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10 Low Impact Exercises for Bad Knees

Updated on March 20, 2020
greatstuff profile image

Mazlan didn't think much about fitness and health before, but as age crept up on him he realized the importance of staying fit and healthy.

Workouts for People With Knee Problems

When you have knee problem or knee joint pain a simple act like getting out of bed can be a chore. Even walking up and down a staircase can be painful as it is like adding the pressure of up to four times your body weight.

Knees are our weakest joints and the most frequently injured part of our body. This, however, should not stop you from doing simple exercises to stay physically fit.

So, check out these 10 best low impact exercises for bad knees to keep you fit and healthy.

Low Impact Exercises for Bad Knees

Low impact exercise is the best option for people with knee problems. It is also beneficial for people who exercise on a regular basis.

When you exercise regularly, there will be wear and tear on your muscles and joints. Even more so if you do rigorous exercise and the forms are not correct.

Hence, taking a break and giving your body a rest from the high intensity and rigorous exercises and sports will help the body to heal. Pushing yourself may lead to serious injury. You may not feel the pain now as it may appear in life later.

Low impact knee exercises and other forms of knee exercises will also be beneficial if you are pregnant, overweight or just starting a workout program.

The following low impact exercises and workout are less stressful on the body and will give positive results if done properly and regularly.

10 Low Impact Exercises to Choose

The following ten low impact exercises, knee exercises, and sports are in no particular order of merits. You can do it either indoor or outdoor.

As you do these exercises, listen to your body for any signals as to when to slow down or back off from that particular part of the exercise. If your knees hurt at a particular exercise, stop and take a break.

If you have been inactive for a while, please check with your doctor before starting on any of these knee exercises and workouts.

Low impact exercises and workout will benefit people with knee problem.
Low impact exercises and workout will benefit people with knee problem. | Source

1.Yoga for Knee Problems

Yoga is one of the best low impact exercises. It not only helps you with stretching and joint flexibility but also help you with body strength and cardiovascular system. If not done properly, you can also hurt yourself. So, build up your movement slowly and do under the proper guidance of a trained yoga guru.

Best Yoga Poses for Knee Pain

There are also poses and postures that may be difficult to perform if you have knee problems. You can skip these and do other poses. The best yoga poses for knee pain are the warrior pose, the chair pose, cobra pose, seated forward bend pose, chair pose, bridge pose, peaceful warrior pose, and eagle pose.

Yoga Poses to Avoid

Simple pose such as child pose can put pressure on your knees. Avoid any poses that require you to sit with knees folded such as child pose and lotus pose. Other yoga poses to avoid are the single-leg balance, hero pose, and the extended hand to big toe pose.

If any pose is difficult and painful, back off or readjust until the pain goes away.

Do not rush when you do yoga as yoga can benefits you physically, mentally and emotionally.

Yoga Cobra pose is good if you have knee problems and will build strength and flexibility to your back, It also removes rounded shoulders. For ladies with menstrual problems, it will provide some form of relief.
Yoga Cobra pose is good if you have knee problems and will build strength and flexibility to your back, It also removes rounded shoulders. For ladies with menstrual problems, it will provide some form of relief. | Source

How To Do Yoga

If you are a beginner it is best to start your Yoga under the proper guidance of a qualified Yoga instructor. Google 'yoga classes' to find classes near your work or home area. Alternatively, you can check the classified ads in the local newspapers, magazines or yellow pages.

If there is none, you can buy the Yoga DVD. You can also buy yoga book but I do not recommend this for beginners. It is easier to see how to do the various poses on video than to read on how to do it (even if they have photos).

2. Pilates the Low Impact Exercises for Bad Knees

To a certain extent, Pilates is similar to Yoga except that it focuses on strengthening the core and lengthening the muscles. It helps reinforce your back, abdomen and other core muscles to give your body stability by improving your coordination and balance.

How To Do Pilates

This is another great low impact exercises for bad knees and as with Yoga, do Pilates under the proper guidance of a qualified instructor especially if you are new to Pilates.

Do your online search for Pilates classes near your area.

If you prefer to do your Pilates at home, buy DVD Pilates for Beginners.

It is good to enroll for a few Pilates classes before you start doing it on your own. It teaches the correct technique and this is important otherwise you may hurt yourself.

Pilates is another good low impact exercise that focuses on strengthening your core and lengthening the muscles
Pilates is another good low impact exercise that focuses on strengthening your core and lengthening the muscles | Source

3. Walking, the Simplest Low Impact Exercise

Walking is one of the simplest exercises on earth and when paired with good walking shoes, is another good low impact exercise.

You should target to start slow and then walk faster for 15 minutes before slowing down again. Repeat the cycle for as many cycles as you wish. This will give a good cardio workout to also help lose body fat. If the 15-minute cycle is too much for you, you can bring it down to 10-minutes.

If you walk on a regular basis, it can help lower your cholesterol level and improves blood circulation.

How to Stay Motivated

If you find walking alone boring (despite listening to music or podcast) and need motivation, get a walking partner.

Keeping a walking journal, joining the walking forum or seeking support online, will also help keep you motivated to continue with your walking exercise.

How to Make Your Walking More Challenging

If you want more challenging walking workouts (assuming you are already fit and your knee pain is of low threshold), then try the followings:

  • Increase the intensity by walking on the inclined ground or on hill slopes
  • Walking on different ground surfaces (grass, pebbled, tarmac, etc.) will increase the challenge
  • Add resistance by carrying a well-weighted backpack filled with water, books, etc.
  • Increase your walking speed
  • Drag something heavy, like a tire when you walk

The Best Walking Shoes for Bad Knees

One of the better walking shoe for women is ASICS Women's GEL-Tech Neo 4 Walking Shoe as it is so comfortable that people even reported recovering from knee injuries or twisted ankles wearing this shoe. My wife tried this and like it so much that she wears them even when she goes shopping.

For men, you can tryAsics Men's GEL-Tech Walker Neo 4 Walking Shoe with good reviews on Amazon by users.

How to Choose Good Walking Shoes

When you shop for a new pair of walking shoes, look out for the followings:

  • Make sure it fits your feet and you feel comfortable
  • The shoe should fit the shape and size of your feet (length and width) including arch type
  • Buy a lightweight design with good shock absorption

Check out Asics websitefor more information on how to choose a good walking shoe and how to stay injury free.

4. Swimming

Swimming do not place undue pressure on the knees as water will support the body weight. There is also less impact on muscles and joints making swimming a good low-impact exercise and sport.

However, try to avoid the butterfly stroke as this use movement that might exert pressure on the knees.

Benefits of Swimming

Among the many reported benefits of swimming are:

  • It can extend the lung capacity, hence making breathing easier
  • Improves the cardiovascular health
  • It can reduce joint stiffness and strengthen joint muscles, which will benefit sufferers of arthritis
  • Help strengthen bones

Tips before Swimming

Whether you are swimming for leisure, fitness or competitive sport, the following simple tips are useful to remember:

  • Do not eat any heavy meals at least an hour before swimming
  • Do a warm up and stretching exercise before you start swimming
  • Take a shower before going into a swimming pool
  • If you swim outside, apply a good waterproof sunblock to your body

Swimming is a good low impact exercise and suitable for people with bad knee
Swimming is a good low impact exercise and suitable for people with bad knee | Source

5. Cycling

Cycling is a great exercise to increase your cardiovascular strength, lower your blood pressure, increase your metabolic rate and hence, assist in weight loss. It can also help lower your cholesterol.

Another good thing about cycling is its low-impact on the knees. However, if you cycle steep slopes or if you add too much resistance, it can be bad for your weak knees.

Hence, be extra careful when you are out cycling. If you have knee problems, use the indoor stationary bike instead, as you can control the riding mode.

Tips before Cycling

Before you start your cycling, do the following:

  • Adjust your seat height so that your knee is about 30-degree angle when your leg is extended near the bottom pedal position
  • Adjust handlebar to a position that you feel comfortable and will not strain your back
  • If you cycle outdoor, wear a helmet that fits well, check your tire pressure and brake. Protect your eye by wearing glasses and wear proper attire that will keep you warm
  • Your bike and clothes that you wear have reflective bands

6. Exercise Using Elliptical Machines

Elliptical machine is a stationary exercise machine that stimulates exercises such as running, climbing stairs or skiing, but is less stressful on your joints if used correctly.

When you exercise with elliptical machines, keep your posture upright with your shoulder back and head up, look forward and not down. Otherwise, you will be stressing your back. Wear a good and comfortable shoes as this will help absorbs some of the impact.

Elliptical machine is also ideal for interval training to increase your metabolic rate and hence, help burn more calories. You start the workout with a slow and gentle pace and then continue with an intense pace followed by a slow pace. Continue this cycle of slow and intense pace for 1-minute for each pace. Continue doing this for at least six cycles.

In my opinion, an elliptical machine that exercises both your lower and upper body is a better machine to work on.

Elliptical machine that exercises both your lower and upper body is a better machine to work on.
Elliptical machine that exercises both your lower and upper body is a better machine to work on. | Source

7. Golf

Golf is both a competitive as well as a social sport.

When you play golf for leisure or as a social game, you and your golfing partners can control the pace and speed of the game. Some will use buggies while some golfers will walk the course.

It is a low-impact as well as low-intensity sport. However, if it is not played properly, you can still injure yourself. This happens when you play or practice overly without rest or played with the wrong postures and swings.

Despite all these, if you enjoy golf, it is a good workout especially if you walk the course.

8. Bowling

Bowling is another low-impact 'sport' and is both leisure and a competitive game.

However, bowling does very little to improve your muscular mass or increase your cardiovascular system. It uses the same upper-body muscle group and therefore, not an ideal workout.

It is, however, a fun game to socialize with your family, friends, and office colleagues.

9. Tai Chi

Tai Chi is a combination of gentle and fluid sequence of movements that can strengthen body muscles, develops flexibility and balance.

Tai Chi movements are slow and graceful with smooth transitions between each movement. This low-impact workout is not only a good physical workout, but also a good mental workout.

It is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety.

10. Water Based Exercises

Check out these water based exercises and sports that are kind to your joints.

Scuba Diving

When you scuba dive, you may feel weightless in the water, but you actually require a lot of energy. This can be quite demanding and will give you a good low-impact workout.

Scuba diving put less stress on your body joints once you are in the water. However, before that, you will carry the equipment. They look heavy and may be bad for the joints. For people with these problems you should put on the equipment in the water before you dive. You take it off in the water once you are done.

Water Polo

Water polo is a physically demanding sport and you need stamina. Since you play in the water, it cushions your knees and is a good low-impact sport.

This game will develop your cardiovascular fitness, endurance, and strength. However, there is a lot of pushing and holding and it can be quite rough under the water. It can be exhausting as well.

It may not be the ideal sport for many people and it can be quite taxing if your knee injury is serious.

Pool Walking

Pool walking is good if you suffer from arthritis of the lower body. Just walk from one low end of the swimming pool to the other end. It will work out your leg muscles and your cardiovascular muscles. Ideally, you should do this in a warm water pool.

Walking in water is more beneficial than walking on land. You need more effort to move your leg when you are in the water. Spending 30-mins walking in the water will burn more calories and workout your cardiovascular system more than walking on land.

So try it.


Rowing can be done either alone, with another person or with group of friends. You will stay seated hence; your knee will not be bearing your body weight.

It is a good exercise for the upper body, your core, and the cardiovascular system. It does to a smaller degree work out your lower body.

The rowing movement includes bending your knees repeatedly. Watch out for any signal or pain and go slowly if this happens.


Are you confused and not sure where to begin?

I suggest you start with the easiest exercise and that will be walking on land. If you have access to a pool, you can alternate walking on land with walking in the pool.

Continue for a month and when you feel ready, add in swimming into your routine.

Have fun and do not forget to check with your doctor on a regular basis.


This article provides ideas and guide for low-impact exercises. If you have any health problem, talk to your doctor before you do any exercises or ask which exercise is right for you.

© 2013 Mazlan


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    • greatstuff profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Malaysia

      @linfcor, Chair yoga is good for people with knee problem. This form of yoga unfortunately hasn't caught up yet with the yoga crowds over here. Tai Chi is of course very popular here. Thanks for the visit and sharing your experience.

    • linfcor profile image

      Linda F Correa 

      5 years ago from Spring Hill Florida

      Osteoarthritis is causing one knee to be a pain. I do chair yoga and am going to start Tai chi next week. According to my physician, low impact exercise is essential to keeping my knees going. Good article !

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      7 years ago

      I can use this hub information as I am trying to build my exercise routine. My knees are not the strongest these days and I want to avoid any injury. Thank you for the suggestions.

    • greatstuff profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Malaysia

      @kidscraft, glad you like all the suggested low impact exercises. Swimming is good for knee problem and so is cycling. I join the gym stationary bike classes ( spinning) as I need the push and motivation when it comes to cardio workout!

      @Om, good to hear from you again. Pilates is good for the core and abs. At the gym that I goes to, the Pilates classes are held only twice a week. Only one class is on weekend, so I join the Saturday class. You should give it a try.

    • Om Paramapoonya profile image

      Om Paramapoonya 

      7 years ago

      I don't have knee problems but I do enjoy most of these exercises. For anyone who just wants to stay fit, I think low-impact workouts can be just as good as strenuous ones. Thanks for this informative hub. You made me want to give pilates a try!

    • kidscrafts profile image


      7 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      I love your suggestions! I realized at one point I couldn't run anymore without having pain in one of my knees! So I switched to swimming for a while and now I am trying the bicycle! Thanks!

      Voted up and useful :-)


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