When Good Knees Go Bad: 3 Effective Low-Impact Cardio Exercises.

No face? No problem.

Hi Davey,My knees can not handle high impact cardiovascular exercise like running, jogging or even stair climbing. I know that cardio is important, but what can you recommend that is low-impact and yet effective?


Dear Chris,

Great question! Having nursed a knee injury just last summer, I can relate. And you’re absolutely correct: Cardio is important for everyone.

Here are three effective low-impact exercises that I’d recommend:

  1. Swimming. Swimming is phenomenal for all people, but especially beneficial for those individuals seeking a low (or no) impact exercise. Whereas running a treadmill will pound your knees, swimming involves much smoother movements. You weigh 1/10th of your land weight in water, so a great deal of stress is taken off of your joints. A 155lb person could expect to burn 214 calories after 30 minutes of moderate swimming.
  2. Rowing. I’m a huge fan of rowing – and it is very gentle on the knees. Much like swimming, the movement is fluid and not abrupt. I enjoy rowing sprints – 90 seconds of all out rowing followed by 45 seconds of rest for 15 minutes. If you’d rather keep things easier, try going at a moderate pace for 90 seconds and then a slower pace for 60 seconds. a 155lb person would burn 246 calories after 30 minutes of moderate rowing.
  3. Elliptical. If you don’t have access to a pool or a rowing machine, the elliptical is a good alternative. Because of the machine’s structure, the movement is low impact and fluid – and a 155lb person can burn 400 calories after 30 minutes of exercise.

You can also give cycling, walking, in-line skating and cross-country skiing a try. Whatever your interests, you should be able to find a low-impact cardio program that suits your needs.

Any other suggestions or questions? Ask away in the comments below!

About Davey Wavey

Davey Wavey is a certified personal trainer and YouTube sensation with more than 250 million video views. For Davey's fitness tips and secrets, sign up for his free monthly newsletter - or download any of his affordable and effective workout programs.


  1. Aha, good ideas! I have hereditarily horrible knees. And below that, the very same in weak ankles. XD We just happen to have an old elliptical that needs only a new bolt to work- I’ll get someone right on that >u>

  2. The elliptical actually helps me a lot as well. When I go to the gym I was recommended to use the elliptical instead of a treadmill because my knees are a little weak, they actually pop sometimes when I squat. Anyways I can feel much less pain in my knees on an elliptical than a treadmill. I stay away from it now unless I just want to walk.

  3. #1 – What’s an elliptical?

    #2 – I’ve mentioned it before, but I’ll ask again in case you’ve made any discoveries: I have an umbilical hernia, but I’d like to flatten my tummy. Are there exercises I can do to accomplish that without exacerbating the condition?

    • An elliptical trainer (also sometimes called a cross-trainer) is a stationary exercise machine used to simulate walking or running without causing excessive pressure to the joints, hence decreasing the risk of impact injuries. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elliptical_trainer

    • I have the same condition, but I’ve had no problem doing the usual situps and back extensions one would normally do. I’ve been doing them for over 2 years now. When I’m in the shower (and wet) I can actually see a six pack! Now all I need to do it lose that final layer of fat on my abdomen and I’ll be good.
      If anything, they help the condition by strengthening the supporting muscles. I can say it certainly hasn’t gotten any worse. If there is pain for you starting out, you might try wearing a weight lifters belt. I’ve never done that, but I often thought about it when I started out.

  4. Arms And Legs says:

    Another great low impact cardio exercise is walking (3-4 mph) on the treadmill at an incline of 12-13%.

  5. Bob Campbell says:

    Racewalking is much easier on the knees than running. One foot must always be touching the ground when racewalking. A smooth form is helpful.

  6. mmmmh… dancing? heheh sounds low-impact in general but depending on the routine can be counted as cardio.

  7. my doctor said while sitting to extend my legs straight and then lower them slowly to build up my knees cause the pain i get is from my knee cap not being held in place properly my the sorrounding muscle . so far its helping but if ur knee has carked it .. i agree dont do high impact

  8. and question is the faceless photo andreas ludin ???

  9. Another great one- stationary biking!


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