What is the best cardio exercise for bad knees?
Chronic knee pain can impair your quality of life. Exercise is one of the many treatments you can do for knee pain.
However, doing the wrong exercise can lead to further injury. Luckily, this article will give you the ten best cardio exercises that can help you alleviate knee pain safely.
From health tips to different workout methods, we’ll discuss all of that and more down below.
Let’s get started.
Table of Contents
What Causes Knee Pain?
There are lots of factors that can cause knee pain:
Aging is a primary factor that results in knee pain. Research back in 2011 indicated that Osteoarthritis is common in older people.
This medical condition occurs when the cartilage in your knee slowly deteriorates. The cartilage acts as a cushion to prevent friction in your joints.
Your cartilage tends to get thinner as you age. The lubricating fluid in your joint also decreases.
Your hips and knees bear most of your body weight. Being obese can put a strain on your knees.
The excess weight increases pressure on your knee joints. It causes strain, pain, and injury to your knees.
Living a Sedentary Lifestyle
Working nine to five or sitting in your office all day can cause knee pain.
A study in 2019 explains how long-term sedentary behavior is one of the causes of chronic knee pain.
Lack of physical activity causes your joints to get stiff. Your quad muscles become tight. Which makes any physical movement strain your knees.
Knee Straining Activities
Your knees often carry the full brunt of your daily activities.
Bending, running, standing, and even lifting are all movements that contribute to the wear and tear of your knees.
People who tend to do heavy-hitting exercises such as weight training and jumping are more likely to encounter knee problems.
Knee Pain Symptoms
Here are the following symptoms to look out for:
- Swelling and redness
- Ache and Stiffness
- Popping noises
- Inability to fully extend the leg
Should You Exercise With Knee Pain?
Inactivity can only make things worse for your knee. It will cause your knees to stiffen and make the simplest of movements hard to do.
Doing the right exercises can be a great way to alleviate the pain and strengthen your knees.
What Is The Best Cardio Exercise For Knee Pain?
Doing high-impact exercises that put a lot of strain on your knees can only make matters worse.
HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) or Weight Training can put significant pressure on your knees.
When you’re experiencing knee pain, it’s best to do low impact cardio workouts to avoid the risk of injury.
Here are a variety of the best low-impact cardio exercises for knee pain relief:
Swimming is an ideal exercise to get fit and relieve knee pain. The buoyancy of the water supports your body weight and takes the pressure off your knees.
Water also provides more resistance than air. It is an excellent full-body workout since it engages all of your major muscle groups.
Adding water aerobics to your daily activity can simultaneously increase muscle strength, improve mobility, and ease the pain off your knees.
Walking is the least type of exercise that would come to mind when you’re suffering from knee pain.
A study back in 2015 shows daily walking prevents the risk of developing Osteoarthritis.
Walking at a reasonable distance doesn’t put extra pressure on your knee joints. Instead, it is a low-impact exercise that helps strengthen your bone and leg muscles.
Walking is a safe and easy exercise for you to burn calories. It also promotes blood circulation and helps transfer nutrients to your knee joints.
Is cycling good for the knees? Some cyclists would claim to experience knee pain. But that does not necessarily mean that cycling is bad for your knees.
Cycling limits the stress on your joints. It’s all a matter of doing the right intensity, pace, and equipment to make cycling easy and healthy on your knees.
Going at a low or moderate pace can provide enough healthy resistance to your legs. It can help strengthen your muscles and joints.
Which is better: Indoor or Outdoor Cycling?
Both Indoor and Outdoor cycling are equally efficient.
Cycling indoors using a stationary bike allows a more controlled environment with resistance options.
Outdoor cycling gives you more fresh air and scenery to make it enjoyable. Try to avoid steep inclines that can put a strain on your knees.
Pilates is an excellent low-impact workout you can do to engage your muscles and ease your knee pain.
Adding Pilates to your daily workouts can help improve your posture, balance, and joint mobility.
Doing Pilates can help relieve the tension in your knee joints without the potential for injury.
5. Low-Resistance Circuit Training
Low-resistance circuit training is an effective heart-pumping workout that’s easy on the joints.
It involves performing a series of drills involving low-impact cardio exercises with minimum rests in between sets.
If you’re struggling to find low-impact cardio exercises, here are simple exercises you can do at the comforts of your own home:
6. Partial Squats
Partial squats are great in targeting your quads and improves core strength.
It doesn’t bear much of your body weight and prevents putting significant strain on the knees.
How to do it:
- Start by bending your legs at a 45-degree angle until you feel a slight pressure on your quad muscles. Make sure to push your butt back.
- Put your arms straight in front of you.
- Hold your position for a second. Slowly ease your body up by pushing through your heels. Engage your core as you do so. Try not to lock your knees when standing.
7. Calf Raises
Your calf muscles support your hamstrings and the back of your knee.
Doing calf raises is a simple strengthening exercise you can do to improve stability and provide knee support.
How to do it:
- Assume a standing position. Keep your body straight.
- Carefully raise your heel by pushing through the balls of your feet until you are standing on your toes.
- Hold that position for a second before ,then slowly lowering back down.
8. Leg Lifts
This low-impact exercise barely puts any pressure on your knees. It works your quad and hamstrings effortlessly.
How to do it:
- Lie on your back on a yoga mat. Keep your body straight.
- Proceed to bend your right knee and keep your foot planted firmly on the ground.
- Keep your left leg straight as you slowly lift it from the ground until it is at your right knee’s level.
- Slowly ease your left leg down to the mat while still keeping it straight.
9. Band Leg Side Raises
Resistance bands are one of the best exercise tools used for knee pain. Doing band leg side raises is one of the many variations you can do with resistance bands.
How to do it:
- Stand beside a chair and prop your left arm on the chair for support.
- Place your resistance band around both your ankles.
- With your hips and shoulders forward, lift your right leg straight sideways.
- Hold that position with your leg extended for a few seconds before easing it back down to your starting position.
10. Hamstring Curl
Hamstring curl is another popular low-impact exercise for knee pain. This workout strengthens the hamstrings and glutes.
How to Do it:
- Stand behind a chair. Hold onto the backrest for support.
- Proceed to bend your left knee carefully, bringing your left foot up towards your buttock.
- Hold that position for a second before slowly lowering your foot back to the floor.
How Can I Make My Knees Stronger?
Aside from doing cardio workouts, here are three main ways to make your knees stronger:
1. Switch to a Healthy Diet
The food you eat is often the answer to prevent and treat knee pain.
A well-balanced diet helps reduce inflammation on your knees, build bone density, and strengthen connective tissue. It can all help make your knee joints stronger.
It’s vital to fuel your muscles, bones, and knee joints with the nutrients it needs.
Below are some healthy foods to incorporate into your diet:
- Seeds & Nuts
- Calcium-Rich Foods
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Fiber-rich Vegetables
- Lean Protein
- Whole Grains
2. Do Stretches
Stretches pose a lot of benefits to your overall health. Adding knee stretches to your daily life can improve your body’s range of motion.
Stretching helps ease the tension of the muscles surrounding your knees. It also helps get rid of the stiffness of your knee joints.
Incorporating stretches before and after your workout can help prevent knee injuries as well. It can improve your body’s ability to perform physical activities.
3. Lose Extra Weight
Losing some extra weight will help ease the pressure off your knees. Weight loss and engaging in a healthier lifestyle is the best thing you can do for your knees.
Being overweight and obese is linked to several knee problems. The risk of developing Osteoarthritis is higher in obese individuals.
Try to stay active and switch to a healthy diet.
What Is The Best Exercise Machine For Bad Knees?
Commonly used in physical therapy, Elliptical machines help people get the right amount of cardio without putting much strain on their joints.
It’s a convenient exercise tool. It can help you get fit without the wear and tear of heavy-hitting cardio exercises.
A study from 2014 shows that elliptical workouts reduce the weight-bearing effects and give the same benefits as other high-impact workouts.
Below are the best exercise machines that can give you a low-impact cardio workout:
Upper Body Ergometer
An upper body ergometer or UBE is an exercise machine that works like a bicycle where you pedal with your arms.
It can help improve your upper body strength and endurance. It can keep your heart pumping and blood circulating without straining your knees.
Rowing machines help provide a healthy amount of resistance to your leg muscles. It strengthens both of your quads and hamstrings.
It’s a great exercise machine for increasing your joint mobility. It will lower the risk of developing knee problems in the future.
However, this machine might not be for everyone. It’s best to consult your doctor first before using this equipment.
Cycling is one of the best cardio exercises to combat knee pain and encourage knee strength.
Using a stationary bike can help give you more control over the resistance options. You’ll also be able to do the exercise in a safe and controlled environment.
How Do I Make My Knee Pain Go Away?
1. RICE Method (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation)
The RICE method is an efficient self-care technique to use if a sudden knee injury takes place.
It can help significantly reduce swelling and knee pain. It can speed up knee recovery.
Rest: The moment you feel a twinge of pain, you have to stop and give your knees some rest. Listen to your body. Take a break from doing any activity that leads to more knee pain.
Ice: Applying ice to the area can reduce swelling and numb the pain. Don’t apply ice directly to the skin. Use a towel over the ice before application.
- Wrap your bad knee with an elastic bandage to decrease the swelling.
- Try not to wrap it too tightly.
- Give enough room for it to breathe.
Elevation: Elevate your knee using pillows for support. It will help encourage blood flow and minimize swelling.
2. Use a Knee Brace
A knee brace can help people with arthritis and chronic knee pain. It prevents knee discomfort and further injury.
Wearing a knee brace before engaging in any physical activity helps shift weight off your knee. It helps alleviate pain.
3. Seek Medical Attention
When in doubt, it’s best to seek advice from a medical expert or a physical therapist. They will provide an accurate medical assessment of your growing knee problems.
Your doctor can also find out if there are underlying medical conditions involved. They can help you formulate effective diet and workout strategies for your recovery plan.
They can also offer oral and topical medications you can use to help relieve knee pain.
The Bottom Line
Knee pain can be debilitating. Following a healthy lifestyle can help change things for the better.
Switch to a healthy diet. Start engaging in knee targeted, low-impact cardio exercises. It’s best to consult your doctor first to go through your workout plan safely.
Follow these health tips to help you live an active and comfortable lifestyle.