15 Best Cardio Exercises After a Knee Replacement

Hey fellow fitness enthusiasts (with bad knees), listen up!

Are you gearing up for a knee replacement surgery or recovering from one and eager to get back on track?

No worries, my friend, I’ve got your back!

After my own knee replacement surgery, I was itching to get back to my cardio routine but had no clue where to start.  I knew for sure that jumping and running were out of the question for a while.

So, after talking with my doctor and therapist – and after a little trial and error – I found some fun low impact exercises to do the first 3-5 months after surgery.

These cardio workouts helped to get me moving and to build up my strength without putting unnecessary stress on the new knee.

Low impact cardio can help you get stronger and ready to move onto some higher impact cardio when your knees and body are ready.

In this article, I’ll share some of the low impact exercises that I started with and the best high-impact exercises that I have personally found helpful six months after my total knee replacement.

I’ll even dish out some tips and guidance to get you back in fighting shape in no time!

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Overview of Cardio Exercises After a Knee Replacement

After knee replacement surgery, it is important to start exercising as soon as possible to regain strength and mobility in the affected leg.

You will initially be placed in a physical therapy program for 6-8 weeks to get your range of motion back and get you walking again.

After that, you can start revving things up a bit!  Trust me, your doctor and therapist will be on board with getting you moving and back to your normal activities. 

So, where do you start? 

Cardio exercises after knee surgery is a great way to improve overall health and circulation, and they can be helpful during the recovery process.

Low-Impact Exercises

Low-impact exercises are recommended for the first 3-5 months after knee replacement surgery – because they put less stress on the joints and reduce the risk of injury.

It’s important to start with low-impact exercises and gradually increase the intensity as you progress.

For some people low impact exercises may be your new normal – for others it may just be a steppingstone to more higher impact exercises.

Either way, cardio in any form is still good for you and your physical and mental well-being. 

So don’t be afraid to get moving – just be smart and listen to your body.

8 Low-Impact Exercises For After TKA

After my knee replacement surgery, I was so excited to get back to my regular exercise routine.

However, I knew that I needed to take it easy and avoid high-impact exercises at first that could put too much stress on my new knee – trust me my therapist was in my ear!

So, for the first 3-5 months I turned to low-impact exercises that had limited or no twisting of the knee.  This helped me stay active while also protecting my knee.

Here are a few cardio exercises for 3 months after knee replacement you can try!

1.  Walking

You will probably be encouraged to started out just walking – a few months after surgery this can seem like a lot.

Walking is a great low-impact exercise that can help you build strength and endurance after a knee replacement.

I started by walking short distances and gradually increased the length of my walks as my knee got stronger.

Walking on flat surfaces is best at first, but you can also try walking on a treadmill with a slight incline to add a bit of challenge.

By 3-4 months you should be able to progress – try some power walking by increasing your speed and don’t be afraid to climb some hills.

Trust me you will work up a pretty good sweat!

2.  Stairs

This my seem super easy but trust me after your knee replacement stairs will be challenging at first. 

You will be started on stairs in physical therapy – they will hurt and will be hard to do for the first 6 weeks.

But don’t give up, it does get easier!

By 3 months post op you should be able to go up and down more stairs and easier. 

Set a goal and increase your steps and speed until you reach it!

Stairs are a great way to get in some cardio without causing stress to your knee. 

 3.  Elliptical Machines

I then tried out the elliptical machine at the gym. 

Elliptical machines are designed to mimic the motion of running without any impact on your joints.

I found that using this machine was a great way to get a challenging workout without putting any stress on my knee.

It definitely got my heart rate up.

 4.  Indoor Cycling

Cycling is another low-impact exercise that can help you build strength in your legs without putting too much stress on your knee.

You will probably get started on a stationary bike as a warm-up while you’re in physical therapy.

After I was done with therapy, I started by using a stationary bike at the gym – this was just a safer option while regaining strength and balance.

By 4-5 months if your balance and strength are good try to get to outdoor cycling.

Just be sure to adjust the seat and handlebars to a comfortable position to avoid any strain on your knee.

 5.  Swimming

Swimming is another low-impact exercise that is great for people with knee replacements.

It’s a full-body workout that can help you build strength and cardiovascular endurance since the water adds resistance without putting any stress on your knee. 

I personally didn’t try swimming since I didn’t have a pool available, but it was highly recommended by my therapist after the surgical site healed.

Just start out slow swimming laps in a pool, you can also try water aerobics classes since they are low impact and don’t place weight on your knee. 

Water aerobics is also a fun and social workout.

6.  Low-Resistance Rowing

Rowing is a low-impact exercise that can help you build strength in your arms, legs, and core.

This was another machine that I started in physical therapy. 

Not gonna lie – at first this was hard since it requires you to use your whole body. 

But it did strengthen my leg and got my endurance back without putting extra strain on my knee.

7.  Yoga

This one may be difficult at first – I know it was for me. 

You may not be able to do many poses for the first 3-4 months due to the need to hold a pose and getting down on your knee will still be limited. 

It is a great low-impact exercise that can help you build strength, flexibility, and balance.

So, it’s a great option for people with knee replacements because it can help you improve your range of motion, but it does put some stress on your knee – so just try a few easier poses such as downward dog, warrior 1& 2 and mountain pose.

Before you know it you will be back to all of the poses just take your time so that you don’t add extra stress while trying to de-stress.

8.  Calisthenics

This is another one that you may not be able to do right away – give yourself a few months and move slow. 

Calisthenics are bodyweight exercises that can help you build strength and endurance without any equipment.

They are a great low-impact exercise option that can be done anywhere.

I started by doing simple exercises like squats and lunges in physical therapy – they were ugly but effective!

Then as you get stronger you can begin to add push-ups increase your squats and lunges as well as add light weights.  Your knee will be stronger in no time. 

7 Moderate to High Impact Cardio Exercises 6 Months After Knee Replacement

By 6 months post op your cardio is going to look way different! 

Be sure to check in with your doctor and if he or she feels that you are ready – you can turn it up a notch and add some jumping, pivoting and twisting cardio to your arsenal!

It’s important to note that high impact exercises should be gradually introduced into your rehabilitation program.

Be sure to listen to your body and avoid pushing yourself too hard. If you experience knee pain or discomfort during exercise, stop and rest.  If the pain persists you may want to reach out to your surgeon. 

Here are a few high impact cardiovascular exercises that I tried and enjoyed. 

1.  Hiking

By 6 months you can take your walks to the woods!

Try hitting a good trail – but start slow. 

Consider a trail with limited steep hills to make sure you are ready for the bigger more challenging ones. 

Hiking can cause more twisting of the knee so be sure that you and your knee are ready for it!

Also try to keep your backpack light at first just to make sure that you and your knee are ready for the weight of a heavier pack. 

2.  Short Jogs

Yep, by 6 months you should be able to give jogging a try. 

7 months after my knee replacement I was able to run a 4-mile race!  I was so excited.

I’m not going to say that my knee didn’t get swollen and a little uncomfortable because it did! 

But after some Ibuprofen, ice and rest I was good to go the next few days.

So just take it slow and do what feels good for you. 

I personally only do two runs a year now – I limit the majority of my running to chasing my grandkids around the yard!

We are all different so if it feels good – do it!

3.  Aerobic Exercises

Looking to get your heart pumping and your blood flowing? Why not try some jumping jacks, high knees, and step-ups!

Don’t let your knee replacement stop you from getting back to your Zumba class or step aerobics.

Trust me, once you get back in the swing of your aerobics routine – or just start for the first time – you won’t regret it!

4.  Dancing

Who says you can’t dance like no one is watching?  It’s actually best if no one is, at least for me.

But don’t let that stop you from getting your heart pumping with some sweet dance moves.

Even a basic two-step on the wedding dance floor can count as a great cardio workout. And hey, if you’ve got some new knee hardware, no problem – dancing is still fair game.

So put on your favorite tunes and get grooving, whether it’s in the living room or a packed club. You’ll be breaking a sweat and grinning from ear to ear in no time.

Check out some fitness dance options like Shaun T Dance Party or Zumba Fitness Dance for added inspiration.

5.  Jump Rope

Want to get your heart pumping faster than a huge caffeine hit?

Look no further than the humble jump rope!

Not only is it a great way to warm up before a workout or incorporate into a tabata routine, but it also doubles as a nostalgic trip back to childhood.

So go ahead, unleash your inner kid and give jumping rope a try.

Your heart (and your inner child) will thank you.

6.  Boxing

Who knew getting fit could be so much fun and so badass at the same time?

Boxercise has become my fave catch-my-breath-and-sweat-like-a-boss workout.

Don’t be fooled by the flimsy-looking bag – once you start throwing punches and kicks, you’ll feel like you can take on the world, Muhammad Ali style!

It’s a knockout way to stay healthy and feel like a champ.

7.  Sports activities such as Tennis and Basketball

Listen up, sports fans!

Don’t let a bum knee keep you sidelined!

Whether your game is on the hardwood, the clay court, or the pickleball battleground, it’s time to take the court by storm with your newly revamped knee.

We all know the ultimate goal of getting a knee replacement is to get back in the game, so why wait?

Show your knee who’s boss and grab your ball and/or racket – with a new knee replacement the sky is the limit!

Precautions to Take Before Starting High Impact Exercises

Before starting high impact exercises, it’s important to take some precautions to ensure that your body is ready for the challenge.

Here are some things I did to prepare myself for high impact exercises after my total knee replacement.

Consult with Your Doctor

First and foremost, it’s important to consult with your doctor before starting any new exercise routine.

Your doctor can evaluate your overall health and determine whether high impact exercises are safe for you.

They may also be able to recommend specific exercises that are appropriate for your condition.

Build Up Your Strength

Before starting high impact exercises, it’s important to build up your strength gradually.

I started with low impact exercises, such as walking and cycling, and gradually increased the intensity of my workouts over time.

This helped me to build up my strength and endurance, which made it easier to transition to high impact exercises.

Wear the Right Gear

Wearing the right gear is essential when it comes to high impact exercises.

I made sure to wear supportive shoes with good cushioning to absorb the impact of my workouts.

I also wore comfortable, breathable clothing that allowed me to move freely without restriction.

Start Slowly

When starting high impact exercises, it’s important to start slowly and gradually increase the intensity of your workouts over time.

I started with short, low intensity workouts and gradually increased the duration and intensity of my workouts as my body became stronger and more accustomed to the exercise.

Listen to Your Body

Finally, it’s important to listen to your body when doing high impact exercises.

If you experience pain or discomfort, it’s important to stop and rest. I made sure to take breaks when needed and never pushed myself too hard.

By listening to my body, I was able to avoid injury and make steady progress towards my fitness goals.


All in all, a total knee replacement is a monumental and life-altering decision that should be seriously considered when necessary.

With proper research and consideration of options, anyone with bad knees can pick the best workout for their new knee joint and get back up on their own two feet in no time!

Fortunately, there are plenty of cardio exercises out there that can help alleviate pain and keep your joints healthy even after you have had a knee replacement.

Although it may seem intimidating at first, the potential rewards are well worth the effort in the end— from improved circulation to increased strength levels, anyone who makes cardio a part of their routine after a total knee replacement experience can positively affect their long-term health.

So don’t delay— if you’ve recently had a total knee replacement or are considering one, try any of these recommended exercises today and enjoy living older your way!

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