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Low Impact Exercises for People With Bad Knees

written by: Rochelle Connery • edited by: Angela Atkinson • updated: 10/16/2010

If you have bad knees, stiff joints or arthritis, low impact exercises are best for you. While these won't necessarily help you build muscle or lose lots of weight, they can improve your flexibility and keep you active. Try these low impact exercise for bad knees ideas to get you moving again.

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    Aerobic Exercises for Bad Knees

    Performing some type of aerobic exercise is a good way to lose weight, even if you have stiff, arthritic knees. However, ordinary aerobic exercises might be too high impact in many cases. Let's look at a few ideas for low impact exercise for bad knees that might work better in your case.

    Step-ups: lists step-ups as some of the best exercises for people with bad knees. You can step at your own pace and judge how painful or painless it is to complete each step movement. Stand in front of a stair step, step bench or low footstool and step one foot at a time on this platform. Make sure your knee remains aligned with your ankle to prevent your knees from bending over your toes, which will cause excruciating pain. Alternate your feet and perform this exercise for as many repetitions as desired.

    Jogging in place: Choose a flat, smooth surface and jog in a circle or in place. As long as you don't bend your knees too much, jogging at a slow, steady pace shouldn't hurt your knees. Bend your arms back and forth at the elbow to stimulate the blood flow and get your heart rate up a little.

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    Cardio Exercises for Bad Knees

    Another low impact exercise for bad knees idea is using low impact machinery for your cardio workout. Even if you don't purchase one for your own home use, you can use these at a gym or community center a few times a week and still get a good workout.

    Elliptical trainer: Elliptical trainers feature angled foot pedals and handles that enable a smooth, flowing motion as you run. You can control the speed at which you run, and you can be rest assured that you aren't grinding your joints back and forth as you exercise. You still don't want to train this way for several minutes at a time, or you could overwork your tendons. Consider exercising for five minutes at a time and taking a short break before the next round.

    Recumbent Bicycle: Many elderly people as well as physical therapy patients work out using a recumbent bike. Not only is it comfortable, as trainers can sit down as they exercise, but it provides a challenging workout while still protecting your knees.

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    Strength Exercises for Bad Knees

    Some individuals are hesitant to do strength training with bad knees, as they think it just involves weights and pulleys. However, there are body weight exercises you can do with bad knees that are very low impact and yet are still effective.

    Leg lifts: Lay on your side and extend both legs so that one is stacked on top of the other. Lift the top leg straight up. You might only be able to reach a 45 degree angle - that's okay. Hold this position for a few seconds, then gently lower your leg back down.

    Almost-squats: The very word "Squat" might send a lightning streak of pain through your knees all on its own, but rest assured, it's not as bad as it sounds. Almost-squats, or partial squats, can be performed by spreading your legs just more than shoulder width apart. Lower your body down to a chair seat and keep your knees in line with or behind the line of your toes so as to reduce strain. Hold this position for a few seconds and release.


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