"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

The best forms of exercise when you may have hip or knee pain

Here are joint-friendly moves and machines to maintain you lively and protected despite joint pain.

Hip or knee pain makes every little thing difficult, especially exercise. How do you have to exercise when it hurts to bend or strain your joints?

Joint-friendly exercise machines.

Many exercise machines are gentle in your joints and supply an excellent cardio workout while strengthening your muscles, improving endurance, and increasing range of motion.

An elliptical trainer. The machine has pedals that move along an elliptical track (either forwards and backwards or up and down), making a fluid motion that keeps you from hitting the bottom and stressing your joints. Most elliptical trainers even have handles or poles that you simply move forwards and backwards for an upper-body workout (like a cross-country ski machine). “You need good balance to use an elliptical machine. If it's safe for you to use it, occasionally move the pedals backwards to challenge your muscles and create even more balance. Try it,” advises Daryanani.

A stationary bike. A stationary bike (also called an indoor cycling machine) consists of bicycle pedals and a back seat. The machines are available two styles: upright (like an everyday bicycle) or recumbent (with back support). “If you use an upright bike, don't stand up and pedal; that can put extra stress on your joints,” says Dariani.

Rowing machine. A rowing machine has a seat that slides forwards and backwards on a straight track, and a horizontal bar that you simply pull toward you. While seated, you place your feet on the footpads, pull on the bar, and propel yourself backward, mimicking a rowing boat with little impact on the joints. “The hard part about using a rowing machine is that it's low to the ground. Make sure you can get off it and that you'll be able to stand back up,” advises Drianani.

It doesn't matter which of those machines you utilize: “Start with a few minutes and the lowest amount of resistance, gradually increasing your time. Time,” advises Dariani.

Stretching to alleviate hip or knee pain


Standing Quadriceps Stretch: Stand up straight, feet together, holding the back of a chair. Bend your right knee, grab your right foot, and pull it behind you, toward your hips, until you are feeling a stretch within the front of your thigh. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds, then repeat with the opposite leg.


Pretzel Stretch: Lie in your back together with your left knee bent and your left foot flat on the ground. Rest your right ankle in your left leg near your left knee. Your right knee should point to the side. Grasp the back of your left thigh with each hands and slowly pull it toward you until you are feeling a stretch in your right hip and buttocks. Pause for a number of moments, then repeat the exercise with the alternative leg.

Exercise photos by Michael Carroll

Low impact exercises.

Plenty of low-impact exercises can provide a superb cardio workout and strengthen muscles without stressing your joints.

Pool exercises. These include swimming laps, water aerobics, or walking in waist-deep water. Water keeps you in good spirits, relieves stress in your joints, and provides resistance (which helps strengthen muscles and bones). Exercising in water can be safer for balance and mobility, as there isn't any risk of falling.

“You're free to do as much in the water as you do on land. But be careful and don't necessarily try the same type of exercise outside the pool,” says Drianani.

Short brisk walk. Unlike long walks, short walks avoid more stress on the joints. “If you can go outside for five, 10, or 15 minutes a few times a day, it adds up,” Dariani says. In terms of aerobic health advantages, three 10-minute walks a day are comparable to one 30-minute walk and are easier in your joints. When walking, wear comfortable walking shoes with good support. “And stay away from tree roots or anything that could cause you to lose your balance,” Dariani says.

Tai Chi. It's not a low-impact martial art cardio workout, however it has many advantages. It involves a series of slow, choreographed movements. As you concentrate on physical sensations and deep respiratory, you slowly shift your weight from one pose to a different. Tai Chi has been shown to enhance balance, flexibility, range of motion, and reflexes. It has also been shown to cut back falls by as much as 60%. “Tai chi will help you function better, especially with hip or knee pain,” says Dariani. “But if moving into a pose hurts, don't force it.”

Make it work

Before starting any of those exercises, get the OK out of your doctor or physical therapist. And don't worry about immediately meeting the usual goal of no less than 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week. Any amount of exercise will help.

“If you're starting from zero and you do one minute, that's progress; and then a minute and a half, and then two minutes. Keep increasing the time,” Dariani says.

Photo: © kali9/Getty Images