Low Impact Exercises for Someone With Knee Problems

Couple walking bicycles through fall forest
A man and woman are walking by their bikes. (Image: Comstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

If you have knee problems, you will find it difficult if not impossible to participate in high-impact exercise activities. Exercises that involve sudden movements such as jumping, landing and abrupt turning can damage knee joints further and cause severe pain. Choosing the right types of exercise is essential for individuals with knee problems who want to stay fit. Select exercises that will build your leg muscles and improve joint mobility while providing good strength or cardiovascular conditioning with minimal pain.

Walking

Walking is a low-impact activity that puts little strain on knee joints. When first starting out, walk on flat, smooth, even surfaces wearing firm, comfortable and supportive shoes. Walk at a moderate pace for 15 to 20 minutes daily. As your legs strengthen, increase the duration of your workouts by one minute each day, building up to at least 30 minutes. You can increase the intensity of your workouts as well by swinging your arms and walking on an incline.

Cycling

Cycling is a low-impact exercise that you can perform indoors on a stationary bike or outside on a bicycle. The repetitive motion of cycling works the quadriceps and hamstrings, which are the muscles that support the knee joints. However, cycling does not put direct strain on knees, making it an ideal exercise choice for individuals with knee problems. Individuals with knee problems can increase leg strength and cardiovascular fitness by cycling at least three or four times each week for 30 minutes.

Swimming and Water Aerobics

Swimming is an exercise that puts no strain on the knees, so you can engage in this activity for as long as you wish. Water's buoyancy supports the body’s weight, regardless of its size. This allows you to get an aerobic and resistance workout without stressing your knee joints. Because swimming and water aerobics do not impact joints, you can jump, twist, turn and flip in water without pain. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends water-based exercises to individuals with knee problems and to sufferers of arthritis, osteoporosis and fibromyalgia.

Elliptical Training

Elliptical training puts pressure on the knees like walking, however, it provides a cardiovascular workout that is much more intense. If your goal is to build leg strength while enhancing your cardiovascular fitness, elliptical training is an exercise that you can use to accomplish this. Start with 15 to 20 minutes of training to get your legs used to the motion. As your leg strength increases, increase your pace on the elliptical machine and the duration of your workout.

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