Low-Impact Cardio Options

Ask the Expert


My knees often hurt. Are there exercises that will help my cardiovascular system without putting a lot of impact on my joints?


Whatever your fitness level, start with walking. Walking has low impact on your knees (unlike running and jumping exercises), gets your heart rate up, helps build bones and can be done anywhere. It's a great activity for everyone, but especially for those who are pregnant, overweight, arthritic, don't exercise much or have joint problems.

Set your walking pace from moderate to brisk, depending upon your current condition. Walking sessions may be as brief as five or 10 minutes. Increase the number or length of sessions gradually. Even with low-impact exercise, you need to take things slowly, progressively making your workouts more challenging over time.

If you are an experienced exerciser, consider using a bicycle (stationary or outdoors) or elliptical trainer. Because you don't lift and drop your feet, as in jogging, these machines deliver a tougher cardiovascular workout without adding impact. You also can adjust resistance levels as your conditioning builds. Other low- or no-impact activities to protect your knees include swimming, rowing or stair-climbing.

While it's OK to feel a little muscle soreness after a workout, feeling joint pain during or after your workout is a sign that you did too much too soon. If you haven't already done so, be sure to see your doctor to find out the cause of your knee pain.


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