Exercising with a knee injury can be a nearly unbearable problem. With every run, skip or jump you take, you can feel your knee screaming back at you, but you aren’t interested in taking time off from your workout routine. There are several cardio options that take it easy on your knees by reducing the impact by limiting the bending on the joint.
Cycling is a non-weight-bearing activity that is easy on your knees. If you are recovering from an injury, start out slowly. On your first ride, only do a few easy miles and make sure they are on a flat path to help reduce any excessive stress on your knee. On the Guardian website, physiotherapist Michael Crebbin explains that pain at the back of the kneecap is the most common knee complaint when riding. If you experience this pain, warm up properly, avoid pedaling in gears that are too high and gradually increase your mileage.
An elliptical machine is designed to mimic a running motion but in a low-impact way. This popular piece of cardio equipment provides many of the same benefits as running, including a high calorie burn and targeting of your quadriceps, gluteus muscles, hamstrings and calf muscles, but without the extra strain on your knee. If your elliptical machine has moveable arm handles, this exercise turns into a full-body, knee-safe workout.
The pool is a popular workout for people rehabilitating a knee injury because it is virtually an impact-free exercise. The water provides 12 times the resistance as air, so you burn lots of calories and engage all of your major muscle groups as you move through the water without any excess strain on your knees. Make sure to use proper form, especially when kicking to avoid any unnecessary pain. Your knees should always be relaxed, and avoid the breaststroke kick. If it hurts, avoid pushing off from the wall.
While there is no doubt that running can be a painful activity for individuals with knee problems, this doesn’t mean that the treadmill or local walking path is completely off limits. Speed walking gives you a full-body workout by engaging your upper and lower body along with your abdominal muscles, all in a low-impact environment. Stick to a flat and smooth surface and keep the speed at a comfortable yet challenging pace. Wait until your muscles have strengthened or your knee no longer feels overworked before you add an incline to your walk.
Fitzalan Gorman has more than 10 years of academic and commercial experience in research and writing. She has written speeches and text for CEOs, company presidents and leaders of major nonprofit organizations. Gorman has published for professional cycling teams and various health and fitness websites. She has a Master of Arts from Virginia Tech in political science and is a NASM certified personal trainer.