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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What is the best way to burn calories with little exercise?

    The best way to exercise with bad knees. I am badly over weight and because of bad knees I can't walk or run very far.
  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • 2


    Tim Cottman - Fields

    Exercise Physiologist, Physiotherapist

    Tim is considered a movement specialist - using exercise, education and hands on therapy as his main treatments, helping everyone achieve optimal function. His interests … View Profile

    There is many ways to answer your question.

    A simple answer would be if you don't like doing too much exercise make sure when you do perform it, it is very intense, to get the most out of it and follow a fairly strict nutrional plan to help utilize calories and manage your weight. As an example you could do stationary bike riding or exercise in a pool and try and get your heart rate up quite high for 10 mins, a couple days of the week. This is obviously the easy answer.

    Other suggestions would be:

    • Try and control your knee pain through medications, braces, gentle mobility exercises, creams, cold/ hot packs etc. (you will need to speak to your GP or a heathcare professional i.e. physiotherapist about the best way to manage it)
    • Incidental exercise can help to burn extra energy without really knowing it; this includes things like house work, gardening, shopping. You can even put your favourite song on and sing and dance while your cleaning the house! Any way to get moving is great and increases your chances of burning more calories.
    • Other things like checking the mail box one or twice a day, parking further away and standing/ stretching more while at work can help
    • Drinking more water - it will keep you hydrated and also make you get up and walk more (…to the bathroom)
    • Avoid things that hurt your knees - talk to a exercise practitioner or healthcare profssional about the kinds of upper body exercise you can do
    • Find some form of activity that you like doing because you are more likely to stick to it
    This web site has some great tips for being more active;

    Best of luck!

  • 2


    Dr Greg Sher


    I am the Clinic Director of the Sydney Spine and Sports Clinic.At our clinic, we see an equal mix of city office workers and elite … View Profile

    I don’t have much to add to Tim’s answer above, although one other thing to try would be to stand up and work a few hours a day.
    If you are deskbound and sit in front of a computer all day, my advice is to try get hold of a standing desk (they adjust from sitting to standing, and dont cost very much more than a normal desk). Then get a comfortable pair of shoes on, and try stand for 30 minutes, sit for 30 minutes and so on.
    An excellent pilot study found that standing for 3-4 hours per day averaged out over a normal work year burnt the equivalent calories as running 10 marathons in that year.
    Journal entry:
    Link to the actual TV program:

  • Kirsty Woods

    Exercise Physiologist

    Hi I’m Kirsty Woods,I would like to use my experience, expertise and passion to help you reach your weight, energy and health goalsI have been … View Profile


    Great suggestions by practitioners above. Other factors may also determine how much calories and what fuels are burnt during exercise (and rest). For these reasons it important to also take diet, sleep and stress into account.

  • Laura Majewski

    Exercise Scientist

    Laura Majewski is a qualified Sports and Exercise Scientist and an accredited member of ESSA. Laura graduated from Sydney University with a Bachelor of Applied … View Profile

    Hi there, 

    Great answeres from everyone above. I dont really have much to add, but would like to expand on a few concepts.

    1. Try make activities more social - you could form your own yoga/stretching group which could meet at your local park? Or an aqua-aerobics class? Both are low impact so great for your knees, but also allow for your heart rate to increase and ensure aerobic benefits. 

    2. Expanding on Tim's comment about intense exercise. Try not to think of this as something scary or intimitating, it could be as practical as swim one lap as quickly as possible, then take the next one moderate pace, then switch it up. The important thing to note it is your breathing - are you out of breathe when doing it? Do you feel your heart rate increase? Are you sweating? These are all signs of effort and exertion - the more exertion, the higher the energy output.

    3. Try to whole body movements - as mentioned above, most of the exercises use big muscle groups, stick to this rather than focusing on abs or legs. This way you will be able to use more energy and get more bang for your buck. Also note: if you are going to trying cycling - be sure to use a stationary recumbant bike (found in most gyms) these are far better for your knees. 

    Ultimately do movements that make you happy - take pets for walk, be social with your activities, listen to music, be happy!!!

    All the very best,


  • 2


    Pieter van der Gaag

    Exercise Physiologist

    Pieter van der Gaag is a Perth-based exercise physiologist and the owner of Perth Mobile Exercise Physiology, a practice that provides tailored exercise and physical … View Profile


    Not much to add to all the useful advice already provided, but one idea that might be helpful. You mention that walking is difficult due to knee pain. One alternative is pool walking in a hydrotherapy pool. Waist deep in water you are about 50 % weight-bearing, which obviously translates into less load through the knee joints. In addition, the warmth of the water (optimally around 32 degrees) will help to reduce pain and stiffness. There will also be cardiovascular benefits to pool walking, as well as it diminishing other effects of inactivity such as muscle atrophy. While in the pool, gentle movements to improve mobility can also be performed.

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