The American Heart Association recommends that we do 150 minutes of moderate to intense cardio activity a week.
For those with knee problems or those recovering from knee problems, choosing an exercise can prove to be more of a challenge.
The good news is that there are low-impact exercises that can be done that will improve your fitness levels without placing stress on the knees. Both walking and biking are low-impact and good options for people suffering from mild to moderate knee pain.
People who have experienced or are currently experiencing severe knee pain can do either short gentle walks or biking. Short walks and biking sessions can help to speed up your recovery and it’s a great way to help loosen up the muscles and the knee joint.
Biking would be a better option, as it places less stress on the knee, as long as the bike is properly adjusted to your hips and legs.
It’s advisable to speak to your medical practitioner or physical therapist before taking on any form of exercise, as they can evaluate your movement and give advice on how to prevent further injury.
Both Walking and Biking
There are a number of benefits that you can gain from walking or biking, both of which can be done anywhere and are great activities that get you outdoors.
Research has shown that exercising in the outdoors not only helps to increase vitamin D3 levels, but it reduces stress levels, improves your mood—by increasing dopamine and serotonin levels—and you’ll be boosting your immune system.
Get a friend or loved one to join you when you go for a walk or a bike ride. This will help to pass the time, keep you motivated and it’s a great way to strengthen relationships.
Improves Blood Circulation
Research has shown that walking or biking for 30 minutes, six times a week can help to reduce the risk of blood clots.
Walking or biking will get your heart pumping blood harder, which increases the blood flow as well as the oxygen levels in the body.
As your cardio health improves, your heart will push out more blood with every beat, and this helps to reduce the stress on the arteries and on the heart. As your heart rate increases during exercise, your heart will get stronger as it needs to supply more blood and oxygen to the muscles.
Your body will actually grow more blood vessels—collateral blood vessels—which can help to serve as an alternate blood supply route if one of the coronary arteries are blocked.
A strengthened cardiovascular system will help to lower blood pressure, lower the LDL cholesterol levels—low-density lipoprotein—and increase the HDL cholesterol levels—high-density lipoprotein—which is the good cholesterol, and keeps arteries healthy.
Bones, Joints, Muscles
Walking and biking are low-impact, and this places very little stress on the joints as you go about your activity.
However, walking is a weight-bearing form of exercising, as your bones have to support the weight of your body. This is good for your body as it increases bone density, which leads to stronger and healthier bones.
Biking isn’t a weight-bearing exercise, and while it does strengthen and develop the muscles, it may not be enough to stimulate bone growth. This doesn’t mean that biking isn’t good for your health, it just means that you shouldn’t make it your only exercise option.
When you go walking or biking, the movement helps to get the synovial fluid across the joint, which provides lubrication. The synovial fluid is also responsible for delivering nutrients and oxygen to the cartilage on the joints.
This movement of the synovial fluid helps to reduce the stiffness and pain in the knee. You’ll also start to notice that the more you exercise, your legs will experience less fatigue.
Walking and biking will help to strengthen and tone the muscles in your legs. Our leg muscles help to keep our bodies balanced, as well as support the body through daily activities.
The way in which you walk—your gait—can affect your posture. By having strong leg muscles, it will prevent your pelvis from tilting forward. It will also help to keep the knee, ankles, and foot in proper alignment, which will help with your posture and prevent pain not only in the legs but also in the spine.
Both walking and biking burn calories, but the number of calories burned will depend on a few factors, like:
- Distance covered
- Your own body weight
If you’re walking, you’ll burn more calories if your route includes hills or, if you’re using a treadmill, then set it to a moderate incline.
If you increase your pace to 4 miles per hour and you weigh 160 pounds, then you’ll burn up to 91 calories per mile. If you’re hiking on a mountainous trail and have a backpack on, then you could burn up to 439 calories per hour. Always remember to bring some good shoes with traction for hiking.
Biking outdoors is more dynamic, as you also face wind resistance and hills, which can help you burn more calories. If you go for a 30-minute bike ride at a moderate pace and you weigh 155 pounds, then you could burn up to 298 calories.
Factors that will influence the number of calories you burn when walking or biking will be determined by your body weight and the amount of muscle that you have. The more muscle you use when exercising, the more calories you can burn, as muscle tissue burns more calories even when you’re resting and for hours after a workout.
When you start walking or biking, you’ll find that you’ll start feeling better and this is because your body releases endorphins. These endorphins help to improve your mood, reduce stress and anxiety, as well as relieve pain.
Even if you’re doing 10 minutes of walking or biking on a daily basis, you’ll find that it improves the quality of your sleep.
When you exercise, your body needs to recover and restore cells, which it does in your deep sleep cycle. Not only will you get better quality sleep, but you will stay asleep for longer.
Exercise will boost your energy levels more than a cup of coffee, even if you’re only doing 20 minutes of exercise 5 times a week. Exercising gets the body moving, and it activates the immune cells that can be found in the spleen and lymphoid tissues.
The increased blood flow increases the immune cells and they circulate the body more than if you’re inactive. This helps to improve your immunity, which helps your body fight against infections, bacteria and viruses.
When you’re exercising regularly, you’ll find that your lung capacity increases and the increased blood flow in the lungs, allows the lungs to deliver more oxygen into the blood more efficiently.
Being physically active can help to reduce the risk, slow down the progression of or even prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia.
When you exercise, you increase the blood flow to the brain, as well as increase the chemicals that protect the brain, which can slow down cognitive decline. Regular exercise will help to keep your brain’s old connections, as well as develop new connections.
Walking is better for you to
Studies have shown that walking briskly for 10 minutes a day, six times a week will help improve your range of movement and make daily tasks easier to do. It will improve coordination and balance, as well as reduce the loss of bone mass in people who are suffering from osteoporosis.
If your knee pain isn’t too severe and you don’t have a limited range of motion in the knees, then walking is a great form of exercise.
It’s also a great way to catch up with a friend, as you can talk and walk. If you don’t like biking or you struggle to ride a bike, then walking would be a better option for you.
Biking is better for you to
There is very little stress that’s placed on the joints when you’re biking, and this can be a great form of exercise if you suffer from knee osteoarthritis.
If shedding excess weight is one of your goals, then you’ll find biking to be very beneficial. Unlike walking, which burns up to 360 calories if you’re walking at a 4-mile pace for an hour, biking can burn up to 850 calories if you’re pedaling consistently at a pace of 16 to 19 miles per hour.
If you’ve torn the meniscus or a knee ligament, then cycling biking would be better for you, especially if the pain is severe. Biking will help to improve your range of motion and aid in recovery while reducing the risk of injury.
As your fitness levels increase and the pain and inflammation of the knee get better, you can increase the distance that you bike.