If you have a sports injury or suffer knee pain, you can’t realistically pound the pavement, join your mates on the footy field or play a round of tennis – therefore running and jogging are out for a while. And even though a run or a jog may be terrific for cardiovascular fitness, they aren’t the only exercises that can get the heart racing…
The following work-outs are much gentler on your joints, while still making you get all hot and sweaty. If you do have knee or other injuries, be sure to get the all-clear from your doctor or health specialist before doing any type of exercise. And stop your work-out if you are feeling any joint pain.
I’m not talking about going 10 rounds in a boxing ring, but rather donning a pair of boxing gloves and punching a bag or someone holding pads. As boxing is a full-body movement, each time you throw a punch a large number of your body’s muscles contract at the same time, making your heart and lungs work overtime to pump oxygenated blood all around your body. Even just a few minutes of punching, interspersed with jabs, feints, and bobs and weaves, and you’ll be panting like you’ve just run a marathon. Aim for 30 minutes for a good cardio work-out. Consider joining a class at your local gym.
If you can’t run, then…um…walk! It’s low-impact, so shouldn’t be too hard on the knees, and it’s great for maintaining your heart fitness. Add a few hills into the equation and it won’t be long before you begin breathing heavily. Start with a 30-minute walk, building up to an hour. And consider carrying some hand weights to really get your heart pounding.
This is a great work-out for those suffering knee pain as it’s not a weight-bearing exercise that puts stress on the joints. The added bonus is that it strengthens your bones and muscles surrounding your joints, making it beneficial whether or not you are only doing it while you rehabilitate. To maintain a good cardio level of fitness, swim for at least 150 minutes minutes a week – this can be broken up into 30-minute chunks, if you like.
Most people think of yoga as sitting around and doing a few bendy stretches. Not so! It’s actually quite a physically intense work-out that can, in fact, increase your heart rate. Now, I have to say that different forms of yoga impact the heart in different ways, however they all involve deep and varied breathing and holding all kinds of poses, which improves nerve supply to the heart and arteries. To get a proper ‘cardio’ work-out, ensure the poses are moderate-to-high intensity and your class goes for an hour. And remember to tell your yoga instructor about any knee or other injuries before starting the class so they can give you alternative exercises where necessary. For inspiration, take a look at this article on Strength Yoga For Athletes.
5. Cardio machines
There are a couple of machines than can get your heart really pumping without putting too much strain on your knee joints – the Elliptical Trainer (or Cross-trainer) and the Cybex ARC Trainer. The Elliptical has long been used to simulate stair climbing, walking and running without causing excessive pressure on the joints, therefore decreasing the risk of impact injuries. Studies have found the rate at which kilojoules are burned on an Elliptical is similar to that on a treadmill. The newer ARC Trainer is reported to burn 16 per cent more kilojoules than an Elliptical and, as the legs travel in a biomechanically correct path of motion, there is less stress on the knees and more activation of the glutes and hamstrings. Keep the resistance under 70 (on the scale of 0-100) for greater ease on the knees. Work-out for an hour at least three times a week.
Kayaking is one of those rare upper-body cardio exercises. While paddling, your lats and shoulders are constantly in motion, and your legs, while not doing a lot of weight-bearing, are being used for stability. If you live near a harbour, lake or river, look to hire a kayak if you don’t have your own and spend about 30 minutes paddling.
If you’re not used to the sport, then you may find this sport quite challenging at first as you work the various muscles of your upper body. As you get stronger, try completing 5-10 25-metre sprints with a small rest period in between them. Grab a friend and make it fun – it will soon become addictive!
Burpees are not everyone’s favourite exercise, but they do get you huffing and puffing, making them an ideal cardio work-out. If you have knee pain, you can always modify them a little, while still reaping the benefits. Instead of squatting right down, just bend the knees enough so you can put your hands on the floor and there won’t as much compression on the joints. You can also avoid the jump at the end and simply stand. Aim for 10 at first and work your way up to 30 as your fitness improves. Read more about how to do burpees – and learn to love them! – here.
8. Medicine ball slams
These days you can pick up medicine balls quite easily at sports and variety stores including Rebel and even K-Mart. Choose a fairly heavy ball (around 10kg).
To ‘slam’ it, stand with feet your feet slightly wider than your hips and your toes turned out.
Holding the ball above your head (or at chest height, if you’re just starting out) in both hands, slam it down to the floor, bending your knees slightly to assist (but not over the top of your toes). Catch the ball again just under your chin (it will hurt like crazy if it contacts your face!) and repeat straightaway. Build up to 30 slams as you feel your heart slamming against your chest and you release any frustrations about that knee injury.