Low-Impact Exercise

Because the knee supports most of our body weight, it is one of the most important—and problematic—joints we possess. Knee injuries are common in both professional and amateur athletes, and few of us escape the more mundane wear and tear associated with everyday use. Unfortunately, those who are most committed to their overall health may have the hardest time avoiding injury; many forms of physical activity—particularly those that involve running or jumping—can result in both acute and chronic knee problems. Regardless of the current state of your knees, it is therefore a good idea to incorporate low-impact exercises into your fitness regimen, so consider taking up one of the following activities.

Swimming/Water Exercises

If you have easy access to a pool, it’s hard to go wrong with swimming. Unlike some low-impact activities, swimming involves your entire body, so you can work on toning your legs, arms and core all at once. Depending on the stroke you use, it can also really get your heart pounding, so you can work on building stamina—and burning calories, if weight loss is your goal. Best of all, it puts virtually no strain on your knees while still offering substantial resistance; for this reason, doing something as simple as walking in water can provide a good workout.

Walking

Of course, if you can’t make it to a swimming pool, you can always walk on land. We tend to dismiss walking as a form of exercise because it’s something we do everyday anyway, but a brisk walk is nearly as effective as a jog at burning calories, and it puts much less strain on your knees. Besides, you can easily transform a fitness-inspired walk into a fun activity by listening to music or bringing along a friend.

Bodyweight Training

This has to be done carefully if you want to keep the exercise low-impact, but most moves can be modified in ways that will reduce the strain on your knees. Moreover, you’ll quickly find that bodyweight training can dramatically increase the strength of your leg muscles, which will in turn take some of the pressure off of your knees.

Belly Dance

For those who prefer their exercise to be an art form but want to avoid the pounding the knees are subjected to in something like ballet, belly dancing is a great option. Nearly everything in belly dance is done with slightly bent knees, and the movement is centered in the hips, stomach and chest. It provides a more stationary workout than other forms of dance, but it will give you killer abs and, depending on the tempo of the music, can get your blood pounding pretty effectively.

Biking

Biking obviously requires some knee movement, but because you are more or less seated, you should find that the strain put on your knees is minimal. Besides, like strength training, biking will allow you to build up the muscles in your lower body, which should help prevent knee problems in the future.

Rowing

Although rowing, again, involves moving your knees, it is your upper body that will be doing most of the work. Think of it as the opposite of running; both are great cardiovascular workouts, but rowing involves propelling yourself forward with your arms and torso rather than your legs. Don’t worry if you’re a landlubber, either; most gyms now have exercise machines that allow you to mimic the motions of rowing a boat.