By: Shannon Beineke & Vanessa Sofia
Cardiovascular exercises are essential to any fitness regimen, but they can be painful for bad knees. Only certain knee workouts are safe and effective for knees in need of some extra TLC. Your capabilities will depend on your injury, but the following knee exercises can often be done with ease. Check with your doctor or physical therapist before beginning any "bad-knee" workout and follow a recovery regimen after strenuous activity.
Works: Glutes, hamstrings, quads
To make this workout even more effective, do curls with light weights each time you step up. Our Neoprene Hand Weights are a great way to intensify these step-ups by adding resistance without putting tension on your knees. You can control the amount of resistance by selecting the weight that is best to meet your goal.
Works: Knees, quads
Although full squats aren't recommended for those with tender knees, partial squats are a great exercise to build strength while protecting the joints.
Find a good knee support product before attempting this exercise, and it's always best to work out with a buddy.
Works: Lower-leg muscles
Also known as "toe raises."
The slower you raise and lower your body, the better the workout. Start with 25 reps.
For a deeper stretch, use a foot and calf stretcher to maximize your workout.
Works: Abs, hip flexors, thighs
This is one rep. Start by doing a set of 50 reps. Don't let your legs or shoulders rest on the floor during the set. For a better grip, use a yoga mat to ensure proper technique.
Works: Upper, mid and lower body
Swimming is one of the best exercises for people with bad knees. It's low impact and versatile, and it burns calories quickly. Proper form is crucial, especially while kicking.
The knees should not be tensed. Techniques that put stress on the knees (e.g., the frog kick) should be avoided. Also, avoid the traditional pre-lap push off the wall.
Works: Upper, mid and lower body muscles
Running and jogging put stress on bad knees, but speed walking is low impact and great exercise for the whole body. Beginners should stick to flat, smooth surfaces. After your walking muscles are strengthened, you may even be able to take low-impact hikes.
Cardio exercise for bad knees doesn't have to cause even more knee pain.
While cardio is important to achieve your fitness goals, it can be hard on your body. Over time, high-impact cardio, like running, can give way to muscle and joint injuries. To minimize the risk of injury, try different methods of low-impact cardio. Here are five low-impact cardio activities that will give you the results you want, while taking it easy on your body.
Whether it is ballet, tap, salsa, or modern, dance classes are wonderful low-impact cardio activities that keep your heart rate up for long periods of time. By requiring you to warm up first and stretch your muscles throughout the class, dance classes are a great way to get in shape.
You will burn roughly the same amount of calories using an elliptical trainer as you would on a treadmill. Plus, your feet never leave the pedals, so there is less chance of injuring your knees, back, neck, or hips. This is an exercise that your body will thank you for, as it is essentially running without the impact.
Grab your bike out of the garage and go for a bike ride. If you don’t have one, you can use the stationary bike at your gym. Cycling will build your endurance and, depending on how fast you go, will burn between 250-500 calories in 30 minutes. If you are cycling indoors, using the traditional stationary bike instead of the sitting stationary bike will burn more calories, as sitting upright engages more muscles.
Going for a good old-fashioned walk has numerous health benefits and is a classic form of low-impact cardio. Make sure to stretch first, wear supportive footwear and keep your pace brisk to get the maximum results from this low-impact exercise. To further reduce the impact of any cardio, Gaiam also provides products such as a foot massager to assist in your post-walk recovery.
Finding the right kind of cardio for you is important. You can be challenged and stimulated without hurting yourself or taking your body beyond its natural limits. Try switching back and forth between these low-impact cardio exercises throughout the week to keep your muscles engaged and your workout routine challenging.