The 6 Best Cardio Exercises Even Knee Pain Can't Stop

According to research, frequent and persistent knee pain affects around 25% of all adults. Does that include you?

If so, you know that your discomfort not only limits your mobility and function. If left untreated, it can also impair your overall quality of life. 

For many, this might mean losing their ability to exercise as they once enjoyed. Are you looking for efficient cardio workouts that can help you break a sweat while also helping to ease your knee pain? If so, read on.

Today, we're sharing six exercises that anyone can comfortably try. Best of all, they won't add unnecessary strain to your knee joints and can even help you find relief from the pain.

What Causes Knee Pain?

There is no one-size-fits-all culprit for knee pain. Rather, this condition can be caused by a range of contributing factors. A few of the most common ones include:

  • A pre-existing health condition (e.g. bursitis or arthritis)
  • A tear or sprain to your muscle or tendon
  • An overuse injury caused by repetitive motion (common during training)

As there are so many underlying causes, it's always best to visit your physician if your knees have started to cause you pain. Only a qualified doctor can assess your condition and determine the root cause of your discomfort. 

Depending on the findings, your doctor may prescribe a few different treatments to help keep you comfortable. For instance, you might be given a prescription for pain medication. Or, you might visit a physical therapist to learn moves you can do at home to find relief.

How can you know if knee pain is bad enough to warrant a trip to the doctor's office? While this is a personal condition, it's always best to schedule a visit if the following symptoms occur:

  • Constant knee pain
  • Swelling in the knee that lasts for several days
  • An unstable joint
  • Pain that interferes with your daily life

Before you begin any workout, it's always advisable to seek the guidance of your doctor or physical therapist. While there are some injuries that will require you to rest your knee for a certain period of time, most treatment plans include some form activity for your knee joint.

Your healthcare practitioner will be able to point you toward exercises that are ideal for your aching knees, as well as ones to steer clear of for the foreseeable future. While each situation is unique, it's also smart to ask about working out through any pain you might experience. In most cases, it's advised to cease participation in any workout that causes any amount of discomfort, but your doctor might advise otherwise. 

The Challenge of Working Out With Knee Pain

If you suffer from knee pain, you know that it can be painful to carry groceries up the stairs, let alone engage in a workout session. Even getting in and out of a car can turn into a difficult struggle.

This is because knee pain affects nearly every area of your health and wellness. It can make it difficult to sit at your desk for prolonged periods of time, go on long car trips, or physically play with your children and loved ones. 

Products such as our ergonomically-designed Knee Pillows can offer much-needed support. Made of premium-quality memory foam, these pillows allow you to lie on your back or side in comfort. In addition to your knees, they also provide targeted pain relief to the following areas:

  • Legs
  • Knees
  • Hips
  • Thighs
  • Spine
  • Lumbar

Using these pillows as you sleep or relax can help you get to sleep quicker and stay that way. Still, it helps to keep your joints loose and active throughout the day. Of course, if you're already in a significant amount of pain, exercise might be the last thing on your mind. 

There are myriad reasons why you might shy away from working out, taking special precautions around cardio exercises, in particular. You might fear damaging your knees even more or exacerbating a current injury. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to workout with bad knees. 

The key is knowing which cardio moves to try and which ones to avoid.

Why cardio? This form of exercise is an ideal place to start, especially for beginners. It offers moves that strengthen your lower body, increase your heart rate, and help you lose weight to take the added strain off your knees. 

Next, let's take a look at six of your best options. 

girl doing exercises

1. Swimming

Swimming has long been heralded as one of the best low-impact exercises for anyone suffering from joint pain. The cool water is not only soothing, but it also helps to keep your body buoyant. This allows you to participate in a great, knee-strengthening workout without putting excess strain on the rest of your body.

The best part? You don't have to get too elaborate. In fact, the best swimming moves are simply the freestyle stroke and the backstroke. Both move all of your major muscles and provide an excellent, all-over workout. 

Yet, if you want to take it up a notch, you can also try a few other drills.

For instance, try walking in the pool, if you can comfortably do so. You'll encounter a little resistance each time your feet hit the pool floor, which will help elevate your heart rate a little. Yet, because you're in the water, the impact is significantly less stressful on your knees.

For variation, try walking both forward and backward. You can even walk sideways! For a knee-focused workout, grab a kickboard and flip gently onto your back. As you travel across the pool, kick your legs, and bring your knees as high as you can. 

2. At-Home Step Touches

There are many different types of machines at the gym that accommodate most people with knee pain. These can include:

  • Treadmills
  • Upper body ergometers
  • Rowing machines

Yet, this isn't exactly equipment that you likely have hanging around your house. Moreover, it might not be accessible if you do not have a gym membership.

That's why it pays to know a few at-home cardio exercises that you can do without leaving the comfort of your personal space! These easy, low-impact step touches are a great place to start. Here are the steps to follow.

  1. Begin by stepping out to your right, with your hands outstretched to either side.
  2. Bring your left foot in to meet your right foot.
  3. Immediately step back to the left with your left foot.
  4. Bring your right foot in to meet your left foot.
  5. Continue to step back and forth for one minute.

As you perform this exercise, it's best to keep your legs fairly straight. You do not need to lunge or squat as you step from side to side. To add more exertion and warm your body up a little more, try making your stance progressively wider or doing arm circles as you move.

3. Modified Jumping Jacks

You might not expect to see jumping jacks on a list of low-impact cardio exercises that benefit your knees. Yet, the key to performing this move correctly is to modify the motions to be as gentle as possible. You don't want to jump up and down, which can jar your knees and cause them to be in even more pain.

Here's how to perform this exercise correctly:

  1. Starting with your feet together, step your right foot out to the right.
  2. Pivot a little on your left foot and face the left side of the room.
  3. As you pivot, swing your right arm up and over your head.
  4. Step your feet back together, and step your left foot out to the left.
  5. Pivot on your right foot and face the right side of the room.
  6. As you pivot, swing your left arm up and over your head.
  7. Continue to alternate your sides for one minute.

To make these modified jumping jacks more strenuous, take both arms up at the same time as you pivot. Make large circles in the air as you do so.

4. Weighted Knee Lifts

A medicine ball is one of the most oft-overlooked pieces of workout equipment, but also one of the most effective. If you have one in your garage, grab it for this exercise. If not, you can also use any piece of gear that's around six to eight pounds, such as a kettlebell.

To turn your medicine ball into a knee-soothing machine, follow these steps:

  1. Hold the ball in both hands and lift it straight above your head.
  2. March around slowly, lifting your knees as high as you comfortably can.
  3. Lower the medicine ball to meet your knee with each repetition. 

If possible, try to touch your knees to the medicine ball as you march, beginning with your right knee. Alternate both sides for one minute. If you find it too difficult to hold the medicine ball above your head, you can keep it at chest level and still get in a great workout.

5. Side Leg Lifts

Unlike some of the other cardio exercises on this list, side leg lifts do not require any additional specialized gym equipment. That means you can do them almost anywhere, as long as you have room!

All you need is a nearby wall or a sturdy chair that can offer support and comfortable leggings. Once you're in position and steadying yourself, perform the following moves:

  1. Flex your foot and lift your left leg straight out to the side.
  2. Hold this position for a few seconds, being sure to align your hip, knee, and foot.
  3. Try to lift your leg a little, but avoid twisting or turning your torso as you do so.
  4. Lower your leg slowly back down.
  5. Repeat these motions 10 times per leg, doing two to three sets. 

girl looking at laptop while doing sports

6. Walking

We love workouts that don't exactly feel like a workout, and this is one of them. Put your favorite playlist in your earbuds and head out for a walk!

While running or jogging are often too impactful for those who suffer from knee pain, walking is usually ideal. Most people can even participate in speed walking without additional discomfort. 

To get the most benefit from this workout, try to keep your pace brisk, rather than at a leisurely stroll. One tip? Go ahead and invest in high-quality walking shoes that will offer excellent orthopedic support as soon as you lace up.

In addition, make sure to stretch your muscles before setting out on your walk. You might also find it helpful to march in place for a few minutes to warm up your joints and prepare yourself for the journey ahead. If you're just starting out, stick to flat walking surfaces, such as paved trails and neighborhood blocks. 

Then, you can slowly progress into more strenuous hikes once you've developed your leg muscles and you're ready to set out.

Cooling Down Effectively

Once you've engaged in a few of the workouts on this list, it's time to cool down your muscles! Use a foam roller to give yourself a gentle massage around and behind your knees, as well as your leg muscles or anywhere else you feel tense.

You can also use this wind-down time to participate in some self-care. Diffuse some calming essential oils, turn down the lights and take a warm bath to keep your muscles warm and loose. Then, make sure to get a good night's sleep so you can pick up your routine again the next day!

Relief For Your Knees, Neck, Spine and More

Knee pain shouldn't keep you from enjoying life to the fullest. These six low-impact cardio exercises can help you feel your best and ease your discomfort.

When performed under your physician's care, they can help you find much-needed relief from the pain that keeps you up at night. To help maximize the effects of your workout, try coupling your new routine with our health and wellness products designed to maximize your overall comfort and help you live a healthier lifestyle.

Feel free to browse the extensive collection of products in our online shop and contact us today to learn more.

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