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best cardio easy on the knees?

I have arthritis in my knees and ankles, but still want a good cardio workout. I miss running and walkng and stairclimbing. What's the best workout that won't irrate my joints? I don't want anymore injuries.

14 answers

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I have a misalligned patella tendon and a partial tear of the MCL, and the elliptical can sometimes bother the knee-- it seems to depend on the stride of the machine-- try it. The upright bike and the recumbent bike can provide excellent cardio workouts if you work to maintain your heart rate in the 75-85% of max range.

Also, consider doing some functional exercises, like kettlebells, undulation ropes, suspension, and weight supersets that keep your heartrate up while working strength and stability into your routine.

Remember ice, NSAID's if tolerated, and sufficient rest are integral to help you optimize your efforts.Happy

Vicki Bowland 53k
7 years ago

All I can offer you is my personal experience. Prior to having both knees replaced (i.e., total knee replacements) in the last year or so, I did manage to work out regularly at Anytime Fitness. (No worries! I still do after the surgeries too!) Prior to surgery, I found that the best cardio for me was the recumbent bike. It allowed me to sit comfortably for long periods of time while working my legs. I think the cycling was also good for my joint mobility as well. Many people recommended the elliptical; however, it wasn't until after my knee replacements that I was finally able to do it without pain. Everyone is different, though. I know some knee patients who were able to comfortably use the elliptical without pain; I just wasn't one of them. I was also able to comfortably use the treadmill (for walking only!) for relatively short periods of time (less than 30 minutes). In summary, my advice is simple: Consult your health care provider (who knows your joint situation), but also, listen to your body! I wish you well as you continue on this journey!

drsoozle 2.6k
7 years ago

Here's an idea:
Have you tried going backwards on the elliptical? Most times gym members are in the habit of always pedaling forwards, but by going backwards you are able to move your muscles in a different direction/motion and that may cause less pain. Maybe or maybe not, but it's worth a try? By going backwards you can still get a great cardiovascular workout on the elliptical. In fact, I recommend to my clients to use both directions regularly to mix things up...good luck and hope things get better for you soon.

Jennifer Barbarino 54k
7 years ago

I'll second (or third!) the advice on pedaling backward on the elliptical. I have a torn MCL and PCL in my left knee and do sometimes find the elliptical to be irratating. I've always been cautioned against running on a treadmill/outside as it could cause more damage to my already torn ligaments. I don't pedal backward for the entire time that I'm on the elliptical because I feel that I get a higher heart rate and better overall results pedaling forward - so I alternate going forward and back, in intervals. I'll do about 4 mintues going forward, and 2-3 going backward. Repeat this up to 40 min (or to your comfort zone with cardio!). And for some reason, the ellipticals with the stationary handles VS. the moving handles put less strain on my knees too.

Also - another GREAT machine that gives you a different sort of work out than the standard elliptical is the Precor AMT (adaptive motion trainer). It gives you a wider range of motion and tends to be far gentler on my knees than the standard elliptical. Here's a link to the Precor website for more info: Check it out and see if they have one at your local AF! Happy

Hope this helps - shoddy knees can sure cramp your work-out style!

7 years ago

I have a problem with one of my knees. My physical therapist said not to do any weight bearing cardio. The eliptical machine and spin bike are fine. The treadmill is not. Hope this helps.

co27ob97 35
7 years ago

First and foremost, talk to your doctor and follow and guidlines that he may give you. After that, and with your doctor's approval, of course, give the bike or the eliptical a try. Maintain that heart rate training zone like Vicki mentioned and you'll get a great and effective workout. As you progress try out some new things like TRX bands, kettlebells, and battling ropes(I think Vicki called them undulating ropes).

Most of all find something you enjoy and stick to it. Too many people forget to enjoy their workouts.

Ken C

7 years ago

Prior to my knee surgery in 2009 to fix ss a torn meniscus and a meniscal cystsurgery, my physical therapist recommended that I elliptical backward as part of a rehab program to address (Iliotibial Band Syndrome, also known as Runners knee). I felt that different muscle groups were used going backward versus forward.

After my knee surgery, I continued to elliptical backward and do other cardio (TreadClimber, treadmill, etc) forward. I also follow a comprehensive stretching program and torturing myself by rolling on a foam roller and have had no flare up since.

I hope this helps.


Brian Delaney 8.6k
7 years ago

I tore my ACL, so i try to stick with exercises that offer the least amount of impact, so i usually just stick with the elliptical or bike. If you have access to a pool, water exercises are also great.

Courtney Murzyn 28k
7 years ago

I would do the elliptical as well. The elliptical is good for reducing the impact on the knees!

Doughboi24 45
7 years ago

I've become a very strong believer in kettlebells of what they can do for you.... Kettlebells are great for building strength, burning fat and building cardio all at the same time. I have bad knees and since I've started kettlebell workouts my knees have improved. In actuality its not my knees that have improved but the muscles around my knees have gotten stronger to take the daily grind away from my knees.

Check out this article for a simple kettlebell workout for sore knees.

Broken Leg, Sore Knees & How to Simplify Your Kettlebell Program

Mike Gabbard 323
6 years ago

add your answer!

debpomplun member since Nov '10


MemberMadison, WI
3/7/2011 at 8:50 PM