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The Best & Worst Aerobic Exercises for Bad Knees

author image Diana Rodriguez
Diana Rodriguez is a Louisville, Kentucky-based full-time freelance writer who specializes in health and real-estate writing. Since 2008 her numerous articles have appeared on various news and health websites. She also specializes in custom Web content for a variety of businesses. She has degrees in journalism and French from Miami University of Ohio.
The Best & Worst Aerobic Exercises for Bad Knees
A man rides a bicycle on a country road. Photo Credit m-gucci/iStock/Getty Images

Exercise is an important part of staying fit and healthy, but it isn't easy for everyone – particularly if you suffer from knee problems. If you have a health condition affecting the knee or experience knee pain during exercise, that doesn't mean that you can't stay fit and active. Choosing the right exercises that take it easy on your knees and make your muscles stronger can help you alleviate knee pain while keeping your body healthy.

Causes of Bad Knees

You may have suffered an injury – perhaps an overuse injury from exercising improperly or too strenuously – that caused your knee problems. Other causes of knee problems include health conditions affecting the joints such as osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, says the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, or NIAMS.

Best Aerobic Exercises for Knees

Aerobic exercises are those that boost your heart rate. They might leave you a little short of breath if you push yourself hard enough, and they can work muscles all over the body. If you've got bad knees, the best exercises are those that work your heart without straining your knees – in general, NIAMS recommends low-impact aerobic exercises. The University of Washington School of Medicine recommends low-impact aerobic exercises such as biking, walking and swimming – anything that doesn't jar the knees, and is easy on all of your joints.

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Worst Aerobic Exercises for Knees

Stressing the knee joint may cause pain, injury and inflammation. High-impact aerobic exercises are the worst for bad knees because they put stress on the joints, says NIAMS. High-impact aerobic exercises include running or jogging, which are bad choices for people with bad knees. Other exercises that can take a toll on the knees may include vigorous dancing, aerobics and jumping rope.

Take It Easy on the Knees

Choosing exercises that don't aggravate your bad knees will help manage knee pain and keep you active, but you can also take other steps to manage knee pain. NIAMS recommends getting regular exercise that improves your knees' range of motion and helps to strengthen the muscles around the knees. Try these types of exercises by walking up stairs, doing some leg lifts or working out on a stationary bike. It's also important to maintain a healthy body weight, so that your knees don't have constant stress from carrying excess weight.

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