How to Exercise With Bad Knees to Lose Weight: An Ultimate Guide

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You are off to a good start already, as you want to lose weight. Trying to exercise with bad knees can be challenging, but definitely not impossible. This article helps you find your way to the day when you get out of bed in the morning with a slimmer waistline. After you exercise and drop a few pounds, your knees might even feel a bit better.

Helping Your Knees First

Pain in your knees and legs can impact how you exercise – and really how you walk, stand, or do anything with your legs. Starting with standard exercises like running or jogging can be uncomfortable if your knees constantly hurt. Trying to relieve the pain with some basic exercises can be a start to both relieving knee pain and starting to lose weight.

Prone Straight Leg Raises

These leg raises help you work the muscles in your lower back, core and help relieve strain on your needs. Here are some instructions:

  • For your own comfort, lay on something soft, down on your stomach with your legs behind you. You can rest your head on your arms.
  • Slowly lift your left leg via your hamstring and glute as high as you comfortably can without lifting your pelvis.
  • Hold your lift for 5 seconds. Rest for 2 seconds then do it again.
  • Repeat the exercise several times for each leg.

Straight Leg Raises

These raises are similar to prone straight raises.

  • Lay down facing up on a comfortable mat.
  • Bend your knee to a 90-degree able while keeping the foot on the same leg on the floor. 
  • Inhale, and lift your leg about a foot off the ground.
  • Hold for three seconds and slowly release. 
  • Repeat the exercise several times again for each leg.

Standing Quadriceps Stretch

  • Hold on to something at your level to balance
  • Grab your ankle with one hand and bend your foot toward your butt.
  • Try to maintain your position for 30 seconds
  • Repeat a few times per leg

Hamstring Curls

  • Lie flat on your stomach
  • Slowly lift your legs to bring your heels as close to your butt as possible
  • Hold!
  • Repeat these 15 times
  • You can add weights when you want!

Leg Extensions

  • Sit in a chair
  • Feet on the floor hip-width apart
  • Extend one leg as high as possible without moving your butt off the chair
  • Pause, then slowly lower.
  • Do repetitions 

Clamshells

  • Lie on your side with some head support
  • Bend your knees toward your chest
  • Lift your top knee, being careful not to roll
  • Pause, then slowly lower your knee back to place.
  • Do repetitions per side

You can also do clamshells up against a wall to prevent yourself from rolling

Hopefully, these exercises will help you get your knees more comfortable before starting your workouts.

Exercises to Lose Weight with Knee Pain

The key to exercising to lose weight with knee pain is to do something low impact. Simple movements are helpful.

Tai Chi

Tai Chi is gentle on the joints and consists mostly of fluid movements to also increase your strength and balance. You can still burn a couple of hundred calories in a half-hour or less without putting your body into overdrive. Tai Chi can also be done anywhere where you have enough room to move your arms and legs.

Yoga

The bending and stretching exercises can help impact your balance and core. Yoga also revolves around stress reduction and can be helpful for knee pain exercises as stress eating is often a cause of excessive weight. Yoga poses are usually quite simple and having a yoga routine can be meditative and peaceful.

Elliptical Machines

These machines are less impactful on your feet and knees than treadmills and offer a very simple workout. Ellipticals involve standing on platforms or pedals and let your knees continue having a natural range of motion. They can be found at the gym or purchased for your home.

Swimming

Underwater movements are definitely low impact. Swimming is great for weight loss and can burn a couple of hundred calories in a half or hour or less. Swimming can also be performed more vigorously without much risk of additional knee pain and can be quite relaxing. Kicking heavily is not advised until your initial knee pain subsides.

Cycling

Riding your bike, whether or stationary or on the road, can restore and maintain your knees range of motion, help you lose weight, and strengthen your knees all the same time. Cycling can also be done consistently to get you around town and get to work. A huge variety of bikes are available too, including very comfortable cruisers. Relax, work at your own pace, and wear a helmet!

Weight Lifting

Muscles and weight lifting can help your body burn calories and lose more weight faster, too. Using weight machines at the gym or just resistance bands can build your muscles. You’ll also build the ability to absorb shocks better and gradually lose weight since muscle weighs more than fat. Start small and learn your tolerance. 

Frequently Asked Questions about Bad Knees and Exercise

What is the Best Cardio Exercise for Bad Knees?

Walking

As easy as it sounds, walking at a brisk pace can make your heart work. You may want to wear extra comfortable shoes and find flat streets or places to walk at first until you are sure you can handle uphills and downhills. You can enjoy exploring your neighborhood and some low impact cardio at the same time. Many walkers do so while enjoying the sounds of nature and bringing headphones and music.

Swimming

Yes, swimming again! Both actually doing swimming laps, doing water aerobics, and using tools like water weights to increase your heart rate. Simple doing laps will keep your lungs, arms, legs and heart moving.

Circuit Training

Going to a gym (home or in-person) and doing multiple exercises in a row with a short break in between can keep your heart rate elevated. Do short bursts and keep moving.

Simple at Home Exercises

These exercises require next to no equipment and can be done easily at home.

Step Ups

  • Alternative stepping with your feet on a first stair or bench, this is like climbing stairs with less impact. 
  • Add weights to your hands or ankles to get your heart going.

Scissor Kicks

  • Lie on your back with your legs together and arms at your side.
  • Keeping your forearms flat on the ground, lift your legs six inches and your shoulders just a bit
  • Hold that position! Spread your legs apart, bring them back together and cross them over. 
  • Do this many times

Calf Raises

  • Stand up straight with your feet on a flat surface.
  • Lift your heels slowly then lower them.
  • Repeat!

Consider adding a chair for balance.

How Should I Exercise with Knee Pain?

Learn to measure your pre-workout and post-workout pain. You can use a one to five or one to ten system, whichever suits you.

Your level of pain should go up a little after exercise as your body adapts. Your pain levels should not, however, increase dramatically and make you very uncomfortable, or increase with time. Instead, one should expect to feel less pain over time.

If your knees hurt more after exercise, simply do less. Your pain could be your muscles and cartilage adapting and you shouldn’t stop that process. Just do less.

Should I Exercise if My Knee Hurts?

Not only can you exercise if your knees hurt, you probably should exercise if your knees hurt. A small amount of pain is common when people begin exercising, both at the very beginning of your workout or if you haven’t worked out in a while. The pain felt is often muscles and cartilage adapting to uncommon movements.

The above advice is especially true if you are middle-aged or older. Moving around a lot is essential at an older age to keep joints and muscles- and even your brain, active. 

Some Research

Research shows that both exercising lightly but frequently and exercising with an expert reduces pain. Exercising multiple times per week for six weeks results in up to 25% pain relief. Working under the supervision of a physiotherapist also helped many people who could learn to make finer movements and dare to try harder exercises, resulting in less pain.

Treatment

Use ibuprofen, Tylenol, or any pain reliever that works for you.

The RICE method also helps

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Compression (using a compression sleeve or something tight)
  • Elevation (keep your knee higher than normal)

A Final Word From Energetic Lifestyle

Exercising with knee pain doesn’t have to be hard. You might experience a small amount of pain at first, but the benefits will show themselves quickly through additional flexibility, balance, range of motion,  and of course less pain.

We hope you look forward to losing weight and having less knee pain. Once you start losing weight, your whole body should feel better, especially your knees and feet which bear the impact of weight. You’ll have more energy too without carrying around added pounds.

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Energetic Lifestyle Team

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