Can You do Cardio with Bad Knees?

Ben Greenfield
2-minute read

In the episode How To Exercise With A Knee Injury, I give complete recommendations for weight training and maintaining muscle tone, even when the knee is hurt. But what about cardio? Reader Sarah recently wrote in:

“I was wondering which cardio workouts are best for people with bad knees? I'm 21 and I love to run but I already have bad knees. So, I'm torn between running or quitting cardio altogether because I don't know what else to do that’s as good a workout as running. Help!”

Because cardio often involves repetitive motion of the knee joint, it can be especially aggravating to injured knees. I personally had to avoid running for nearly a year when I developed knee pain, and was convinced I’d never run again. But many “bad” knees can be addressed with proper training. Here are 3 easy tips to get the most out of your bad knees:

Train Your Quads

A weak quadriceps muscle can allow the knee to track improperly in its bony groove, which results in knee pain and soft tissue damage. Often, the fix for this is as simple as doing exercises for a specific knee muscle called the vastus medialis, which is the teardrop-shaped muscle on the inside of the knee. Cable kick forwards are my favorite exercise for this, and you can do 3 to 4 sets of 15-20 reps per leg every other day.

Stretch Your Hamstrings

Tight hamstrings on the back of your legs can also significantly affect your knee mechanics. If you have knee pain, you should stretch your hamstrings 2-3 times each day for at least 60 seconds. One of the best moves for this is the lying hamstring stretch.

Use Low Impact Training

To maintain your cardiovascular fitness as you implement the tips above, engage in low impact training like bicycle riding (make sure seat is high) and water running.

With these 3 steps, most individuals can significantly reduce knee pain. Ask your questions at the Get-Fit Guy Facebook page!

Jogging image courtesy of Shutterstock

All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own health provider. Please consult a licensed health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.