cardiovascular health, burn calories, and strengthen muscles without putting too much pressure on the joints.

Tips for Preventing Knee Injuries During Exercise

While low-impact exercises are generally safe for individuals with bad knees, taking certain precautions is important to prevent further injury. Here are a few tips to help you stay safe while exercising:

1. Choose the right shoes

Wearing proper shoes during exercise is crucial for preventing knee injuries. When it comes to choosing the right shoes, you should prioritize comfort, support, and cushioning.

It is important to pick shoes that fit properly and provide enough space for your toes to move. Shoes that are too tight can cause blisters and other foot injuries.

When shopping for workout shoes, consider visiting a specialty store where an expert can help you find the perfect fit for your feet and the exercise you plan to engage in. Remember, investing in a good pair of shoes can save you from the pain and discomfort of knee injuries in the long run.

2. Stretch before and after exercise

Stretching is a crucial component of any workout routine, especially for individuals with bad knees. Stretching before exercise helps to warm up your muscles and joints, increasing flexibility and range of motion. This can reduce the risk of injury during your workout.

After your workout, it’s equally important to stretch to prevent stiffness and soreness. Make sure to include stretches that target the muscles around your knees, such as the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves. Hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds and repeat several times.

Remember never to push yourself beyond your limits and always listen to your body. If you experience pain or discomfort while stretching, stop immediately.

3. Start slowly and gradually increase the intensity

Starting slowly and gradually increasing the intensity of your workouts is a key factor in preventing knee injuries during exercise. If you push yourself too hard too quickly, you risk causing damage to your knees and other joints. Instead, start with shorter sessions and lower intensities and gradually work your way up.

This will allow your body to adjust to the increased demands and reduce the risk of injury. It is also important to listen to your body and pay attention to any pain or discomfort you may feel during exercise.

If you experience pain or discomfort, it is a sign that you need to take a break and give your body time to rest and recover. Remember, exercise is a journey, not a race. Progressing slowly and steadily is better than rushing and risking injury.

4. Maintain a healthy weight

Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial for individuals with bad knees, as excess weight can put extra stress on the joints, leading to pain and discomfort. By maintaining a healthy weight, you can reduce the pressure on your knees during exercise and prevent further damage.

Losing weight can also help to alleviate knee pain and improve your overall physical fitness. Consult with a healthcare professional to determine the right weight loss plan for you and always remember to combine a healthy diet with regular exercise to achieve your weight loss goals.


Q: What is the best cardio for arthritic knees?

Low-impact exercises such as swimming, cycling, and walking are typically best for individuals with arthritic knees.

Q: What exercises should I avoid with bad knees?

High-impact exercises such as running, jumping, and plyometrics should be avoided with bad knees. Exercises that involve twisting or pivoting motions, such as tennis and basketball, may also aggravate knee pain.

Q: What is the best exercise for weak knees?

Strengthening exercises, such as leg extensions and leg curls, can help to improve knee strength and stability. Low-impact exercises like walking and cycling can also be beneficial for individuals with weak knees.


In conclusion, plenty of cardio exercises are easy on the knees and still provide a great workout. Swimming, cycling, elliptical machines, walking, and rowing are all great options to consider.

Remember to start slowly and gradually increase your intensity and duration to avoid unnecessary pain. Get moving and have fun!

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