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The Best Exercises for Bad Knees

Don't let bad knees keep you from getting your exercise.

Aching knees and joint pain may be a normal part of the aging process, but that doesn't mean you should have to live in a constant state of discomfort. From eating a primarily raw, plant-based diet, supplementing when needed and exercising regularly, you can effectively reduce pain in the knees. In fact, if aching in your knee is what bothers you the most, exercise can actually help to reduce that discomfort. As Dr. Willibald Nagler, chairman of rehabilitation medicine at Cornell Medical Center in New York City told Prevention, when the muscles in the knees are weak, it causes more pressure and thus, more irritation. When you work to strengthen the muscles in those joints however, the amount of stress put on the knees is limited. 

Don't let your knees hold you back from regular physical activity. With the right forms of exercise, you can continue to incorporate exercise into your lifestyle and even reach your fitness goals.  Consider these exercises to reduce impact and discomfort on your knees when working out:

Low-Impact Cardio
One of the best and most well-known forms of low-impact cardio is swimming. This form of exercise is great because it can be practiced at any age, by adults young and old. As Gaiam explained, swimming is a versatile activity that works all parts of the body while eliminating the striking effect that running has on the knees. As a bonus, pools laps and water aerobics are known to burn calories fast.

"Exercise – when done right – can actually help reduce knee pain."

As Gaiam noted however, there are a few precautions to take when swimming with bad knees. While most swimmers begin each lap by pushing off the pool wall with their legs, this should be avoided to eliminate stress on the kneecaps. Similarly, the frog kick should not be a part of your swimming routine.

If you were traditionally an avid treadmill user before your knees began bothering you, consider switching over to the elliptical. As Gaiam noted, this machine incorporates running without the damaging effect of sneakers repeatedly pounding on concrete. Biking is another great low-impact cardio option when you're trying to take it easy on the knees.

Muscle Strengthening Exercises
As noted above, increasing the muscle strength around the knee joints is crucial for alleviating pain and pressure. An important rule of thumb when practicing any exercise is to ensure that your knees do not go past your toes when bending or moving. As Prevention explained, this can cause extra pressure under the kneecap, which is not good for the comfort of your knees.

When it comes to squats, be sure to practice a partial form of the exercise. Stand in front of a chair with your feet facing forward, shoulder-width apart. Moving slowly, bend at the hips and lower your body halfway down to the seat of the chair. 

Practice step ups with a bench or aerobic step bench at the gym. Start on one side with your foot flat on the step. Bring your other foot up and tap the bench or step before bringing it back down. Repeat with your other foot. Be sure that knees are right over ankles when stepping up.

Exercises that strengthen muscles in the knee can help reduce pain.Exercises that strengthen muscles in the knee can help reduce pain.

Calf raises are another good strengthening exercise, according to Active. The best way to perform this move is to stand near a chair or counter to keep your balance in check. Feet should be hip width apart and toes should be facing forward. Bring heels off of the ground slowly, until you are on your tip toes. Hold here for several seconds and then lower heels back to the ground.

Each of the above exercises can be done in repetitions of 10 to 12, depending on ability. Over time, you can increase the number of reps you do in each session.

Stretching and Pilates
As the Harvard Health Letter explained, stretching should be practiced by everyone regularly, even when you're not exercising. Doing so helps to improve joint mobility, which reduces the risk of injury. Daily stretching improves flexibility and reduces the tightening of muscles, promoting healthy muscles.

Another great exercise for those struggling with knee pain or discomfort is Pilates, a low-impact exercise that utilizes core strength to reduce the pressure on muscles and joints in everyday life, certified Pilates instructor Anne Menner explained to Simple Most. This form of exercise has a low risk of injury and focuses on improving mobility. 

In addition to knee-healthy exercises, consider incorporating the Hallelujah Diet dietary supplement Joint Health into your diet plan. Packed with curcumin, boswellia, astaxanthin and grape seed extract, this supplement can work effectively to help reduce and stop inflammation in the knee. Moreover, the avocado-soy-unsaponifiables, known as ASU, has been shown to help put cartilage back together while also minimizing pain. Rather than simply masking symptoms like traditional over the counter medicine, this supplement effectively identifies the origin of discomfort and works to combat it.


  1. Carolyn B, Calhoun February 19, 2018

    Thanks so much for this informative blog. Helps to have suggestions for exercises to help keep your knees as flexible and healthy as possible. Pilates is a great form of exercise.

  2. I know several people who suffer with knee pain and it has really hindered them from exercise. I will share this information with them. This is great advice to help keep them active.

  3. Connie Gesser February 23, 2018

    It is encouraging to learn that all the forms of exercise can help if a person has bad knees.

    It is helpful to know that increasing the muscle strength around the knee joints helps with the pain and pressure on the joints.

  4. T Black April 2, 2018

    Thanks for the tips on exercises to help with strengthening and increasing flexibility in our knees. This is very helpful as we get older. Knee pain prevents a lot of people from getting enough exercise.

  5. Annette April 3, 2018

    This is awesome with the different exercises to help a person that is dealing with knee pain. I was thinking about doing the swimming aerobics just to help with some muscle pain. After reading this information, I’m going to start right away. Thanks again.

  6. Brian Miller December 21, 2021

    Normally, the advice here is very good. But this time, I think you’ve stepped outside of your realm of knowledge and expertise. This article is simply not very good and based on sources that are also less than optimal. Willibald Nagler, MD, for example, is not an expert in knee rehabilitation and, if the information attributed to him is indeed from him, it is so generalized as to be neigh on useless. This was one of my areas of expertise before I retired after a 41 year career. I lectured nationally on this subject in 40 states at the undergraduate, graduate, and post graduate level so I have some familiarity with the subject. Unfortunately, this article is the equivalent to an article on nutrition for a health issue telling you to eat a healthy balanced diet. It lacks critically important detail and specifics.

    • Melody Hord December 22, 2021

      Hi Brian,
      Yes, this is a very general article. Any advice you would like to offer is welcome! Even if it is just one good suggestion that you have seen that is effective.
      I have found that silica really has helped my joints from being stiff! I was a runner and I play a lot of tennis, so my knees have really had it rough over the years.

  7. I was also told by one of the people who works at the gym that an elliptical is much easier on the knees than a treadmill.

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