How to Get a Pain-Free Burn: The Best Cardio for Bad Knees

Jessica Smith
by Jessica Smith
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In addition to walking, there are some great low impact, multi muscle moves that you can do that can are more gentle on your knee joints but still help you burn plenty of calories.

In this 10-minute workout video, I’ll show you simple ways to mix up your low impact, indoor cardio workout. The best part is that these exercises use minimal space and zero equipment (that’s right, no treadmill required!). I’ll also share one of my favorite moves to help strengthen the often neglected muscles in the shins that can help prevent the slips, trips and falls that begin to happen as we age.

Be sure to keep an eye out for my “workout” partner, my puppy Peanut in this vid! (Do you work out with your pets at home too?)

Looking for more low impact cardio options? Be sure to check out our professionally produced “Walk On” DVD series available on Amazon (with FREE U.S. shipping!) here.

Did you try the moves? Let me know which one was your favorite in the comments below!

Note: Not all exercises are suitable for everyone. If you are working with a specific knee injury, be sure to get your doctor and/or physical therapist’s approval before attempting this workout. If you suffer from knee pain regularly, be sure to consult a professional for an expert diagnosis.

About the Author

Jessica Smith
Jessica Smith

As someone who struggled to lose weight for years, Jessica found that the key to her own 40-pound weight loss was making small, healthy lifestyle changes that led to big, lasting results. Now, as a certified wellcoach, fitness instructor and personal trainer, she has spent the last 15 years helping students and clients reach their goals in New York City, Los Angeles and Miami. She now reaches millions online through her YouTube Channel and home exercise DVD series. Please visit to learn more about her fun, results-driven programs for all levels of exercisers.


32 responses to “How to Get a Pain-Free Burn: The Best Cardio for Bad Knees”

  1. Avatar Babs says:

    Done! Always great to see help for bad knees since most routines need modification. I’m recovery from foot surgery so I did my own version on the corner of the bed.

  2. Avatar sanegirl says:

    I’m disappointed. Cartilage problems in both knees from years of running won’t allow this kind of impact. What kind of bad knees could do this kind of exercise? They seem like the opposite of what folks with knee problems should be doing, according to the ortho. People with bad knees like me should swim or ride bikes. I was hoping for a cardio in-office workout done on our butts or backs to add to the swims, while saving our precious knees! Any impact or twisting of knees in not helpful.

    • Avatar Jack F. says:

      I have a bad knee as well however I, and as others in the comments have stated can do this workout. As Jessica states in her video, and description under her video (if looked at on YouTube) it’s not a workout for everyone.

    • Avatar Lisa says:

      I also have doubts but will give it a try in the pool

  3. Avatar kerry says:

    I have recently had knee surgery (ACL REVISION) 12 weeks ago .. and put on little weight so trying to loose it now but being careful with exercises. Just doing alot of walking at the min .Going to try this workout later . Will let you know how I get on xx

  4. Avatar Kellyann Allio says:

    I thought it was a great mini-workout! Thanks so much! My knees have given me problems for YEARS! Arthur-itis and I have become frenimies but this helps us not be so hateful of one another! 🙂

  5. Avatar kerry says:

    Well I done this workout with my bad knee after a operation few months ago and pleased to say it was great . Really pleased will be doing it more often

  6. Avatar bornbad says:

    I was born with bad knees, but was always very active as a child so I didn’t have problems with them while growing up. In my twenties my knees really began to bother me. I took feldene for the pain to the point that it was becoming dangerous to my health. All my friends said just take it easy and don’t stress your knees with too much exercise. I finally got fed up with the pain and medicine and went to an excellent orthopedic surgeon. He took one look at my knees and told my I had a serious problem with the way my knee caps did not align properly and the pain was coming from my tendons not being strong enough so the pain was being cause by lack of my tendons holding my knee caps in place. He totally advised exercise to remedy it! 40 years later my knees are fine as long as I exercise!!!! Like the Jessica says in her video…the workout is not for everyone. I literally know dozens of people that have undergone surgery and often wonder if they really tried to use exercise first. Just my two cents. And thanks Jessica for the video!

    • Avatar Hui Yin says:

      I am just like you, born with bad knees. Actually I have hypermobility in knees elbows wrists and shoulders. What sorts of exercises do you do that now you’re in less pain I assume?

  7. Avatar Animal lover says:

    I can’t help but notice Peanut chewing on the bone. Me thinks they are use to each other; as close as Jessica was, she never touched the pooch. LOL

  8. Avatar Strangeone says:

    My knees often hurt when I exercise, but they didn’t when I did these exercises. Thank you! But I’m curious what your cat was chewing on. It wasn’t a mouse, was it?

  9. Avatar Coach Levi says:

    My cardio options are limited, especially indoors. Treadmills and ellipticals aren’t my thing. Kinda like the Arc Trainer though. So far, so good at least.

  10. Avatar Kristine Gabster says:

    LOVE this video. Peanut is adorable. 🙂 I’m morbidly obese and have a probable MCL tear (no imaging yet) from an abnormally shaped something or other (I also have a bad memory). My belly gets in the way of the higher steps, but I can still lift them higher. And I go more slowly. One of the reasons I like this is that it can be modified easily.

  11. Avatar Margogirl says:

    This seems like a doable workout, but it makes me nervous because as I watch it I’m just waiting for you to step on the dog.

  12. Avatar Ladyshooter says:

    Hi, I tried these low impact exercises for people with bad knees, liked them a lot. I’m also overweight and mid 60’s. Is this 10 min workout for cardio with bad knees on a video disc? Thanks

  13. Avatar SuzOfTexas says:

    I have not had a drop of cartliage in either of my knees in 15+ years but I was able to do this exercise with no pain involved. So glad I found this. I had knee surgery at age 21 to move both knee caps over and tighten the tendons (caps had been popping out of joint for 6 years by that time). Had both knees done at same time so 2 legs in casts for 6 weeks and then braces for 8 more weeks. I refuse to undergo knee replacement at this time, so happy to find a cardio that can work for me in the wintertime when swimming is not an option. I felt no impact on these.

  14. Avatar Allypally says:

    I enjoyed it but wondered what, if any, was the number of calories burned

  15. Avatar Lupe Garcia says:

    Loved it. Guess what? I did it sitting down. Having sciatica problems right now so I can’t really walk or stand but I was able to feel my heart rate going up. I even did the leg moves. Gonna keep on doing it sitting down til I get my back injections. Thought it was cute with Peanut nearby. Thanks for the workout.

  16. Avatar bill says:

    Just what I was looking for. Going to do it during the commercials when I watch TV.

  17. Avatar Lori says:

    I have a bad ACL. If I would do this workout, I would be back in physical therapy in a heartbeat! About 75% of this would stretch out the ACL, and other parts would just put too much twisting/turning or pressure on the area. You have to keep the legs straight with a bad ACL. I go walking and jogging with not much trouble. But this would be terrible to recommend to anyone with knee problems! If your knees aren’t bad enough yet, this will surely do the trick.

  18. Avatar Laineyc says:

    I have just recently joined my fitness pal and I have a back and knee problem but I have done my ironing today which makes my back ache but you got to make an effort right. Then I had a go at this video and thought it was brilliant and my knees not aching. Just wondering how many calories thus will burn?any ideas

  19. Avatar Lucy says:

    I do these and more every day now. Thank you.

  20. Avatar Jenny says:

    I just saw this in a MyFitnessPal email, and it was great! Thank you!

  21. Avatar Healthy Recovery says:

    I had stomach surgery in April first time doing exercise since then, really felt good. To you for sharing with us

  22. Avatar Ana says:

    I loved this!

  23. Avatar Ellen Gross says:

    I have one bad knee and also bursitis in both hips. I was able to do the modified jumping jacks! Thank you for this exercise!

  24. Avatar polly says:

    Great workout. I just retired, after 20 years of being on my feet full time andneeding to keep active. I also have a prolapsed bladder that keeps me from doing stenuous jumping etc. Doctors orders. He said walk. I did the bad knees and the 1 mile and the low impact hiit. I sweat but my knees do not hurt. My husband does the stationery bike but even at the closest setting, it hurts my right knee. These are great and Jessica is so sweet and kind

  25. Avatar Lucy says:

    The exercises are suitable for me, my knees, and age. Anyone have an idea how many calories this 10 minutes burns?

  26. Avatar TheBangingMan says:

    Is Peanut Dead?

  27. Avatar Beatriz says:

    OMG Jessica, you talk too much! A little more action, less talk please

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