I recently got into a car wreck which damaged my knee. I can walk around and such, but it's really disrupted my routine of running or getting on a treadmill.

Are there any good cardio workouts that I can do which will not put too much stress on my knee? I was thinking that maybe bicycling would be okay, but I haven't tested it yet.

I'm definitely interested in cardio, not weight lifting.

  • 1
    @ Jeff You might want to check with your Orthopedist first and foremost. You can then try to find a PT (physical therapist) to see if he/she can give you some advice in person after a thorough evaluation. You can give a stationary bike a try first, but I think it's a good idea to find out what is causing the problems prior to trying out anything else just to be safe. Good luck!
    – QikMood
    Apr 3, 2013 at 23:46
  • The problem with medical question is always that the OP has a question specific to his situation. In the best case he might talk to his MD, too, and accept the answer that comes closest to this. However the next person, who checks for the same thing - but has a completely different issue - does the exercises recommended in the accepted answer and wrecks himself. Remember, StackExchange is thought not to answer personal problems (aka too localized) but problems that are applicable to a wider audience.
    – Baarn
    Apr 4, 2013 at 11:21
  • 1
    @Informaficker My apologies. I didn't think it was that specific a question. I'm looking for cardio workouts that don't stress the knees in any way. Other people might as well. It's not really that localized.
    – asteri
    Apr 4, 2013 at 13:28
  • Maybe it would be enough to remove the self-diagnosis part from the question. Asking for low-intensity workouts for specific body parts are OK I guess.
    – Baarn
    Apr 4, 2013 at 13:31
  • I changed your question according to your comments and my own suggestion, feel free to revert the changes or edit it again.
    – Baarn
    Apr 4, 2013 at 13:34

3 Answers 3


In short, the answer is no, there aren't really any good cardio exercises that are upper body only and don't involve the legs without the knees.

To understand, you need to know the structure of the knee, but suffice to say that there are tendons that go through the knee area and encapsulate the patella (kneecap) and there are ligaments that hold the knee together. (Tendons connect muscle to bone, ligaments connect bone to bone).

Pretty much any exercise (including swimming, unless you are doing strictly pull work) is going to bend the knee to some extent and involve the muscles of the upper leg, which will in turn place stress on the knee.

I would go to an orthopedist, and a physical therapist and figure out what is damaged and causing the pain, fix that, and then get back to working out regularly.

  • @ JohnP + 1 This is by far the best advice.
    – QikMood
    Apr 5, 2013 at 0:10

It should go without saying: consult your doctor and physical therapist.

That being said, you should make a point to avoid high-impact activities which aggravate your knee. These can vary depending on your injury, but are typically exercises like running, stairs, squats, deep lunges, and box jumps.

For doing cardio you want to keep it low-impact, and to stop immediately if you feel discomfort or pain. The most recommended low-impact cardio exercises for your situation are:

  • Swimming
  • Stationary Bike
  • Elliptical (you mentioned having an issue here, so I'd avoid it)

As someone who is currently recovering from knee issues, I prefer swimming as it never aggravates my knee and is an especially good cardio exercise.

  • 2
    @ Mosses I wouldn't recommend swimming if someone might have a meniscal injury or an ACL instability. You just never know! Also, meniscal injury and riding the bike can be bad if it is torn in the posterior horn. Are you willing to give this recommendation on your liability?
    – QikMood
    Apr 4, 2013 at 3:55
  • Interesting, thanks for the answer. I haven't actually tried the elliptical yet, I just assumed that it would put stress on the knee. But running/treadmill definitely did.
    – asteri
    Apr 4, 2013 at 13:29
  • 1
    @GetFitChimp it is precisely for the reason that we don't know that we must recommend these things. Specifically, all we have to go on is that Jeff needs low-impact knee exercises, and the ones I recommend all fulfill that request. Are there exercises that might aggravate Jeff's specific problem? Perhaps, but all we can do is give him possibilities, advise strongly to see a doctor, and tell him to stop immediately if the exercise does aggravate the injury. Ideally, Jeff will take this list of exercises with him to the doctor and get clearance on which would be best for his specific injury.
    – Moses
    Apr 4, 2013 at 13:59
  • @ Mosses I understand your kindness, and we all appreciate that. However, it is precisely for the reason that we don't know that we must not recommend these things because we are not medical professionals. By the way, what do you think his doctor will tell him when he dicided to show up for an appointment saying, "Some guy on the internet told me to try these activities," and only to find out that he indeed might have had something contraindicated for those activities?
    – QikMood
    Apr 4, 2013 at 15:45
  • @GetFitChimp If Jeff chooses not to heed my doctor warning, then that is his decision to make. Life is all about risk analysis; even jumping during basketball can cause massive injury. But by not giving him any advice for fear that he might hurt himself, you end up with scenarios where Jeff simply continues with exercises he already knows--like running--which are definitively Bad Exercises. I'm not saying my exercises will be perfect, but they are far less likely to exacerbate an injury, and they allow Jeff to have a more informed conversation with his doctor when discussing rehab exercise.
    – Moses
    Apr 4, 2013 at 16:01

I'm going to keep this answer short and sweet: Rowing Machine. Focus on using your biceps and back to perform the row rather than pushing with your legs, and voila!

or an actual canoe/kayak on an actual body of water, that would work as well.

  • 3
    not to be argumentative, but I find that rowing machines aggravate my knee. maybe this isn't a common experience.
    – DavidR
    Apr 4, 2013 at 18:12
  • but canoeing / kayaking may be a good idea
    – DavidR
    Apr 4, 2013 at 18:18
  • @DavidR I get knee aggravation with a lot of rowing as well.
    – Daniel
    Apr 4, 2013 at 20:32
  • @DavidR Rowing machines do because it requires your knees to bend and push out as you extend the row. Canoes are fine, though very impractical.
    – Moses
    Apr 5, 2013 at 4:25
  • 1
    sure. unless you lived w/in 15 minutes of a body of water, it wouldn't work out for regular exercise.
    – DavidR
    Apr 5, 2013 at 13:24

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