Mazlan has a passion for health and fitness. He enjoys yoga, cycling, home workouts, and healthy food.
Workouts for People With Knee Problems
When you have a knee problem or knee joint pain a simple act like getting out of bed can be a chore. Even walking up and down a staircase can be painful. It is like adding the pressure of up to four times your body weight.
The knees are our weakest joints and the most frequently injured part of our body. This, however, should not stop you from doing simple exercises to stay physically fit.
Low Impact Exercises for Bad Knees
Low impact exercise is the best option for people with knee problems. It is also beneficial for people who exercise on a regular basis.
When you exercise regularly, there will be wear and tear on your muscles and joints. Even more so for rigorous exercise and if the forms are not correct.
Low impact knee exercises are also beneficial if you are pregnant, overweight, or just starting a workout program.
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends a moderate fitness schedule with a mix of aerobic, anaerobic, and flexibility exercises. Begin the exercises in short durations and slowly progress to the moderate intensity that you can sustain.
So, check out these 10 best low-impact exercises for bad knees to keep you fit and healthy.
Yoga is one of the best low-impact exercises. It not only helps you with stretching and joint flexibility but helps you with body strength and cardiovascular system. In the study by Alyson Ross and Sue Thomas published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Jan 2010, it was stated that "yoga may be as effective as or better than exercise at improving a variety of health-related outcomes".
However, if not done properly, you can also hurt yourself. So, build up your movement slowly and do under the proper guidance of a trained yoga guru.
Best Yoga Poses for Knee Pain
There are also poses and postures that are difficult to perform if you have knee problems. You can skip these and do other poses. The best yoga poses for knee pain are the warrior pose, the chair pose, cobra pose, seated forward bend pose, chair pose, bridge pose, peaceful warrior pose, and eagle pose.
Yoga Poses to Avoid
Simple poses such as child pose can put pressure on your knees. Avoid any poses that require you to sit with knees folded such as child pose and lotus pose. Other yoga poses to avoid are the single-leg balance, hero pose, and the extended hand-to-big toe pose.
If any pose is difficult and painful, back off or readjust until the pain goes away.
Do not rush when you do yoga as yoga can benefits you physically, mentally, and emotionally.
How To Do Yoga
If you are a beginner it is best to start your Yoga under the proper guidance of a qualified Yoga instructor. Google 'yoga classes' to find classes near your work or home area.
If there is none, you can buy the Yoga DVD or follow the free yoga classes on YouTube.
Pilates is similar to Yoga except that it focuses on strengthening the core and lengthening the muscles. It helps reinforce your back, abdomen, and other core muscles to give the body stability by improving coordination and balance.
How to Do Pilates
As with Yoga, do Pilates under the proper guidance of a qualified instructor especially if you are new to Pilates.
Do your online search for Pilates classes near your area or follow the free Pilates classes on YouTube.
It is good to enroll in a few Pilates classes before doing it on your own. You learn the correct technique otherwise you hurt yourself.
Walking, the Simplest Low Impact Exercise
Walking is one of the simplest exercises on earth and when paired with good walking shoes, is another good low impact exercise.
You should start slow and then walk faster for 15 minutes before slowing down again. Repeat the cycle for as many cycles as you can. This gives a good cardio workout to help lose body fat. If the 15-minute cycle is too much for you, bring it down to 10-minutes.
Walking on a regular basis can lower your cholesterol level and improves blood circulation.
How to Stay Motivated
If walking alone is boring, get a walking partner. This also gives you additional push and motivation.
Keep a walking journal, join the walking forum, or seek support online. It will keep you motivated to continue with your walking exercise.
How to Make Your Walking More Challenging
For a challenging walking workout (assuming you are already-fit and your knee pain is of low threshold), then try the followings:
- Increase the intensity by walking on the inclined ground or hill slopes.
- Walking on different ground surfaces (grass, pebbled, tarmac, etc.) will increase the challenge.
- Add resistance by carrying a well-weighted backpack filled with water, books, etc.
- Increase your walking speed.
- Drag something heavy, like a tire when you walk.
The Best Walking Shoes for Bad Knees
Some of the better walking shoes for women are Vionic Tokyo, Brooks Addiction Walker 2, New Balance 840 v2 Walking, Mizuno Wave Rider 24, or New Balance 840 v2 Walking.
For men, you can try Saucony Men's Ride 14, New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v11, Asics GEL-NIMBUS 23, Nike Air Monarch IV, or Adidas Solarboost 19.
How to Choose Good Walking Shoes
When you shop for a new pair of walking shoes, look out for the followings:
- It fits your feet and you feel comfortable.
- The shoe should fit the shape and size of your feet (length and width) including arch type.
- Buy a lightweight design with good shock absorption.
Swimming does not place undue pressure on the knees as water will support the body weight. There is also less impact on the muscles and joints but can still torches calories. It works out several parts of your muscle group with cardio, strength, and flexibility all roll into one exercise. That's why it is rated as the most effective low-impact exercise.
However, avoid the butterfly stroke as this uses movement that exerts pressure on the knees.
Benefits of Swimming
Among the many reported benefits of swimming are:
- It can extend the lung capacity, hence making breathing easier.
- Improves cardiovascular health.
- It can reduce joint stiffness and strengthen joint muscles, which will benefit sufferers of arthritis.
- Help strengthen bones.
Tips Before Swimming
Whether you are swimming for leisure, fitness, or competitive sport, the following simple tips are useful to remember:
- Do not eat any heavy meals at least an hour before swimming
- Do a warm-up and stretching exercise before you start swimming
- Take a shower before going into a swimming pool
- If you swim outside, apply a good waterproof sunblock to your body
Cycling is a great exercise to increase your cardiovascular strength, lower your blood pressure, increase your metabolic rate, and hence, assist in weight loss. It also helps lower your cholesterol.
It has a low impact on the knees except when you cycle steep slopes or when you add too much resistance.
If you have knee problems the indoor stationary bike will be a better choice since you can control the riding mode.
Tips Before Cycling
Before you start cycling, do the followings:
- Adjust your seat height so that your knee is about a 30-degree angle when your leg is extended near the bottom pedal position.
- Adjust handlebar to a comfortable position that will not strain your back.
- If you cycle outdoor, wear a helmet that fits well, check your tire pressure and brake. Protect your eye by wearing glasses and wear proper attire that will keep you warm
- Your bike and clothes have reflective bands.
Exercise Using Elliptical Machines
The elliptical machine is a stationary exercise machine that stimulates exercises such as running, climbing stairs or skiing, but is less stressful on your joints if used correctly.
When you exercise with elliptical machines, keep your posture upright with your shoulder back and head up, look forward and not down. Otherwise, you will stress your back. Wear good and comfortable shoes as this helps absorbs some of the impacts.
The elliptical machine is also ideal for interval training to increase your metabolic rate and hence, help burn more calories. You start the workout with a slow and gentle pace and continue with an intense pace followed by a slow pace. Continue this cycle of slow and intense pace for 1-minute for each pace. Do this for at least six cycles.
Golf is both a competitive as well as a social sport.
When you play golf for leisure or as a social game, you and your golfing partners can control the pace and speed of the game. Some will use buggies and some will walk the course.
It is a low-impact as well as low-intensity sport. However, if it is not played properly, you can still injure yourself. This happens when you play or practice overly without rest or play with the wrong postures and swings.
Despite all these, if you enjoy golf, it is a good workout especially if you walk the course.
Bowling is another low-impact 'sport' and is both leisure and a competitive game.
However, bowling does very little to improve your muscular mass or increase your cardiovascular system. It uses the same upper-body muscle group and therefore, not an ideal workout.
It is, however, a fun game to socialize with your family, friends, and office colleagues.
Tai Chi is a combination of a gentle and fluid sequence of movements that strengthen body muscles, develop flexibility and balance.
Tai Chi movements are slow and graceful with smooth transitions between each movement. This low-impact workout is not only a good physical workout but also a good mental workout.
It is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety.
Water Based Exercises
Check out these water-based exercises and sports that are kind to your joints.
When you scuba dive despite feeling weightless in the water you actually require a lot of energy. This can be quite demanding and will give you a good low-impact workout.
Scuba diving puts less stress on your body joints once you are in the water. The equipment, however, is heavy and bad for the joints. So, put on the equipment in the water before you dive and take it off in the water once you are done.
Water polo is a physically demanding sport and you need stamina. Since you play in the water, it cushions your knees and is a good low-impact sport.
This game develops your cardiovascular fitness, endurance, and strength. However, there is a lot of pushing and holding and it can be quite rough under the water. It can be exhausting as well.
Pool walking is good if you suffer from arthritis of the lower body. Just walk from one low end of the swimming pool to the other end. It works out your leg muscles and your cardiovascular muscles. Ideally, do this in a warm water pool.
Walking in water is more beneficial than walking on land. You need more effort to move your leg when you are in the water. Spending 30-mins walking in the water will burn more calories and workout your cardiovascular system more than walking on land.
So try it.
Rowing can be either alone, with another person, or with group of friends. You stay seated, hence your knee does not bear your body weight.
It is a good exercise for the upper body, your core, and the cardiovascular system. It does, to a smaller degree, work out your lower body.
The rowing movement includes bending your knees repeatedly. Watch out for any signal or pain and go slow if this happens.
Ready to Start the Low Impact Exercise?
But not sure which exercise to try?
You can start with the easiest exercise and that will be walking on land. If you have access to a pool, you can alternate walking on land with walking in the pool.
Continue for a month and when you feel ready, add swimming into your routine.
Have fun and do not forget to check with your doctor on a regular basis.
This article provides ideas and guide for low-impact exercises. If you have any health problem, talk to your doctor before you do any exercises or ask which exercise is right for you.
- Susko, A. M., & Fitzgerald, G. K. (2013). The pain-relieving qualities of exercise in knee osteoarthritis. Open access rheumatology: research and reviews, 5, 81–91. https://doi.org/10.2147/OARRR.S53974
- Melanie A. Holden, Elaine E. Nicholls, Julie Young, Elaine M. Hay, Nadine E. Foster, Exercise and physical activity in older adults with knee pain: a mixed-methods study, Rheumatology, Volume 54, Issue 3, March 2015, Pages 413–423
- Regnaux J, Lefevre-Colau M, Trinquart L, Nguyen C, Boutron I, Brosseau L, Ravaud P. High-intensity versus low-intensity physical activity or exercise in people with hip or knee osteoarthritis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2015, Issue 10. Art. No.: CD010203. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD010203.pub2
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2013 Mazlan A
Mazlan A (author) from Malaysia on October 17, 2014:
@linfcor, Chair yoga is good for people with knee problem. This form of yoga unfortunately hasn't caught up yet with the yoga crowds over here. Tai Chi is of course very popular here. Thanks for the visit and sharing your experience.
Linda F Correa from Spring Hill Florida on October 17, 2014:
Osteoarthritis is causing one knee to be a pain. I do chair yoga and am going to start Tai chi next week. According to my physician, low impact exercise is essential to keeping my knees going. Good article !