Centr HILIT trainer Alexz Parvi, wearing activewear, doing a cardio workout at home that is suitable
Centr Team

5 of the best cardio workouts for bad knees

Centr Team

Trying to find workouts for bad knees can feel like a vicious cycle: you know you need to exercise to reduce the stress on your knees, but bad knees prevent you from exercising.

Finding good cardio for bad knees can be particularly tough, as it usually seems like there’s a whole lot of jumping and jarring that your knees just won’t be happy about!

But there is a way. Centr makes cardio workouts easily accessible with low-impact training styles and specialist workout programs including low-impact modifications.

Find all the low-impact cardio workouts you need when you start your free trial with Centr.

Read on and we’ll show you how you can get moving without an irritating pain flare-up.

Can you lose weight with bad knees?

It’s important to remember that exercise is only one factor when it comes to weight loss.

Ultimately, the equation comes down to calories in vs calories out: you need to burn off more calories than you consume via eating and drinking in order to lose weight. This is called being in a calorie deficit.

Luke Zocchi and Alexz Parvi, both smiling, stand with their hands raised in a boxing stance.

Luke and Alexz can help you to burn fat, get stronger and tone all over with Centr Unlimited, the 6-week program with low-impact modifications for every exercise.

Nutrition has a big role to play in weight loss, as do everyday functions like regular movement and simply existing (all the processes happening inside your body are responsible for 60–70% of the calories you burn every day). Of course, adding exercise into the equation will make a positive contribution to achieving that calorie deficit.

While the kind of exercise often recommended to assist weight loss is high-impact cardio, it’s possible to lose weight with low-impact exercise (or no exercise at all!) If you’re looking for a form of exercise that can burn as many calories as a high-impact cardio session, without the knee pain, high-intensity, low-impact training (HILIT) can be just as effective.

Let’s take a closer look at HILIT and other styles of training that can help get you and your knees back into the exercise game.

5 of the best cardio workouts for bad knees

The best exercise for bad knees will differ depending on your particular pain points and what’s most accessible and sustainable for you. Let’s take a look at some of the most common recommendations.

1. Swimming

Could the best cardio exercise options for people with bad knees be in the pool?

There’s a reason swimming is often prescribed as rehabilitation after an injury: it’s low impact and works major muscle groups. Lap swimming will deliver a great full-body cardio workout.

Any stroke will lift your heart rate, but you may find the straight-leg kicks of freestyle or backstroke more comfortable for your knees than the frog kicks required for breaststroke.

The other benefit of swimming is that while the buoyancy of water takes the stress off your knees, it also provides resistance which means the muscles around your knees will be working harder and building strength.

The one drawback may be finding access to a pool – we don’t all have one in the backyard and some places may only offer seasonal access.


To really get your heart rate up and maximize fat burn, you can’t go past HILIT – high-intensity low-impact training.

This style of training involves short bursts of movement at maximum intensity, followed by a short period of rest.

Because you’re training at your highest intensity, it only takes 20-30 minutes to deliver an effective cardio workout. And with exercises covering all planes and ranges of motion, you’ll work the whole body.

Centr trainer Alexz Parvi, wearing activewear and smiling, sits on the floor and performs a C-shape press exercise from her low-impact workouts.

Bring the burn (without the knee pain) with Alexz Parvi’s HILIT (high-intensity low-impact) workouts on Centr.

A HILIT workout designed by an accredited trainer – like Alexz Parvi’s Bodyweight HILIT sessions on Centr – will ensure you get the maximum benefit from your time on the workout mat.

As well as being a big fat burner, HILIT will help to build cardio and muscular endurance, tone and define your body, and strengthen your posterior chain to further support your knee joints.

3. Walking

It’s free, it’s easy and walking consistently at a moderate-to-brisk pace will deliver a good cardio workout. Wear a comfortable and supportive pair of sneakers to decrease the load on your knees, and find an even walking surface.

Depending on the type and level of your knee pain, walking may not be low-impact enough – and you certainly shouldn’t overdo it. However, you may find that your knees feel better when walking, as the exercise will lubricate the joints, reduce stiffness and increase your range of motion.

4. Cycling

What’s the best cardio machine for bad knees? Cycling on a stationary bike is a low-impact cardio classic.

As you’re pushing those pedals to get your heart rate up, your quads, hamstrings and glutes will also be getting a workout – the stronger they are, the more they’ll protect and support your knee joints.

If you are cycling outdoors on a regular bicycle, stick to flat terrain in order to minimize potential knee impact.

5. Functional training

Knee pain can be caused, or aggravated, by bad movement patterns.

For instance, tight or weak hips and glutes can refer pain down to your knee. That’s where functional training comes in. Incorporating foundational movement patterns (such as crawling and squatting) into your workouts can retrain your body to move as nature intended.

Centr trainer Joseph ‘Da Rulk’ Sakoda, wearing gray and looking directly into the camera with an intense expression, demonstrates a bear crawl exercise.

Da Rulk’s Functional Training workouts feature low-impact modifications to protect your knees while you improve your mobility.

Chris Hemsworth swears by functional training to maintain mobility when adding muscle, and his functional trainer Da Rulk will help you do exactly the same by improving joint mobility.

His Centr workouts include low-impact modifications, removing the explosive element from exercises while keeping you moving to maximize mobility, strength and cardio benefits.

Want more low-impact workout advice?

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