Will osteoarthritis in my knees affect my cardio workout?

David Hogarth
Physical Therapy Specialist

Yes, unfortunately it can. You are in a difficult situation when you would like to lose some weight for health and but osteoarthritis in the knees makes it hard to do traditional cardio. Losing weight would help the knees but the knees make hinder common means of calorie burning like walking or jogging.

You have to get creative with your “cardio” workout in order to protect your knees. Sometimes it is as easy as switching from walking to bicycle or swimming. Other times the knees demand a little more attention. Remember that you can raise your heart rate in other ways. Circuit training with multi-joint resistance exercises and minimal rest periods for instance can still elevate the heart rate within a target range. Appropriately chosen exercises can minimize the stress on the knees.

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner
Depending on the type of exercise you do, osteoarthritis in your knees may affect your cardio workout. Running and high-impact aerobics will put too much stress on the joints and can worsen osteoarthritis. Walking, bicycling and swimming are examples of low-impact activities that also provide an excellent cardio workout, and actually may alleviate some of the symptoms of osteoarthritis in the knees. 
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Exercise is one of the best forms of medicine for osteoarthritis. But if the condition has left your knees achy and stiff, then it may be time to rethink your cardio workout. If you currently jog or run on a treadmill to rev up your heart and burn calories, for instance, you may be worsening the damage your knees have already sustained.

Think about switching to a low-impact exercise such as swimming, cycling or walking. Whatever you choose, be sure to include plenty of stretching exercises before and after you work out, which will improve your joints' range of motion.

Osteoarthritis is a condition in which the cartilage is beginning to fray or thin out usually due to some sort of trauma or injury. This usually occurs in the joints which support most of the weight such as the hips, knees, and spine. It is important to note that knee injuries in which there is damage to ligaments or tendons increases the chance of getting osteoarthritis later in life. If you have any form of arthritis, you should seek the advice of your doctor before beginning any sort of exercise program. In many cases, this condition will affect exercise. Increased range of motion, impact, heavy lifting, high repetitions, and long exercise sessions could increase pain and discomfort. You may need to begin with just a few minutes of cardio activity and use pain and discomfort as your guide to vary your duration and intensity. You may also need to perform several shorter duration periods of activity to reach your cardio goals. If your goal is to achieve 30 minutes of moderate activity per day and this proves too much for your knees, try three sessions of 10 minutes each. Studies show this is just as beneficial as performing the cardio all at one time.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.