You're asking and I'm answering . . .
"I have two problematic knees. Right now I'm trying to get in shape and lose some weight, and I know that cardio is necessary to achieve my goals. I signed up for a varied workout class that runs three nights a week: one day of step aerobics, one day of weight sculpting, and one day of Pilates and/or yoga. I really want to stick with this routine, but I'm worried that the step aerobics and some of the weight training is too hard on my knees. Am I doing more harm than good? And if so, can you recommend some knee-friendly cardio I can do instead?"
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Great question and trust me you are not alone here. A lot of us face the issue of exercising with bad knees so I know it's not fun. Fortunately there are a lot of great cardio activities you can do that are safe for your knees and great calorie burners. Such as:
- Swimming: Swimming is a great low impact activity and you can put a buoy between your legs to make sure you use them to kick. Omit the push-off on the wall to protect your knees. Check out all my great swimming programs.
- Upper Body Ergometer: It's a piece of equipment that some gyms have that looks kind of like pedals for your hands. Try doing 30 minutes alternating pedaling forward and backward every few minutes.
- Kranking: Kranking is basically a high energy upper body ergometer group class that is popping up nationwide. Look for it in gyms near you.
- Kayaking: If you're near a place where it's warm enough to do it, kayaking is a great upper body workout that is easy on the lower body. Even those without bad knees, such as Kirsten Dunst, like to get a good workout from kayaking.
- Rowing Machine: This is a great option for building up lower body strength (or a good stepping stone to high impact activities). Almost every gym has a rowing machine and they're usually open, so try it out.
- Stationary Bike: Stationary bikes are very low impact and many people with knee problems love to get their cardio this way — I'd stick with the recumbent bike as it puts the least amount of stress on your legs.
- Elliptical: The elliptical is a relatively low impact form of cardio (compared to running and step) that a lot of people with bad knees enjoy.