The Best Low-Impact Workouts for People with Bad Knees

I hear the phrase “bad knees” a lot in my life. My mom has been notorious for her knee problems, ever since a skiing injury 20 years ago. A few of my friends (young and old) complain that their knees feel subpar, and they feel limited because of it. Not to mention I often get frustrated by unexpected knee pain and my own knees’ inability to bend as they properly should.

It’s not that surprising that knee pain is the second most common cause of chronic pain in the US. In fact, one out of three people will experience knee pain at one time or another. And it’s caused by any number of issues—being overweight, improper exercise technique, muscle imbalances, acute injury or chronic wear and tear from poor biomechanics.

No matter the cause, knee pain sucks, because our knees are really, really important. They are an integral part of our shock absorption system. If you’re not bending your knees properly, any sort of impact will send unrestrained shockwaves into your hips and lower back, encouraging even worse injury. It’s like having a broken suspension on your car—nothing good can come of driving it around like that.

Exercises for People with Knee Pain

For many people, knee pain can stop us from doing the things we love, like running, playing tennis, hiking and biking. It even makes simple tasks, like climbing stairs, a potential stressor. But you shouldn’t have to give up your life because your knees hurt. Here are a few ways to stay happy and active while helping your knees strengthen and heal.

Two women rowing with power at gym


Have you checked out the rowing machine at your local gym? It may look boring, but it’s actually a lot of fun—and a serious workout! It’s not just for strength training, it’s a cardio workout, too.

When you row with proper technique, it’s a highly efficient, full body workout—no torque or weight on your knees at all! It’s nothing but full-body core power.

Young African Man Swimming In Lake

Swimming/Water Sports

Doing anything in water constitutes a low-impact activity. The wonderful thing about water is that it provides a lot of resistance. So while simple movements may be more challenging to execute than they would be on the ground, they’re actually a lot easier on your joints.

That’s why swimming, water aerobics, pool volleyball and water polo are all great options for people with knee issues. Plus, they’re all great cardio workouts.

Woman practicing rock climbing on artificial wall indoors. Active lifestyle and bouldering concept.

3. Rock Climbing

I know this sounds hardcore, but rock climbing is surprisingly knee-friendly.

Climbing is a full workout for your body and mind. It requires precision, strength, and patience. If you top rope, there is no falling or tweaking your knees to worry about. Every movement requires focus and a gentle touch. It’s a great way to build strength and mindfulness while having fun. Give it a try, and you’ll see why so many people become addicted to it.

Man pilates reformer exercises

4. Pilates

Looking to lengthen and get toned? Look for further than pilates. Plates is known to relieve stress while improving posture, muscle tone, balance and joint mobility.

And while mat exercises are great, if you get the opportunity to train on the reformer, do it. It’s one of the most challenging low-impact workouts you’ll ever do. You’ll discover tiny little muscles you didn’t even know you had!

The point is, bad knees don’t have to slow you down. There are plenty of other activities you can still enjoy. Don’t give up on your fitness, and don’t give up on your knees. Start giving your body the T.L.C. it deserves.

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Images via Getty


Carla G
Carla G3 days ago

thank you

Marija M
Marija M5 days ago

Tks for sharing.

Anna R
Anna R6 days ago

Thank you for sharing

Christine V
Christine V7 days ago

I love water sports

Sherry Kohn
Sherry Kohn7 days ago

Many thanks to you !

Danuta W
Danuta W7 days ago

Thank you for sharing.

Clare O
Clare O'Beara7 days ago

Get good walking shoes which have an inbuilt spring that takes the pressure off the joints

Clare O
Clare O'Beara7 days ago


Paul C
Paul Carter7 days ago

I damaged both my knees doing Judo as a teenager. I had problems with low level pain until I started Tai Chi Chuan. 35 years later and still doing Tai Chi Chuan. Just make sure your instructor teaches you how not to put strain on your knees by over extending your stances if you do take it up.

Hannah A
Hannah A7 days ago

Thank you