Good Exercises for Bad Knees

Healthy Living

January 14, 2020

We’re halfway into January and you’re motivated to slim down, get in shape and get healthier. Go you! There’s just one problem: your knees. Whether it’s from age, a medical condition or excess weight — or a combination thereof — your knees have been holding you back on living your best life in 2020. Alas. Human bodies are both marvelous and finicky.

Not to worry, though. While knee pain is common, especially among older people or those with extra pounds, it doesn’t have to prevent you from exercising. In fact, there are lots of knee-friendly activities available to people of all ages and sizes and shapes.

Need some ideas for getting fit in the new year without stressing your knees to the max? Here are a few workout options if you’ve got bad knees.

Note: Always talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise routine, especially if you’ve got a health condition.


If you’ve got bad knees or your knees pop and crack a little more than they used to, then consider letting machinery do the heavy lifting with your cardio. Ellipticals, recumbent or stationary bikes, and stair climbers are all good options for cardio if you’re suffering from knee pain but need to burn some calories. Take it easy with machines. These devices tend to be easy to use at gyms, but if you’re not sure, ask a staff member how to adjust the settings, especially when you’re first getting started.

Not a fan of machines or don’t have access to a gym? You can find affordable treadmills and ellipticals for home use, or consider investing in a decent bike. Cycling itself is a good, low-impact activity, though it can be impractical in some climates or seasons.

Your Own Body

You don’t need special equipment to work out. Your own body is capable of bending, twisting and stretching — with some work, of course. And we’re not just talking about yoga, though yoga and other similar stretching exercises are good options for people with bad knees.

Resistance exercises, crunches and even certain types of lunges and squats can all be adjusted to accommodate knee pain and still provide a workout. Strength training is another beneficial activity to add to your exercise arsenal, as it’ll help you tone your muscles and support your joints.

Many of these types of exercises require little investment, and you can do them pretty much anywhere, including at home. But if you’re looking for camaraderie, consider joining a local class for support. You’ll also get instruction on how to do body-based movements correctly.


Want a full cardio workout without the aches and pains brought on by gravity? Try swimming. Whether you’re swimming laps or taking an aerobic swim class, swimming gives your body a good workout while giving your joints a break. If you’re not comfortable in the water, try an adult swim class. This is also a great way to meet people and stay accountable, as a class full of like-minded adults will encourage you to keep at it.

Make sure that whatever you do in the water, it’s a focused attempt at exercising and not a floating free-for-all. You want to maximize the benefit of being in the water by using it to help you move with a purpose. Save leisurely floating for after the workout.

Plain Old Walking

Regular, old-fashioned walking works for just about everyone — everyone who can walk, of course. If a walk around the block seems intimidating, try building your stamina by making trips to your mailbox and back. Push yourself a little more each week, eventually getting to the point where you can walk at a moderate to brisk pace while still holding a conversation.

You don’t have to become a runner. In fact, you probably shouldn’t if your knees are really bad, since running could exacerbate the problem. But a brisk walk can help you get in shape and feel better. Plus, it’s a relatively low-cost activity. All you need is a pair of supportive walking shoes and a safe area to walk.

There are lots of ways to exercise, move more and get fit even if your knees tell you otherwise. If you’re ready to be more active in the new year, try some of the above-mentioned activities (with your doctor’s blessing, of course). Just remember to pay attention to your body and adjust exercises as you need. Take it easy at first, push when you get too comfortable and try new things from time to time. The last thing you want to do is burn out your body in an attempt to get healthier.