Is Swimming Good For Your Knees?

I am wondering is swimming good for your knees? Lately I have been having bad, weak knees. I’m looking to know if it helps the structure in your knee.


Much depends on which swimming stroke you choose to swim and what problems you may currently have with your knees, if any.

Be Careful Swimming Breaststroke


Breaststroke places the most pressure on the knee joints. This is due to the circular whip like action of the leg kick. Anyone with weak knee joints may want to avoid swimming breaststroke using a powerful leg kick.
breaststroke leg kick

Recreational breaststroke can be swum placing more emphasis on the arm action than the leg kick. Although this is technically incorrect from an efficiency point of view, there is no harm done in swimming the stroke like this, especially if breaststroke is your only option.

Strokes That Place Less Pressure On The Knees


The other swimming strokes, front crawl, backstroke and butterfly will place little or no pressure on the knee joints.

Click on a swimming stroke below for more information.
front crawlbreaststroke techniquebackstroke techniquebutterfly stroke technique

So, swimming is not bad for the knees at all. It must be noted here that swimming is zero impact and therefore does nothing to help build bone cells and aid osteoporosis.

However swimming is good for the knees in that it provides impact free movement that helps to lubricate the joints.

Swimming will also help to strengthen and tone the muscles attached to the knee joint which will in turn help support and strengthen the overall structure.

Swimming is great for sufferers of arthritis as the impact free nature of the movement through the water is very kind on the joints. Some forms of arthritis are made worse with impact and the gentle nature of swimming can sometimes provide a sufficient amount of lubrication and required movement.

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Swimming After Knee Surgery

I had a few questions about swimming after knee surgery and how to get swimming exercises without hurting my knee. I recently had surgery and the doctor said I was missing cartilage so I had to stop soccer (my hobby) and any other sport that involved jumping, running and so on. I’m not really experienced in swimming and my knee is still really bad as it hurts whenever I do a simple task. I would like to know if you could recommend me any swimming exercises to help me keep in shape without hurting my knee. Thanks a lot.

Without knowing the full extent of your knee problem it is hard to give precise advice and to be honest, specific knee related exercises should come from a physician or physiotherapist, which I am not.

If keeping in shape by doing some aerobic exercise is what you’re after then swimming is certainly the right thing to be doing. There are a few exercises that will help build up some strength around your knee without causing too much pain, hopefully!

I would advise you to get consent from your physician to swim if you have not done so already.

Firstly forget swimming breaststroke. The leg kick action will cause more problems with your knee than you are trying to solve, so don’t go there.

Your swimming strokes are front crawl and backstroke. Both have an alternating leg kick action, up and down in the water, with a relatively straight leg and relaxed knee and ankle joints. Therefore there is no lateral (sideways) movement or pressure on the knee joint at all.

Holding a float or kickboard out in front of you and kicking will be hard work for your knee and a great workout for you overall. If your knee hurts at all then stop and rest.

Placing a swim noodle under your arms and performing backstroke leg kick is another nice way to build up some strength and fitness in your legs. It can also be performed slowly if you experience any pain or tiredness.

Moving onto to performing the full strokes, front crawl and backstroke, will be an excellent aerobic workout for you. Combine your full stroke laps or lengths with lengths of just kicking; on your back and your front and in 20 to 30 minutes you have the perfect workout.

I must stress again to listen to your knee. If it says stop then stop. I am a swimming teacher not a physician and my advice is based on my experience in teaching. Any problems with your knee should be referred back to your physician and any knee specific rehabilitation exercises should come also from your physician.

I hope I have helped and I wish you all the best.

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Aug 17, 2015
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by: Mark

Your consultant is always the best person to give this kind of advice. Best of luck with your surgery and I hope you get back into the pool very soon.

Aug 14, 2015
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Swimming after operation
by: Arthur Boyling

I have an operation on Monday 17th August to repair a damaged cartilage and i was wondering how soon after this could i start to swim again.
I am assuming that i will get some answers on Monday
but wondered if you could offer a suggestion.
My guess is that Mr Stoddard the surgeon will suggest intense
physio anyway?
Thanks
Arthur.

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