8 Best Types Of Cardio For Bad Knees – Low Impact Workouts For Your Knee

Knee pain sucks. And it can affect so many more aspects of your life than just walking.

Chronic knee pain can make a simple task like walking up and downstairs, or even getting into your car very difficult.

And when it gets to the point where it’s upsetting so many of your day-to-day tasks the thought of exercise can seem so distant you can be forgiven for thinking you might never do another workout again!

Not all cardio has to use your knee, the are many different types of exercise that you can be doing that burns calories, and will keep you on the right track to be hitting your weight loss goals.

Using a machine like a ski erg or even going for a swim is going to give you a great cardio workout without using your knee.

A rowing machine is another great low impact option to get your heart rate up, move more muscle groups, and help you keep in shape without aggravating a knee injury.

When you are working around an injury to any joint, not just your knee joint, low-impact exercises are always your best exercises to be doing.

Training with a resistance band is another great way to reduce the impact on your knees.

To find out more about resistance bands and all the great benefits of training with them, download your FREE copy of my Ebook.

Train wherever the f*ck you want!

Should You Exercise With Knee Pain?

The first thing you should be doing after an injury is to seek professional medical advice.

As a personal trainer, one of the first things I ask new clients is if they have any injuries, and depending on the type of injury I ask for clearance from a doctor or physical therapist.

Depending on the extent of the injury you may need to completely rest it.

Which can be hard, but that’s life.

I recently had a minor injury in my elbow from Jiu-Jitsu, so I completely rested it for a few days before slowly increasing the load.

I know I’m going to need at least 2 weeks’ rest from that kind of exercise and that’s fine.

It’s frustrating because it’s easy to feel like you’re going to go backward.

But if you try to rush recovery, you will end up doing more damage, and you will end up being out for even longer.

So look, depending on the injury you may be able to keep exercises relatively normal but be cautious, the last thing you want is ongoing knee problems.

If you have to swap out the running for riding the bike or swimming for a while both these options offer a great low-impact workout.

But always get advice from a professional, something a few physical therapy sessions are all it’s going to take to get you back on track and training better than ever!

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What Exercises Should I Avoid With Bad Knees?

There a defiantly a few exercises that should be avoided when you have a knee injury. Let’s have a look at 5 of the worst exercises for bad knees.

Full Squats

I say full squats because partial squats are fine, the problem with squats for your knees comes when you go too deep and too heavy.

And be mindful of how your knee is tracking through the squat.

Don’t let your knee go past your toes as this will add extra pressure to the knee.


The impact on your knee when you run is a lot higher than you would think.

Avoid running on concrete or any hard surface.

Running on dirt trails is a lot better for your joints, speed walking is also a good alternative.

You should also have a look at your shoes, if you are getting knee pain from running it might be time to get a new pair of running shoes.

Also check out this article and see just import core strength is for running.


This is definitely the wrong kind of exercise to be doing with knee pain.

The force coming back down can be as high as 4 times your body weight.

So swap out your box jumps for steps ups they are a good low-impact exercise you can do for your legs with a knee injury.

Leg Press

I’m not the biggest fan of a leg press anyway.

I would rather my clients do squats they’re bringing more muscle groups in and work your core much better than a leg press.

But if you are going to do it, go with light weights and never lock your legs right out.

You are just asking to hyperextend your knee if you straighten your legs out.

Avoid the leg press if you have a bad knee.


As fun as a good kickboxing workout is.

Probably not a good idea to be doing a whole lot of twisting and turning on an already injured knee.

What Is The Best Cardio For Bad Knees?

Well, there’s a list of stuff you should be avoiding with a bad knee, so that means it’s time to have a look at what can do with bad knees.

So here’s a list of cardio exercises that are going to be fine to do if you suffer from joint pain in your knees.

Stationary bike

A great no-impact option for getting a cardio workout that’s knee pain-friendly.

You can keep your leg muscles moving on this machine without much risk of further injury.

Elliptical Trainer

This is another good low impact option but the fact that you still have some weight on your knee it may not be suitable for all kinds of knee pain.


Swimming is an amazing form of cardio when you have knee pain.

The water is keeping your body buoyant so there is no impact at all.

Swimming and for that matter, all water aerobics are a great way to get a cardio workout in without fear of more pain.

Rowing machine

There may be some knee issues that don’t like a rowing machine.

But out of all the options so far this is a great option for the rest of your body while still letting the muscles around your knee get some work as well.

Step Ups

These are a good option for maintaining knee strength during an injury but proceed with caution.

You don’t need to step too high and it won’t be safe on a bad knee.

But low step-ups are a fun way to get a cardio session in at home and there are plenty of cool follow-along workouts on youtube you can try.

Shadow Boxing

This one is a little bit left field.

But it works, during the lockdowns we were putting on zoom classes for our clients and shadow boxing was a fun cardio option we could give people without any cardio equipment.

You can get a really good high-intensity workout at home with just one resistance band.

Check out the video below and see how easy it is!

What Cardio Is Easy On Joints?

Two of the best ways to get a great cardio workout that’s easy on your joints are water exercises like swimming or aqua jogging and dancing.

Both of these things can be done to the intensity you want to go to.

It’s not too difficult to do high intensity interval training in a swimming pool and there are even companies coming out with pieces of equipment designed to be used underwater.

And as far as dancing goes, if you’re as awkward and uncoordinated as I am you’ll know just how sweaty and out of breath you get from dancing.

So why not give that a go, put your favorite album on, and have a boogy, as far as your knee will let you push.

While this whole article has been focused on cardio it is important to get a mix of resistance training into your weekly routine as well.

So have a look through this article next and see why you can’t get away with just doing cardio.