5 Non-Running Cardio Workouts

It seems that knee pain and injuries are far more common than not these days and can easily interfere with your favorite activities and exercises. Maybe a 3-mile run was a no-brainer in your earlier years, but now with your constant knee pain, it can seem impossible. But don’t fear and don’t give up on cardio yet! Whether you’re recovering from a recent injury or dealing with chronic pain, running or jogging is typically not recommended, which is why we’ve come up with 5 alternative exercises for bad knees to still break a sweat while keeping your knees healthy. Just be sure to always check with your doctor and listen to your body.

1) Walking


If you can’t run, walk! Walking is one of the low-impact workouts out there, providing many of the cardiovascular health benefits of running without being so hard on your knees. In addition to helping you burn calories and benefit your heart, walking has also been shown to reduce your risk of high cholesterol, hypertension, and diabetes. Try for at least a 30-minute, moderate-paced walk three times a week. You can also incorporate light weights as you walk to continue to elevate your heart rate and build strength.

2) Swimming


When you’re looking for a non-running cardio workout that’s easy on your joints, head to the water! Swimming works for major muscle groups like your abdominal and glute while burning a ton of calories. A 155-pound person swimming freestyle for one hour will burn approximately 700 calories swimming at a fast pace and close to 500 calories at a slower pace — all while the water’s buoyancy takes the strain off your knees.

3) Elliptical


Elliptical machines are great for people who want a cardio workout that’s easy on their knees. The fact that your feet never leave the pedals means a fluid range of motion that’s vastly different from the hard striking of your foot on the pavement when you’re jogging or running. Use intervals on the elliptical to take your calorie burn up a notch — exert maximum effort for a few minutes, then return to more moderate intensity. Try our Kick-Butt Elliptical Workout for a great interval workout on the elliptical.

4) Yoga

If you don’t believe yoga can give you a good workout, you haven’t tried the right class! Try a vinyasa-style workout to still reap the benefits of cardiovascular exercise while also uniting your movement with your breath. Sun salutations, chair series, and warrior poses can all build strength in the body and once you start to flow, you’re heart will definitely be pumping. Plus, a limber, flexible body is more likely to avoid future injury than anything else. There are also Yoga Sculpt classes where free weights are utilized to give you an even more intense cardiovascular workout.

5) Cardio Kickboxing

You can’t deny that cardio kickboxing is fun — it gets your heart rate up, is often set to upbeat music and usually does wonders at blasting away any residual stress leftover from the day. It’s also fairly low-impact, without a ton of lunges or work on your knees. You’ll incorporate kickboxing moves like punches and jabs and utilize continuous movement to keep your heart rate up. Our Cardio Kickboxing class on getting Healthy U TV is one of our most popular ever—people of all fitness levels (bad knees or good!) love it for a low-impact cardio workout that doesn’t place undue stress on the joints.


The human body is designed in such a way that it can stay active in almost any form it is in. So even though a bad knee comes with some shortcomings, there is almost always an alternative out there to stay active.

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