What Exercises Are High Impact on the Knees?

Fast, forward or upward moving exercises are all high-impact.
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Hitting the gym can sometimes feel like war. A one-hour session leaves you dog-eared tired with shaky knees and a sweaty brow. All that calorie-burning, fat-shedding exercise is tough on the knees. You don't want to abandon your heart-healthy habits, just avoid the wobbly-knee high-impact exercises next time. Be safe, make sure your doctor has cleared you for exercising and get his recommendations.

High Impact Exercises

    As a child, you may have run about the playground without a care in the world. Now, running laps causes your knees to ache. Perhaps that new step aerobics class at your local gym seemed exciting, until you gave it a whirl. The familiar twang appeared mid-leg. Running, climbing stairs and high movement aerobics classes fall into the high-impact zone. It's not high-impact unless you're airborne at some point. All 10 toes must be off the floor at the same time -- even if it's just for a fraction of a second. High-impact exercises are hard on the knee joint.


    You do high-impact routines to get a quality cardio workout. High-impact programs are geared to keep you moving, sweating and burning calories. If you attend high-impact class, you should switch the type of class you take to improve your cardio fitness. Play around with the intensities and vary the styles. These classes will be rough on the knees. If you have knee conditions -- such as arthritis or a prior injury -- sit out. Other exercise can give you cardiovascular benefits without ruining your knees.

High Impact Vs. Low Impact

    Just because jarring high-impact exercises may stress your knees, that doesn't mean being fit is ancient history for you. Turn to low-impact, joint friendly exercises and routines. Even aerobic exercise can be low-impact, according to Dr. Peter F. Ulrich Jr. Just 20 minutes of intense walking, elliptical, stationary biking or water aerobics, he says, is efficient for cardio health and weight loss. Are you confused as to what low-impact means? Think "on the floor." If you're keeping on set of toes on the floor or mat during an exercise, chances are it is low-impact.


    If you're having pain in the knees while running and jumping, it may be because those activities are high-impact. High-impact exercises are a common cause of muscle and bone injury. Your knee pain may be from a lack of warmup, or a more serious cause. The more impact you place on the joint, the more damage you can do to it. Knee ligament and muscle injuries will cause mild swelling, popping and redness. If you cannot straighten your leg, stand on the limb or the knee is really swollen, see a doctor immediately.

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