Which sports and workouts are bad for my joints

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Regular exercise and playing sports are great ways to improve fitness and overall health, but joint pain and discomfort can get in the way. Many sports and workouts put strain on joints, whether that’s running or lifting heavy weights, exacerbating existing problems or even leading to long-term damage.

If you’re looking for different ways to exercise to reduce joint pain, are recovering from knee or hip surgery, or want to reduce the risk of developing problems, here are some sports and workouts to try, and well as some to avoid.



Swimming is a great way to exercise without putting excessive strain on joints, as the water fully supports your body. It’s a very low impact workout but requires you to use many different muscles to move through the water, as well as working your lungs and your cardiovascular system.

Different strokes can also benefit different parts of the body. Breaststroke is great for exercising the arms, though the leg kick can put some stress on the knees. For knee pain, the backstroke is a better option.



If you’d prefer to stay dry, making use of the rowing machine at the gym is an ideal way to give yourself a full-body workout. It may involve sitting down, but this is why it’s ideal for anyone suffering with joint problems, as the strain is taken off your knees.

Despite this, it’s still a demanding workout that takes a lot of effort from the upper body and the legs to keep the rowing action going, and you can set the resistance level to suit your strength.



Walking is one of the simplest and most effective exercises as it requires no special equipment or training. It may seem like it would put strain on the knees, but it’s still a low-impact workout and so shouldn’t be a problem for anyone with mild joint problems.

If you have severe joint issues with your knees, it would be better to avoid putting any weight on them, and so swimming or rowing would be better options.



Running requires one foot to be completely off the ground, putting strain on the knee and hip left supporting your bodyweight. This makes it more likely to lead to long-term joint problems, or make existing problems worse, so should be avoided if you’re suffering from knee or hip pain.

You can minimise minor joint pain, and reduce the risk of developing problems, by running on soft surfaces like grass, though it’s still better to go for sports and exercises that support your bodyweight.


Strength training

Using the resistance equipment in the gym is generally fine when it comes to hip pain and joint problems, though you should only use machines that focus on upper body strength. You can also train at home with bodyweight exercises, though you should avoid squats, which can put a lot of strain on joints.

It’s also advisable to only workout with the advice and supervision of a qualified trainer, especially in the early days of hip replacement recovery or other joint surgery, ensuring the exercises you do are controlled and safe.



Stretching exercises can be a good, low-impact way to work out, including things like yoga and Pilates. However, you should avoid moves that require you to lie on your side, as this can exacerbate hip pain. You should also avoid stretches that mean bending the waist a lot, or spreading your legs wide.

The main thing is to take it slowly and listen to how your body reacts. If certain moves are causing pain, you should avoid them as you should with any exercise that makes joint pain worse.


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