How to Lose Weight With a Bad Knee

How to Lose Weight With a Bad Knee

A bad knee can be a real pain… Literally. But just because you’re physically limited doesn’t mean you have to limit your physical fitness goals. Here’s how to lose weight with a bad knee…

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Four Easy Ways to Improve Your Diet

When you have a bad knee, your range of motion is limited. For this reason, it’s much easier to cut calories than it is to burn them off with rigorous exercise. Follow these four easy ways to clean up your diet:

1) Determine Your Daily Calorie Requirements

If you want to lose weight, you have to burn more calories than you ingest. Health experts maintain that one pound of fat equals approximately 3500 calories, which means a daily calorie deficit of 500 should yield about one pound of fat loss each week. But in order to create this deficit, you first have to determine how many calories your body actually needs each day.

Don’t worry – you don’t have to do the math yourself. Use a free online calculator or download a fitness app to help plan your goals and track your progress.

2) Make Smart Swaps

You don’t have to give up the all the foods you love in order to cut calories and drop weight. Sometimes, it’s as simple incorporating a healthy substitute! Here are just a few of the ways you can improve your diet with a smart swap:

  • Choose whole grain products over white bread
  • When baking, use egg whites instead of the whole egg
  • Substitute lean ground turkey for high-fat ground beef
  • Replace the mayo and cheese on your sandwich or salad with healthy, hearty avocado
  • Pick protein-rich Greek yogurt over the normal kind

3) Load up on Leafy Greens

Vegetables are generally low in calories, a healthy source of energy-boosting carbohydrates and contain tons of fiber. Adding fresh vegetables to your meals or eating them as healthy snacks is a sure way to keep your body nourished – and feeling fuller longer.

Load up on Leafy Greens

When it comes to selecting veggies, the general rule of thumb is this: the greener, the better! Spinach, kale, collard and lettuce are all great options.

4) Drink More Water

Water is essential to almost every essential function that your body performs – from blinking to breathing. So hydration is always important, but especially so when you’re trying to lose weight. Aim for 8-10 glasses of water each day to keep your body healthy and hydrated.

The Best Cardio Exercises for Bad Knees

Although diet is crucial to cutting weight, you can maximize your fat loss by incorporating a mix of cardiovascular and weight training exercises.

Of course, some forms of physical activity may not be appropriate for everyone… and the last thing you want to do is make your bad knee even worse. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so be sure to consult your physician before beginning a new exercise regimen.


To give you an idea of what your options may be, here are some low-impact cardio exercises that are generally recommended for those with knee injuries:

  1. Swimming – This is one of the best aerobic activities for someone with bad knees. It’s a low impact exercise – but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad workout! Swimming actually torches calories quickly. Just make sure to avoid pushing off the wall of the swimming pool at the beginning of each lap!
  2. Walking – While running (and even jogging) can put massive stress on your knees, walking is a great way to get up and get moving without all the pain. Plus, it’s an activity that’s easily accessible and free – you can do it outside just about any time the weather allows! For maximum safety and comfort, you may also want to consider investing in a good pair of tennis shoes with arch support and cushioning in the sole. This will help absorb more shock with every step – taking some of the impact off of your bad knee.
  3. Bicycling – Bicycling is another good exercise for bad knees because it’s not high-impact. It doesn’t require a lot of skill to get started – and it’s pretty versatile. You can use a traditional bicycle and wheel around town, or you can get your workout on a stationary bike at the gym.
  4. Elliptical trainer – This machine was designed to help you burn approximately the same number of calories you would on a treadmill – but without all the stress on your knees and joints. It’s sort of like running on air! You can even get more out of every elliptical session by increasing the machine’s resistance to make the workout harder. Just remember to listen to your body and be mindful of your bad knee: challenge yourself – but don’t overdo it.

Four Lower Body Exercises for Bad Knees

Cardio helps you burn calories, but weight training helps you build muscles in order to burn fat more effectively – even when you’re resting.

Even with bad knee, you’ll still be able to perform most upper body and core exercises as normal. However, working the lower body can be a bit more challenging. Here are four effective lower body exercises for bad knees:

  1. Half squat – Using the back of a chair for balance, stand with your feet hip width apart and toes facing forward. Bend over your hips and slowly yourself halfway down to the chair. Use your abdominal muscles for balance and don’t let your knees bend over your toes.
  2. Leg raises – Stand with your back against the wall. Sink into a half squat position. Slowly raise a single leg straight up – approximately a foot off the floor. Hold briefly, and then slowly lower it back down. Repeat with the other leg.
  3. Side-lying leg lifts – Lie down on your side, keeping your legs straight and stacked on top of each other. Extend your arm underneath of your head for support. Flex your top foot, keep your body straight and then slowly lift your top leg up to around shoulder height. Hold for a second and then slowly lower it back down. Repeat this exercise with the other leg, lying on the opposite side of your body. As you gain strength, you can add ankle weights or rest a free weight on your outer thigh to make this exercise more challenging.
  4. Calf raises – Again, you’ll need a chair or the wall for balance. Once you’re stable, stand with your feet hip width apart, toes facing forward. Lift your heels up off the floor until you’re up on your toes. Hold, and then slowly lower yourself back down.

Do three sets of each of the above exercise. Aim for 8-12 reps of each – but take breaks as needed to rest your knee.

Recap: Losing Weight With a Bad Knee

Weight loss typically demands some sort of physical exertion. So still wondering how to lose weight with a bad knee? Its pretty simple: eat better so you don’t have to pound high-impact cardio for hours at the gym.

But don’t think you get to skip exercise altogether: choose low-impact cardio exercises like swimming or walking. Lift weights as you normally would for the arms and core – but keep your bad knee at bay by following our recommendations for lower body exercises.

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14 thoughts on “How to Lose Weight With a Bad Knee

  1. Hi Chris!

    This post sure comes in handy for me. My knees has become quite weak due to many years of dancing and due to this, I sometimes keep gym sessions to give my knees a break. Thanks for the tips listed in your post, now I don’t have to worry about gaining extra pounds (given that I am able to keep to a cleaner diet!).

  2. Having no cartilage in my right knee, I was very impressed with your post regarding how to lose weight with a bad knee. I love your graphics, and your site is very easy to navigate. Your post kept my interest and did not exhibit too many external links. I wish you the best of luck and I am going to take your advice on exercising.

  3. Hey Chris.

    I recently injured my knee playing basketball and still not sure what exactly I did to it. But I will be sure to try and get to a gym so I can see how it does while swimming. But those are really quick and easy exercises that most can handle.


  4. I definitely have bad knees. In fact, I had surgery on my right knee (ACL). I found that barbell squats helped to eliminate pain. The quad muscles got stronger and was better able to stabilize the knee.

    Flexibility also improved. Just be careful with the weights though. Diet will definitely help too. Less weight means less pressure on the knees.

  5. Thank you for the information about how to cut down the calorie intake. I eat whole grains rather than white bread, but I also note that the wrong whole grains have a negative impact on my health.
    I guess it is because I stick closely to the Eat Right 4 Your Type regime, which is a program of eating based on your specific blood and geno type.
    My wife thrives on red meat, since her blood type responds well to it. Having a steak is like valium to her; if she is stressed, a good piece of rib eye or rump steak works wonders.

    Have you investigated this program? It may complement the goal of your website.

    Cheers, Duncan

    1. This made me laugh – “Having a steak is like valium to her”.

      Brilliant comment that cheered me up this morning! I have heard of Eat Right 4 Your Type but I haven’t tried it properly yet…which is why we have not included it on the site.

      You actually reminded me of it with this comment – something to look into this week I think!

      Cheers Duncan.

  6. Hi Chris
    Thank you for sharing such valuable information and thoughts about losing weight when having troubles in your knees. I have some different situation, I am getting old !, but you recommendation for losing weight still suitable and valid . Practising sport especially swimming seemed to be a wonderful solution, of course with the usual diet control and drinking lot of water.
    Again thank you for your post, always keep up your good work.

    1. Swimming is a great option for those who feel they are ‘getting on’ a bit in life. My dad is 72 and he swims in the local pool every morning. He only works out at it for about half an hour each session but it makes all the difference to him!

  7. I like how you have set this out and explained all the steps for somebody to lose weight if they have a bad knee as I would agree with the way that you go about it.

    Choosing better alternatives, getting leafy greens and making sure you are properly hydrated is the way to go. I like your choices of the cardio exercise as I would agree that low impact exercises like swimming and walking etc would be just the thing with somebody who has a bad knee.

    Depending on how bad the knee is, if they weren’t keen on swimming, they could do aqua aerobics as the weight of the water would help support them as they move through it.

    Getting them to do exercises for their knees is a great idea as I think where possible they should strengthen their knees as this would help in the rehabilitation process.

    Even if it’s a permanent injury suffered to the knee that rehab can’t fix, I think it’s still a good idea for that person to get some exercise for their knees.

    1. Hi Adrian,

      Well thanks for saying so mate – I LOVE it when people agree with what we’ve published (it’s one of those ‘big head’ moments LOL).

      Aqua aerobics is a really good shout instead of swimming – totally agree with that as well!

      Thanks for taking the time to read our work and leave such a positive comment beneath – great to meet you and hope to speak with you again! 🙂

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