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Alternatives to running for people with knee pain

Alternatives to running for people with knee pain

Running is a great form of cardiovascular exercise that can help you improve bone density, muscular strength and endurance, and lung and heart efficiency. However, running can come with its drawback for those who suffer from knee pain due to its repetitive high impact nature. This begs the question for those who are battling knee pain,

“What are some other good cardiovascular exercises that won’t aggravate knee pain?”


Cycling is a great option for runners with knee pain. It still provides a great cardiovascular challenge and works many of the same leg muscles used for running but with much less impact on your joints. It also has the added benefit of being able to explore new areas and enjoy some scenery. If you don’t have a bike, you can always go to the gym and take a spin on the stationary bike.


Swimming is another fantastic cardiovascular exercise that challenges muscles all throughout the body but with no impact on the joints! Swimming is also great for improving lung capacity due to having to hold your breath repeatedly. With a variety of strokes to choose from you can vary your workouts to keep from falling into a stale routine. It may be a bit scary starting a swimming routine but there are many great group classes or private coaches to help get you started and improve your form.


Yoga is a good form of exercise that may not seem as much of a cardiovascular challenge but being able to move between positions and hold poses for long periods is a great way to build up muscular endurance. The impact is kept to a minimum with yoga and also helps stretch out tight muscles. Yoga can also be very relaxing and mentally refreshing once you learn some routines and get used to different positions. Like swimming, yoga has a great variety of poses to choose from so you can switch things up if you start getting tired of old routines.

The rowing machine

The rowing machine is another alternative to running that provides a great full body workout with less impact on the joints than running. The resistance provides a great challenge for building both strength and endurance while pushing with your legs and pulling with your arms and back while your core helps stabilize between the two. The only drawback to rowing machines is the requirement to have access to the machine which can be expensive and is not carried by all gyms.

These are just a few of the more common alternatives you can use while taking a rest from pounding the pavement to save your knees some pain. Even if you don’t have knee pain with running, these are also great options to vary up your training and challenge your muscles in a new way. If you have any questions about starting a new exercise program, contact us to set up a free consultation with one of our expert physical therapists!

Let’s get moving! See a PT at CBPT for even more functional, personalized exercise ideas.

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Robbie Grant, PT, DPT
Robbie loves watching movies and playing board games, especially with trivia. He has loved sports his entire life, both playing and watching. His favorite sports to watch are hockey and football, with soccer and ultimate Frisbee as his favorite sports to play. Robbie also participates in triathlons and aims to finish an Ironman in the future.
Robbie Grant, PT, DPT

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