HealthFitness10 Cardio Workouts You Should Stick To If You Have Bad Knees

10 Cardio Workouts You Should Stick To If You Have Bad Knees

The phrase “ghutno ka dard” is so common that it can be heard in every gali and nukkad! And when your knees hurt, it affects every part of your life. Chronic knee pain makes even the simplest movements like walking up and down stairs or getting in and out of a car a struggle. Exercise can be a real challenge as well. If you’re already in pain, the last thing you want to do is trigger more pain or make it worse with the wrong kind of exercise. Fear of more pain and injury is often what keeps people with bad knees from exercising, although many conditions will improve with different types of exercise. So, this is the time to try exercises that will help you with your knee pain and here’s your workout list.

5 Cardio Workouts To Try If You Suffer From Knee Pain

1. Swimming

If you’re someone who loves water and doesn’t want to miss out on cardio, then there’s nothing that can beat a good swim. It’s low-impact, versatile and burns calories fast. And the best part, it’s a full-body workout. So whether you prefer the butterfly stroke or backstroke, make sure to include swimming as part of your fitness regimen.

2. Elliptical Trainer

You might prefer a treadmill, but if your knees are not as strong, you should go for the elliptical trainer. That’s because your feet never leave the pedals, and that reduces the risk of injury to your knees, back, neck or hips. It’s also a great form of cardio, which means you can burn a whole lot of calories! You can push yourself a little more to test your endurance.

3. Cycling

You might enjoy cycling outdoors or have a stationary bike at home, whatever may be your preference, this low-impact exercise not just helps to burn calories but will also improve your knee strength and flexibility. You can try and avoid the hilly terrain if your knees are in bad shape. But always make sure you use resistance when you cycle. So what is the right resistance, you may ask? Well, there really is no right answer. Low resistance is good for those who are just venturing into fitness, as it allows you to start building your stamina without any sort of over-exertion. Medium and high resistance is better for those who have higher fitness levels.

4. Step-Ups

You can try this fun workout and lose calories along the way without any major impact on your knees! It’s a low-impact cardio workout, and you will see a difference in no time. Step up onto a bench, and step with your right foot. Tap your left foot on the top of the step, and then lower. As you step up, your knee should be directly over your ankle, so that you can protect your knees.

5. Rowing

Using a rowing machine is another type of cardio exercise that’s less weight-bearing than running. Plus, it activates the arms and back muscles for a full-body workout. Keep in mind: Rowing does require you to bend your knees, just with less impact and pounding (similar to the elliptical). Depending on the severity of your knee pain, take this workout in stride. 

Keen on kickstarting your cardio journey with ease? HRX’s Pallavi Barman brings you the checklist and tips to do so with confidence here.

10 At-Home Cardio Exercises For People With Knee Pain

If going to the gym isn’t your thing or those options don’t work for you, there are plenty of exercises you can do at home with just a few pieces of equipment. The workout below includes a variety of low-impact cardio exercises designed to get your heart rate up without pounding on the knees and other joints.

Learn cardio exercises that require no equipment and is suitable for anyone and everyone here!

1. Step Touches

The workout starts with simple exercises that get progressively more intense as the workout goes on. For your first move, start with step touches.


  1. Step out to the right taking the arms out to the sides.
  2. Bring the left foot in, touching the floor next to the right foot, and immediately step to the left with the left leg.
  3. Keep legs relatively straight; this is not a side lunge or squat.
  4. Continue to step to the right and left, making the steps wider and the arms bigger to warm up the body.
  5. Repeat for 60 seconds.

2. Low-Impact Jumping Jacks

Increase the intensity just a bit with low-impact jumping jacks. You can add circle arms. Instead of taking one arm up at a time, take both arms up, circling them together like you’re drawing a rainbow in the air.


  1. Take the right foot out to the right, pivoting slightly on the left foot so that your body is facing the left side of the room. At the same time, swing the right arm up.
  2. Step back to start and pivot to the right, taking the left leg out and swinging the left arm up.
  3. Continue alternating sides for 60 seconds.

3. Hamstring Curl

Hamstring curls are another low-impact choice if you have bad knees or if high-impact activities cause you pain. Strengthening the glutes and hamstrings can help with pain in the knee joint.


  1. Stand behind a chair and hold onto its back for balance.
  2. Bend the right knee, bringing your foot up behind you (like you’re kicking your own butt).
  3. Slowly lower the foot to the floor and repeat 10 times. Switch legs and complete 1 to 3 sets on each leg.

4. Side Leg Lifts

Side leg lifts are a versatile exercise. This move is low-impact and you can do it anytime, anywhere. You can also add a resistance band around your ankles.


  1. Stand alongside a chair or wall for support.
  2. Lift the left leg out to the side, foot flexed.
  3. Keep the hip, knee, and foot straight and aligned.
  4. Try to lift the leg without tilting at the torso.
  5. Lower and repeat 10 times. Do 1 to 3 sets on each leg.

5. Knee Lifts With Punches

This move does require some coordination, so give yourself a little extra time to get the move down.


  1. Begin this move by facing the right corner of the room.
  2. Step back with your right leg as you punch out with the right arm.
  3. Now, pull the right elbow back and punch out with the left arm as you pull the right knee in.
  4. Continue with the punches and knee lifts on that side for 30 seconds and switch sides.

6. Jumping Rope 

Jumping rope may not be the gentlest cardio exercise, but when compared to running, one could argue that jumping rope is better for your joints because it takes them through a smaller range of motion.


  1. Take a jumping rope and do small sets of 40-60 seconds.

7. Walking

Since running or jogging may not be the best option, walking (including speed walking) is a good low-impact cardio workout if you keep a brisk pace. Just be sure that you wear shoes that give you good support and that you stretch before beginning your walk. 


  1. Start out on walking on flat surfaces, and then you can progress to hikes once you’ve built up your walking muscles.

Want to turn running into an ideal cardio workout? Here’s HRX’s Pallavi Barman’s guide to making the best of this exercise.

8. Mountain Climbing

Don’t take it literally, this exercise is great for members with bad knees and low backs. When done correctly, the plank position keeps the low back and spine in a good, neutral position. By keeping your weight in your hands, stress is not placed on the knees. Build core strength and shred fat with the mountain climber. 


  1. From a plank position, bring your right knee to your chest, keeping your right foot elevated.
  2. Bring your right foot back to the plank position with your toes touching the ground.
  3. Quickly reverse the move, this time bringing your left knee to your chest, keeping your left foot off the ground.
  4. Return your left foot to the plank position, toes touching the ground, and immediately lift your right foot to repeat step 2.
  5. Quickly alternate sides for one minute.

9. Seated March

This exercise targets your hip flexors and helps with walking and walking up and down the stairs.


  1. Sit comfortably on a chair. Place your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Lift your affected leg slowly off the floor and place it down gently.
  3. Do the same with the other leg.
  4. Do this 10 times to complete one set.

10. Straight Leg Raises

You need no special equipment to do a straight leg raise other than space where you can lie on your back freely. From start to finish, the exercise takes around five minutes to complete and is usually performed with other complementary exercises three to four times per day.


  1. Lie down on your bed. Keep your good leg bent and the affected leg straight.
  2. Tighten your thigh muscles and slowly raise your affected leg off the bed. Stop raising your leg when the affected leg is in line with the good leg.
  3. Hold for 5 seconds and slowly lower your leg.

Low-impact cardio helps improve knee pain and knee injury. Excessive exercise training, arthritis, injury due to a fall, sports injury, or obesity may cause knee pain. It reduces the ability to move freely and impacts the quality of life. Try these exercises and see the amazing results for yourself!

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