10 Cardio Workouts that Are Easy on Knees

Want to ease the stress on delicate knee joints? Here are 10 cardio workouts that are easy on the knees.

Doctors and trainers agree that high-impact activities, such as sports that require jumping, bending, position changes, and twisting or jarring movements of the knees, i.e., running, basketball, tennis and racquetball are all hard on the knees.


Swimming is an ideal cardio workout because the water supports your body weight and you get a total body workout using the water’s resistance. DO NOT do the breaststroke or butterfly stroke, as the kick puts a lot of stress on the knees. Flotation devices are available for arms-only swimming.


Indoors or outdoors, biking is a good choice as long as you use good leg posture, keeping your knees facing slightly outward and in line with your hip and foot. A recumbent bike (reclining type) is easier on the knees than an upright stationary bike.

An Elliptical Trainer/Cross-trainer

Either will provide a low-impact workout. Choose one that gets your arms pumping in a push-pull action to get a full-body workout. With changeable incline levels, the cross-trainer gives you an even more intense workout.

Push-up/Pull-up/Sit-up Challenges

Doing an exercise rapidly gets your heart pumping, and with this workout you build muscle at the same time. Grab a stopwatch or use a partner and do as many push-ups/sit-ups/pull-ups as you can in 20 seconds for eight repetitions, resting 10 seconds between.

Rowing Machine

This is a great option for building both lower- and upper-body strength. Almost every gym has a rowing machine, and they’re usually open.


Pilates includes a variety of cardio exercises that are great at strengthening the muscles around weak joints. Bonus: you do most of them while lying down.


Outside or on a treadmill, walking is a good choice. A treadmill’s surface is flexible and is better on the knees than the hard sidewalk or asphalt. When walking, be sure to use good posture with your weight distributed slightly on the outsides of your feet, using a heel-to-toe movement. Try to stay on grass or gravel.

Weight Training

Repetitions using dumbbells will give you a good cardio workout while building your upper body. Avoid sets that involve bearing excessive weight or flexing of the knees such as full squats or leg presses.

Upper Body Ergometer

An upper body ergometer is like an upside-down stationary bike that you pedal with your hands. Try doing 30 minutes alternating pedaling forward and backward.


Boxing is a fun workout to elevate your heart rate that you can do with or without a partner. Shadow boxing or simply jabbing rapidly can be done while perched on the edge of a chair.

If you want your knees to carry you into old age, protect them from injury when you work out: never bend your knees beyond 90 degrees when exercising, always stretch first, stop immediately if you experience pain, and wear shoes that provide good support.  Enjoy your cardio workout!


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