4 Low-Impact Exercises for Problematic Knees

man cyclingKnee pain can be caused by a wide variety of injuries and diseases, from general wear and tear to osteoarthritis. One-third of Americans experience knee pain at a certain point in their lives and this can be detrimental to their life quality.

While there is no way to pinpoint the cause of your knee issues other than referring to a certified doctor, my experience in the fitness industry tells me that people often drop their exercise routine altogether when they develop pain. This isn’t due to blatant laziness, but rather people aren’t aware of the workarounds to their knee issues and experience pain when they stick to their usual routines.

In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the best low-impact exercises one can do if one has bad knees.

Incline Treadmill Walks

If the knee pain you are experiencing isn’t severe, give incline walks on the treadmill a try. While there is some impact on your knees, but it is greatly reduced as compared to walking on a flat surface. There is less distance between your stepping foot and the treadmill deck when it is set on an incline, so you are exerting less force on the knee.

Be sure to invest in shoes that fit your needs. The best walking running shoes for you should offer enough arch support and cushioning to provide you with proper comfort. The ideal incline would be between 1-3%.


I consider swimming as the king of low-impact sports. You are burning a lot of calories, working on multiple muscle groups, and it’s easy on your joints. The buoyancy of the water will support your weight, making you feel lighter than you really are. People who have more body fat are more susceptible to joint pains, therefore swimming is an excellent exercise to relieve the day-to-day pressure on their knees momentarily.

With swimming, you can target different muscle groups while burning fat, thus getting more value for your time. Want to work on your glutes, quads, and chest? Go for the breaststroke. Shoulders and lats? Switch it up a notch to freestyle!


Whether it’s stationary cycling in the gym or getting on a real bike, you really can’t go wrong with pedaling. Contrary to popular belief, cycling is actually good for the knees in most cases. This is because your knees are constantly engaged through the full range of motion and this produces more synovial fluid. This is the lubricating material in your joints that helps to reduce friction and pain in osteoarthritis.

Since you are seated, barely any force is exerted on your knees. Also, You want to be sure that you are not fully straightening your legs at the bottom and not using heavy gears if you want this to work. Remember, you’re trying to get in shape, not partake in the Tour de France. Start at a snail’s pace and progress over time!


Similar to the incline walks, rowing is great if your knee pain isn’t severe. For context, I’m referring to the machine in the gym, rather than rowing on the lake. You can control your pace as well as the resistance of the machine. Besides lubricating your joints, rowing helps you develop well-rounded back muscles, which is important for maintaining your posture.

Unlike some of the activities I previously mentioned, you won’t get bored with rowing because mentally, you need to make sure that your arms and legs are working in tune. It is a great way to improve your mental focus, work on your muscles, and protect your joints!

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