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The Best Cardio Exercises to Try When Your Knees Hurt

Cardio is a great way to stay active, and some exercises might be more suitable for those with achy knees. Get rid of knee pain with these best cardio exercises.

Sandra Adams
The Best Cardio Exercises to Try When Your Knees Hurt
Table Of Contents

We have all been there; we started working out after weeks or months of inactivity, and after only a few jumping jacks, there’s a sharp pain in the knee. Or sometimes your knee starts to ache out of the blue.

It’s annoying and prompts us back to our sedentary lifestyles but don’t worry because knee pains happen to the best of us, and this issue can be resolved with light cardio and dedication.

In this blog post, we will take a look at why our knees hurt and the best cardio for bad knees.

Reason Behind Knee Pains

Knee pains are usually caused due to age, injury, or repeated stress to the knee. As long as you're younger than 50, age isn't playing a significant role in your knee pain.

This leaves us with injury and repeated stress as the most likely causes of your knee pains.

An injury anywhere on your lower body, from your feet to your hip, can put an extra load on your knee, making it work overtime. Repeated stress on your knee can also put your knee under a lot of loads, making it wear out over time and start to hurt.

The best way to get the extra load out of the knee is to make the supporting muscles stronger; These include the quadriceps, and the hamstrings are the two primary muscle groups.

The quadriceps are located on the anterior aspect of the knee and femur, and the hamstrings are located on the posterior aspect. The quadriceps' four muscles—the vastus Lateralus, vastus medialis, vastus intermedius, and rectus femoris—are used to extend the knee.

Stretching, training, and strengthening these muscles would greatly reduce your knee pain.

Tips to Do Cardio With Sore Knees

Doing cardio with sore knees can be tricky. But if you carefully adjust your routine, plenty of options won't be too jarring and will provide a good workout! Following are a few tips for performing cardio with sore knees:

Use Knee Wraps

Knee wraps are an excellent way to reduce discomfort while enabling rigorous workouts. According to studies, weightlifting knee wraps provide additional stability around the knee joint that helps prevent further injury, eliminates inflammation and swelling, and supports strained muscles and tendons.

When used correctly, they help you get the most out of your routine despite existing pain. Plus, they're lightweight and easy to use — just wrap them around your knees for maximum support!


Stretching before cardio is an important step that many people overlook. Sore knees can often result from a lack of proper preparation for a cardio session. Many studies suggest that stretching both before and after your workout not only increases flexibility but also helps reduce the strain placed on your knees while you exercise.

Consider including stretches that focus primarily on improving hip flexion and strengthening core muscles to support your joints as you move. This technique should help alleviate symptoms of knee pain during cardio activities so that you can still engage in them easily.

Rest Between Moves

It is crucial to work in rest periods if you're looking to do cardio while recovering from an injury like a sore knee. This is especially helpful when doing something more challenging and demanding, like running or stepping up onto boxes.

Taking breaks throughout the exercise session allows you to tape off any spots that may need additional support, catch your breath and take in fluids if needed. Breaking up the workout with resting periods helps you maintain good form and avoids exacerbating the soreness further.

So, when you have niggling aches and pains, permit yourself to rest between moves - your body will thank you for it!

Best Cardio Exercises During Knee Pain

For someone suffering from knee pain, cardio can be daunting. But just because you experience knee discomfort doesn't mean you have to give up on doing cardio altogether. Luckily, many low-impact yet still practical exercises provide a great cardiovascular workout while decreasing the risk of further injury.

The following exercises are all excellent options for improving your fitness level without the stress and strain that can come with other forms of cardio. So don't let your knee pain stop you from getting into a good cardio routine - try these low-impact exercises and have fun!


Cycling is a popular exercise for many reasons, especially among adults and those with chronic knee pain.

Recent medical research indicates that cycling can effectively treat knee osteoarthritis (OA). Studies suggest that consistent indoor and outdoor cycling leads to smaller changes in body composition and decreased OA symptoms and knee pain over time.

In addition, studies have also observed that cyclists experienced marked improvements in knee movement, strength, and overall function. These findings provide strong evidence that cycling is an excellent way to help ease pain caused and improve physical function related to knee pain.


If you're one of the millions of people suffering from knee pain, a quality elliptical machine is a great way to get in some pain-free physical activity. Studies have proven that low-impact activities performed on an elliptical can significantly reduce knee stress and improve joint mobility and flexibility.

Plus, it's the ideal exercise for those looking to build strength and help avoid putting significant strain on their knees. So, if you feel discomfort when running or going upstairs, consider investing in an elliptical, as it's been proven to be one of the best ways to minimize knee pain while still staying active.


Walking has long been prescribed as a remedy for knee pain, and a good reason! Multiple studies have shown that walking can be incredibly helpful in alleviating knee pain due to arthritis and other conditions.

Walking helps maintain the health of muscles and connective tissue around the knee joint, and doing it at an even pace also strengthens them over time. Gentle, consistent strides help protect your joints by lubricating them with synovial fluid while decreasing stiffness.

Add a few hills and some turns during your walks to keep it exciting but make sure you don’t overexert yourself. If followed correctly, this method can effectively manage knee pain and is easily incorporated into your daily routine.


1. Should I do cardio if my knee hurts?

If your knee hurts, it’s essential to consider the type of cardio and how much pressure you're putting on it. Generally speaking, low-impact activities such as walking, swimming, and cycling are all excellent choices. High-impact exercises such as running or jumping should be avoided if your knee is sore — the jarring sensation associated with them can cause even more pain and inflammation.

Before engaging in any cardiovascular activity, warm up and stretch thoroughly to loosen the muscles around the joint; this helps reduce stress and makes the exercise less taxing on your knee.

Consider supplementing with some strengthening exercises, too; building muscle mass around the joint will reduce strain and help support it better.

2. Is the treadmill harmful to the knees?

According to studies, the answer is mostly no; researchers have found that walking on a treadmill can help reduce knee pain.

For those wondering if running on a treadmill might damage their knees, experts suggest that increasing speeds gradually and using the proper footwear can help prevent injuries and make for an impactful workout.

The important thing when it comes to lower-body workouts is to listen to your body - if you experience any form of pain or discomfort, then take it as a sign from your body that you need to slow down and adjust your routine.

3. How can I protect my knees during cardio?

Protecting your knees during cardio exercises is essential to avoid injury and pain. One of the most important things you can do to safeguard your knees is to use knee supports like compression knee sleeves. Moreover, ensure you always warm up adequately before doing any form of exercise.

Doing dynamic stretchings, like lunges and various hip rotations, will not only get your heart rate going but also increase flexibility in your muscles and joints. Additionally, be conscious about your posture during cardio activities: ensure a good technique by maintaining a neutral spine and ensuring that you have correct posture from head to toe.

Even further, wearing supportive shoes can help protect your knees since it provides added cushioning for impactful movements associated with running and other high-impact activities.

Finally, allow yourself plenty of rest days between workouts so muscles can relax, heal, and recover from more challenging cardio activities.

4. What foods make your knees stronger?

Eating suitable types of food can help your knees stay strong and healthy. Leafy greens like kale, spinach, and Swiss chard not only provide plenty of vitamins and minerals but also contain lutein, which helps reduce inflammation in those with osteoarthritis.

Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as wild-caught fish, are great for joint health since they create a cushion effect around the joints. And don't forget nuts! Studies have shown that some varieties – such as walnuts and pistachios - possess anti-inflammatory properties that help soothe pain caused by arthritis.

Incorporating these delicious foods into your diet may make a massive difference in how your knees feel each day.


Don’t let knee pain stop you from a healthy lifestyle; by adjusting your cardio workout routine, you can train your knee to be more resilient and pain-free. Always use a knee sleeve or a knee wrap before exercising if you're experiencing knee pain, and warm up before diving into any form of cardio. Give your knee rest between sets, and stay away from weighted exercises that aggravate your knee. Implement the above-mentioned low-impact cardio exercises from today and reap the benefits.

Reading List

Article Sources

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Sandra Adams

Hi, I'm Sandra Adams, a certified personal trainer and fitness blogger dedicated to helping women reach their health and wellness goals. With over a decade of experience in the fitness industry, I specialize in crafting effective, easy-to-follow workout routines that fit into even the busiest schedules. 

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