In the battle of the belly bulge, situps are not your biggest weapon. You might already know that doing calorie-burning exercises is a better way to burn off that stomach fat, but when you have a knee injury, you might feel lost as to what to do about it. Sure, running or jogging are going to be out if you have knee pain, but a lot of other activities are definitely still on the list of possibilities.
To burn fat in one area, you have to do exercises that burn overall body fat -- namely, calorie-burning cardio. That's because there's no such thing as "spot reduction," reminds ExRx. To lose a pound of fat, you need to create a deficit of 3,500 calories. Do that by exercising, cutting calories from your diet or a combination of both. Before you start seeking out calorie-burning exercises, though, be sure to talk to your doctor or physical therapist. She may have specific recommendations for the types of exercise you can do. You'll likely be barred from doing high-impact exercises, which include running, but your doctor may give the OK for low-impact exercises, which can include any number of beneficial, calorie-busting exercises such as walking, cycling, elliptical training or water aerobics.
If your doctor advises you to stay off your knees all together, you're going to be somewhat limited in the types of exercises you can do for fat burning -- but you do have options. Swimming is a big calorie burner, and it won't require any impact at all on the knee joints. Swimming laps will burn about 423 calories per hour for a 160-pound person; a 200-pound person will burn 528 calories per hour, advises MayoClinic.com. If you want to really isolate the knees and avoid using your legs all together, hold a pull buoy between your legs, giving them some buoyancy as you stroke with your arms.
Another option for upper-body cardio is using a hand-crank bicycle. These machines have you using your hands and arms instead of your feet and legs -- making them perfect for someone with a knee injury or lack of leg mobility. According to a study conducted by the American Council on Exercise, participants burned about 538 calories per hour while attending a "Krankcycle" class, an intense session similar to a Spinning class.
In some cases, you can cut down on the amount of knee pain you're having by following some basic guidelines for joint health. Your knee joint is surrounded by fluid, and not having enough fluid is going to mean you won't have the "cushion" your knee requires. As such, be sure to drink plenty of water before, during and after your workouts. Aim to drink roughly half your body weight in ounces, advises the American Council on Exercise. Also check out what types of shoes you're using. Shoes that don't provide enough support are going to create more pain. In some cases, your gait or foot pattern can cause serious pain during activities such as walking. Talk to an athletic shoe specialist who can help analyze your gait and help you find the right support. By getting the right gear and taking care of your body, you may have more success in burning the calories that will lead to a slimmer midsection.
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.