How To Exercise With Bad Knees To Lose Weight
When it comes to working out and losing weight, there are multiple things that could stand in your way, especially concerning your health. For someone with bad knees, ‘how to exercise with bad knees to lose weight’ might be at the top of your list of concerns. While this is a legit concern, do not fret or give up. Losing weight with bad knees is possible as long as you chose the right workouts for you.
Knee pain exercises
Knees are one of the most heavily relied on joints in the body. Standing, walking, jogging, and running all depend on them. If your knees are constantly in pain, it can heavily impact your life. The best thing to do is to try some knee pain exercises to help relieve the pain. Some great examples of this include:
Straight Leg Raises
Not only does this exercise help your knees, but it also works your core and boosts your endurance (7).
- On a yoga or gym mat, lie on your back with your hips square and your legs laid out comfortably.
- Bend your right knee at a 90-degree angle, planting the foot flatly on the floor.
- Stabilize your left leg muscles by contracting your quads (the muscles on the front of your thigh).
- Inhaling slowly, lift the left leg six to 12 inches off the ground.
- Hold for three seconds and slowly lower the left leg to the floor. Exhale as you do this
- Relax and repeat 10 times more before switching and doing the same to the right leg.
Prone Straight Leg Raises
These help with knee pain and work out your glutes and the muscles in your lower back.
- On a yoga mat, lie face down on your stomach with your legs straight out behind you with your head resting on your arms.
- Engage the glute and hamstring in your left leg and slowly lift your leg as high as you comfortably can without causing pain.
- Remember that your pelvis should not lift off the floor.
- Hold your leg in this lifted position for 5 seconds before slowly lowering it.
- Rest the left leg for 2 seconds, then repeat.
- Do this 10 times before switching to the right leg and repeating the process.
Lying hamstring stretch with resistance band
- Lie flat on either the ground or a mat with the legs fully stretched out.
- Place the strap across the ball of the right foot and hold the strap in both hands.
- Keep the left leg extended on the ground with the foot flexed, pushing the thigh and calf toward the floor.
- Slowly extend the right leg with the foot flexed. The right leg should be straight with a slight bend in the knee, and the bottom of the foot should face the ceiling.
- Gently pull the strap until there is a slight tension in the hamstrings.
- Hold the stretch for 10 to 30 seconds.
- Repeat two to four times before switching to the left leg
If you do not have a resistance band, you can still do this stretch without it (12). Here is how:
- Lie flat on either the ground or a mat with the legs fully stretched out.
- To stretch the right leg, hold the back of the right knee with both hands, pull the leg up toward the chest, and slowly straighten the knee until it feels as though it is stretching.
- Hold the stretch for 10 to 30 seconds.
- Lower the leg and switch sides to the left leg.
Standing quadriceps stretch
- Hold onto a counter-top, wall, or chair back for balance.
- Bend your knee back by grasping your ankle with one hand.
- Pull the ankle gently toward your glutes as far as you can comfortably.
- Maintain this position for 30 seconds before returning to standing position.
- Repeat this 3 to 5 times with each leg.
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How to strengthen your knees: gentle exercises for bad knees
While these exercises are amazing as they strengthen the muscles around the knee joint, providing support for it. Not only do they keep the joint healthy while preventing injury, but they also can effectively heal osteoarthritis without surgery (8).
Unlike a full squat, this variation puts less pressure on the knees. It strengthens quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings.
- Get into a standing squat position with your feet shoulder-width apart. Place your hands on your hips or out in front of you for balance.
- Bending your legs, pushing your butt back to a 45-degree angle, making sure not to position yourself in a full sit.
- Your hands should be straight in front of you.
- Pause for a second, then slowly raise your body back up by pushing through your heels.
- Do this 10 to 15 times for one set.
Not only does this workout strengthen your knee, but it also works out your quadriceps, glutes, and calves.
- Start with your back against a wall with your feet shoulder-width and about 2 feet from the wall.
- Engage your core and slowly slide your back down the wall until your thighs are parallel to the ground.
- Adjust your feet, so your knees are directly above your ankles rather than over your toes.
- Keep your back flat against the wall and hold the position for 20 seconds to a full minute.
- Slide slowly back up the wall to a standing position.
- Rest for 30 seconds and repeat the exercise three times.
They are also great for your quads, hamstrings, hip flexors, and glutes.
- Find a large, sturdy stool or exercise platform that is no taller than 6 inches.
- Step up onto the stool with the right foot and allow the left foot to follow behind.
- Do not place the left foot on the stool; instead, let it hang on your side.
- Keep the body weight on the right foot and hold for up to 5 seconds.
- Slowly lower the left foot down and then follow it with the right foot.
- Repeat this 10 to 15 times before switching sides.
Standing calf raises
- Position yourself next to a wall or hold on to the back of a chair for support.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Lift both your heels off the ground so that you are standing on the balls of your feet.
- Slowly lower your heels to the starting position.
- Do 10 to 15 times for each set.
The best cardio exercises for bad knees
When we think about doing cardio, most of us assume that it will involve walking, jumping, or running – options that may be hard for someone with bad knees. Thankfully, there are some great cardio exercise options for people with bad knees. Some great workouts include:
1. Swimming. Swimming reduces symptoms of depression and cust the risk of chronic diseases, but it is also effective in reducing knee joint stiffness, strengthening muscles around the knee, strengthening your bones, and improving your overall fitness (9).
2. Rowing. Injuries such as the autologous chondrocyte implantation or ACI can be effectively rehabilitated by rowing (10). Not only does rowing strengthen the knees, but it also works out the quads and hamstrings. However, since this workout relies heavily on knee movement, you should first speak to your doctor and see if this is a good option for you.
3. Elliptical workouts. These are considered low-impact aerobic exercises, and they are a good alternative to running or jogging for someone who has joint pain due to arthritis. When compared to using a treadmill, using an elliptical machine can be less stressful on your knees, hips, and back (1).
Low impact cardio exercises for bad knees
Here are some fantastic low impact workouts that you can do without further injuring your knees (3):
- Step out to the side with the left foot, take the arms up, and then step the right foot next to the left.
- Repeat the move to the right, moving quickly and swinging the arms to get the heart rate up.
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Turn the toes of your left foot straight to the side at 90 degrees.
- Reach your right arm up to the ceiling and let your left hand hang down at your side. Look up at your right hand.
- Engage your core and push your hips toward your right side. Slide your left hand down your left leg toward your ankle as far as possible without putting pressure on your leg. Use your core to stabilize yourself.
- Your left arm should be perpendicular to the floor the entire time. The right leg should remain straight. You can allow a slight bend in your left leg to avoid locking your knee.
- Pause, then push down through your feet to rise back up to start, keeping your core engaged and your spine long throughout.
- Repeat ten times, then switch to the other leg
- Hold the ball in both hands straight up overhead.
- Bring the right knee up as you bring the ball down to the knee.
- Take the ball up, lower the right leg, and perform the move on the other leg.
- Do this for 60 seconds
Front kick lunges
- Bring the right knee up, extend the leg in a snapping front kick, and then take the same leg back into a straight-leg lunge while touching the floor.
- Repeat the kick and low lunge sequence for one minute and repeat the sequence on the other side for one minute.
- Remember the lunge should only go as deep as your knee can handle.
Losing weight with bad knees: Is it possible?
Yes, it is. There are numerous exercises that can be done to help you shed some extra pounds without inflaming your already bad or injured knees. You should also remember to decrease your caloric intake while you workout for effective weight loss.
Exercises for overweight people with knee pain
1. Tai Chi. This is a low-impact workout that is gentle on the joints. Its fluid, meditative motions increase strength, balance, and flexibility (11). Doing Tai Chi for just 30 minutes can burn up to 178 calories. If you are overweight and also have knee osteoarthritis, this workout can help by reducing knee pain and improving mobility.
2. Yoga. Yoga is perfect for stretching exercises. It also makes you more in tune with your body, improving your self-image and sense of well-being, which reduces stress and stress eating. Since weight gain and loss revolve around food intake, eating less can boost your weight loss.
3. Elliptical machine. As mentioned above, the elliptical is a great workout tool for people with bad knees. An hour on this machine can burn anywhere from 540 to 800 calories depending on your weight (6).
4. Swimming. Swimming, in general, can burn up to 266 calories in 30 minutes. Vigorous swimming, breaststrokes, or doing laps will get rid of anywhere from 300 to 444 calories in 30 minutes, depending on your weight (4).
5. Cycling or using a stationary bike. These two are great low impact cardio exercises for bad knees. Cycling, in general, keeps your knees moving through their range of motion and, at the same time, strengthens the muscles that support your knees. Depending on your weight and gender, you can burn 404 to 450 calories in an hour (5).
Exercises to avoid if you have knee pain
While we have extensively covered the best workouts for bad knees, there are several workouts that should be avoided as they may cause further knee pain and injury. They include:
- Full/Deep squats
- Lunges (especially deep lunges)
- Running or jogging
- Full-arc extensions. These apply constant pressure on the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and can make your knee cap slide unnaturally to the left or the right (2).
Knee Pain-Free Workouts to Burn Fat
As we have mentioned above, some great weight loss workouts that will not affect your knees include tai-chi, swimming, cycling, yoga, walking, ball marches, and more. Remember, before you start working out, you must first do some stretching exercises. Stretching before working out helps increase blood flow and loosen muscles, while after working out, it helps your muscles heal faster.
The Bottom Line
The answer to how to exercise with bad knees to lose weight lies in trying workouts that do not involve a lot of knee motion, or if they do, they require very minimal effort and weight placed on the knee. These low-impact workout options can help you achieve your goal, albeit slower since high-impact training is not possible with bad or injured knees.
You should also always try to incorporate gentle exercises for bad knees in your day-to-day life to help heal and strengthen bad knees. That being said, remember to consult your doctor before attempting any of the workouts or stretches outlined above.
What are the best and worst exercises for bad knees
As discussed above, the worst exercises for bad knees include running, full-arc extensions, and deep lunges and squats. On the other hand, the best exercises for bad knees are those that do not demand a lot of effort from the knees.
They include calf and leg raises, step exercises, yoga, and tai-chi, among others. However, you must always seek the go-ahead from your doctor before attempting any workouts, especially if you have bad knees.
Are Bad Knees a Legit Excuse to Skip Training
No, they are not. As we have seen above, there are many workouts that can help you lose weight and keep your muscles strong even without or fully involving the knee. Training, albeit slower and more controlled, can help heal knee arthritis and strengthen weak knee muscles. Before you try any of the above workouts, be sure to talk and seek advice from your doctor.
Check out the 20 Minute Full Body Workout at Home below.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any medical conditions. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Are elliptical machines better than treadmills for basic aerobic workouts? (2020, mayoclinic.org)
- Are Leg Extensions Bad for the Knees? (2019, livestrong.com)
- Best Cardio Workouts and Exercises for Bad Knees (2019, verywellfit.com)
- Calories burned in 30 minutes for people of three different weights (2004, health.harvard.edu)
- Cycling – Burn Calories and Lose Weight (n.d, weightlossresources.co.uk)
- How Many Calories Do You Burn Using an Elliptical Machine? (n.d, livestrong.com)
- How to Do a Straight Leg Raise (2020, verywellfit.com)
- How to strengthen your knee (2019, medicalnewstoday.com)
- Is Swimming Good for Bad Knees? (n.d, livestrong.com)
- Rowing Machines & Knee Problems (n.d, livestrong.com)
- Tai Chi for Knee Osteoarthritis (2017, blog.arthritis.org)
- What are the best stretches for tight hamstrings? (2018, medicalnewstoday.com)