Traditional cardio exercises put a lot of stress on your joints, which might not be ideal if you have bad knees or are recovering from surgery. Finding alternative exercises that you can do when you're outside can help you stay active to maintain your fitness while protecting your joints. Before starting any new activity, talk with your doctor about the safety of your program and to get healthy recommendations.
Low-impact activities do not put a lot of stress on your joints. Think of running; each time your foot strikes the ground, your knees absorb all of the impact. Alternatives to high-impact activities can prevent joint pain and injury and make exercising a more realistic option for anyone rehabilitating an injury. Low-impact exercises also offer pregnant women a way to stay active without worrying about harming themselves or their unborn baby.
Even though low-impact exercises are much safer on your knees, it's important to slowly progress your amount of exercise. Doing too much too fast can result in very sore muscles and even an injury. Start with at least 10 to 15 minutes of activity every other day. As this becomes easy, increase the time to 30 to 60 minutes and add more days to your schedule.
In a pool you feel virtually weightless, and even if you tried to sprint in the pool you might find it nearly impossible to do. The water alleviates any impact that normal aerobic activities would put on your body and reduces pressure on your knees. Look for a class at your local health club or do some on your own. You can walk, run and perform knee-ups and jumping jacks in a pool. You could also swim laps around the pool for a beneficial cardio exercise that burns calories and tones your muscles.
Riding a bike is a way to improve your cardiovascular endurance while also toning your lower-body muscles. Unlike other leg-strengthening exercises you'd have to perform with heavy weights, the bike is not high-impact. You can ride anywhere that there is a path, but you should avoid mountain biking through unpaved areas. This could increase the impact on your joints and be strenuous on your knees when you go over bumps, rocks and unsteady surfaces.
Walking might not seem like a good way to improve your health, but according to the Mayo Clinic, it can improve your cholesterol, reduce your risk for Type 2 diabetes, manage your weight, improve your mood and help you stay strong. Choose areas that are paved to walk on to avoid rolling your ankles and putting stress on your knee joints.
Ashley Farley has been a certified personal trainer since 2008. She is also a writer specializing in healthy living, fitness and nutrition topics. Farley has an Associate of Science in mental health services from the Community College of the Air Force and is pursuing her B.A. in English at Wright State University.