In addition to specific stretching and strengthening exercises, most people with knee arthritis will benefit from a regular routine of low-impact aerobic exercise.
Most medical experts recommend an aerobic conditioning program that is tailored to the individual’s situation, including his or her level of arthritis pain and fitness level.
Aerobic Exercise for Mild Knee Arthritis
Those with milder knee symptoms may consider low-impact activities such as walking, biking, or swimming.
- Elliptical machine. This exercise is ideal for many with knee arthritis, because it is a weight-bearing activity (which strengthens bones), but is not high impact on the knees (like jogging).
- Stationary biking. Biking, stationary biking, or spinning classes provide an aerobic workout without jarring the knees. To reduce strain on the knees, adjust the pedals so that the knees do not come up to an angle of greater than 90 degrees.
- Treadmills. While walking on a treadmill is higher impact than the above two options, for some people it is a tolerable form of aerobic activity. Adjusting the treadmill to an incline will provide an additional aerobic challenge.
Others may prefer golf, yoga, pilates, or other exercise programs that include aerobic benefits. As a general rule, patients should engage in a routine that they enjoy, as this is something they are more likely to continue with.
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Aerobic Exercise for Advanced Knee Arthritis
Patients with more advanced symptoms may find the above options too challenging to start with. For most, water therapy (pool therapy) is tolerable, affording aerobic health benefits without placing pressure on the knees.
Exercising while in the water provides several advantages, including:
- Buoyancy, with the support of the water reducing pressure on the knee joints
- Resistance, requiring muscles to work harder to move (e.g. walking in waist-deep water is more difficult than walking on land).
This combination of buoyancy and resistance is excellent for knee arthritis sufferers who need to engage in aerobic activity. Many local YMCAs and health clubs have pools and offer water exercise classes designed for people looking for a low-impact workout.
It is best to gradually increase the intensity of the aerobic workout, ideally in concert with recommendations from a physician or other qualified health professional.
The goal is to incorporate low impact aerobic exercise into one’s daily routine. The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity each week, or 30 minutes 5 days per week. Individuals who can easily meet this goal can then increase the level of intensity of their workout.