Help! I want to exercise but I have knee & back problems!

I had a great question on a previous post and felt it was worth addressing in a post all it’s own.

Exercise is good for EVERYONE – yes, everyone.  Even the elderly and injured.  The question is – what kind?  Some moves are dangerous and should be avoided while others are beneficial and can actually increase the strength, range of motion and flexibility of your trouble area.

Many people have trouble with their knees & back and it is important to choose a workout program that you can modify to prevent injury. High-impact exercises are not ideal.  Running can be hard on even the most athletic folks.

Here’s a site that has some good examples:  Exercise for Knee/Back Problems

Especially if you are new to exercise, slower movements tend to allow you more control over your body so that you don’t wrench a weak area too quickly. Both cardiovascular and strength/resistance training are important when trying to lose weight or improve fitness.  Often overlooked, resistance exercise is especially important as we get older since we start losing muscle in our 30′s! Muscle requires more energy (calories) than fat and so building it will not only helps you lose more weight but also allow you a higher calorie budget. (Yes, I would like to be able to eat more food, please!)

The right kind of resistance training will not only help build muscle but can also raise your heart rate and give you a “cardio effect” similar to jogging or other aerobic exercise that would otherwise be dangerous to weak joints or an injured back.

Pilates, Yoga and Weight lifting are great ways to build muscle, improve flexibility and the right programs will have slower movements and examples of modifications for those who need to avoid high-impact activities.  Also, these don’t require too much space since you won’t be doing burpees, running, kicking etc. A set of resistance bands are effective, inexpensive, small, light and can be stored pretty much anywhere- a great option to save space & money! I do like my weights but they require a little more room… For some injuries, light weights with lots of repetitions are best while for other kinds of trouble heavier, slower movements may be more appropriate.

Note: Many good “cardio” DVD’s will have someone modifying the exercise to make it lower-impact but I would use these cautiously since they are generally fast-paced.

A couple DVD’s I would recommend looking into:

Total Body Solutions by Debbie Siebers                                                                                                         (specifically designed for folks with painful areas.)

Les Mills Pump                                                                                                                                                             (weight training with a “cardio” effect.  I’m not sure of the pace but you can go slowly to prevent injury.)

Chalean Extreme by Chalene Johnson                                                                                                                         (I have used this one (I told you I’m a Chalene fan!) She shows modifications and how to use the bands instead of weights.  It has a slow tempo and recommends heavier weights.  This does have some “cardio” effect as well.)

Yoga Booty Ballet                                                                                                                                                               (There are several different YBB programs- some have more “dance” workouts that may not be ideal if you have an injury.)

Always remember: don’t bend your knees past what is comfortable and stop if it becomes painful, avoid “twisting” and keep your back straight (never “Round”) – especially if you have a back injury, osteoporosis or other degenerative bone disease.  Of course, if you have had an injury or other chronic problem it is always best to consult a physical therapist and your physician before doing any exercise.


Have questions?  Interested in learning more about the programs?  Email me 🙂


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  1. #1 by Jack on January 5, 2012 - 11:45 pm

    This post was real relatable to me; I tore a tendon (or a ligament…I can’t really remember) in my knee years ago and was told by the doctor I had two choices: either an expensive surgery to stretch the whosawhatsit and reconnect it followed by atleast 6 months of painful rehab, or spend years building up the muscles around it to hold my knee in place. Since I was a broke college freshman you can probably guess which path I took. When I worked out I spent a lot of time on ellipticals and bikes, and that has helped me. of course, lifting 270ish pounds every time I stood up also helped a good deal too, but I got horrible pains in my knee where it hurt to even walk sometimes. I almost bought a cane at one point. However, eventually the pains got farther apart, and now they must’ve been built up enough to hold my knee in place because I haven’t had a pain in years, and my running hasn’t caused any issues either.

    • #2 by Fitness PhoenixX on January 6, 2012 - 12:29 am

      I’m glad the post was helpful! Lol @ whosawhatsit 🙂 I know people struggle with this- it can make life in general difficult, not to mention exercising. It’s especially frustrating not knowing which exercises are safe and which are not… I’m so glad you don’t have any pain now but do still be careful so you don’t re-injure it!

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