Are Recumbent Bikes Better for the Knees?

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Yes, recumbent exercise bikes are indeed a great choice if you are looking to get in a decent workout without putting pressure on your knee joints. This exercise machine can help maintain a great low-impact cardio workout and can do this on top of positioning the user in such a unique way that their body weight is not exerted on the legs.

Knee injuries are almost unavoidable if you are leading an active lifestyle. Physiologically speaking, as beings that stand upright, most of our body weight is experienced by our knees. So most physical activities that we perform, especially exercise, it is our knees that usually take the brunt of it.

Thus it becomes imperative that we find the right equipment to exercise with if we look to avoid damaging our knees. This is especially true for people who are:

  • Overweight – Remember our knees suffer our full body weight.
  • Old – The older we get, the weaker our joints become. Some older people suffer from osteoporosis (weak bones) or arthritis (joint disease).
  • Suffering from medical conditions – Neurological (like Parkinson’s) or physical (like cramps or varicose veins)
Are recumbent bikes better for the knees

Comfort and Cardio

Knee injuries can last a very long time and recovery from them will take very special care. Here, the recumbent exercise bike comes into play with its unique design and features.

Features of the recumbent bike that are beneficial for the knees

1. Wide seating with backrest

The recumbent exercise bike sports the widest seat among all types of exercise bikes. It also includes a backrest, which is also a rare feature to have on an exercise bike. These two combined make for a very comfortable seating position and make the exercise go easier on your lumbar spine (lower back).

2. Pedals on the front

Another difference in design from the regular exercise bike is the position of the pedals on the recumbent. The pedals on the recumbent are positioned on the front of the machine, allowing your legs to stretch out on the front of your body.

These two features combined give the user a reclined or leaned-back posture on the bike. As you might have guessed, this sitting arrangement removes all the weight that the body exerts on the knees and redirects it to the seat and back which is much more naturally designed to take this weight.

The only two muscles that will be exerting any force on the knees are the quadriceps and the hamstrings (thigh muscles), only when you are pushing and pulling on the pedals.

Sitting like this also removes the need to balance yourself on your feet, further removing stress from your knees.



front pedals

Front Pedals

3. Low Impact Training

Activities like running or jumping make your body leave the surface, and when your feet come back down and land, a shock is sent through your bones and joints. This is what you call high-impact training. In a recumbent bike, your body is always in contact with the exercise machine, so no such shock is sent through your joints. Thus this makes it a low-impact exercise machine.

Patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis will find the recumbent very comfortable to use as their joints will not be subjected to strain.

The recumbent also provides a safe and balanced workout environment to people of all ability levels, even for patients who are suffering from neurological conditions.

All of these features point to one thing: better knee health.

➥ We recommend you to have a look at the types of exercise equipment that are ideal for users with bad knees.

Points to keep in mind

  1. Position your machine: Make sure you have enough space to mount and dismount the machine easily.
  2. Position yourself properly: Make sure the handlebars are adjusted to a comfortable height. Adjust the seat to a comfortable height and distance from the pedals.


    Position yourself properly

  3. Start slow, end slow: Do not rust to your maximum speed at the beginning of the exercise session. Make sure to slowly come to a stop once you are done with your session.

A video guide on this topic:

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Can you get good cardio on a recumbent exercise bike?

Ans.: Many people would argue that exercising on a recumbent bike feels “too comfortable” to get a proper workout. But understand that the recumbent feels comfortable because of its design. The amount of work you can get done on this exercise bike is similar to others.
Its adjustable resistances allow for both easy and very challenging workout sessions. Even HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) is possible on a recumbent. It is great as a cardio machine as it can burn through 300 to 900 calories per hour depending on the user’s defined resistance, body weight, gender, and age.
But the recumbent does indeed fall short of certain other cardio equipment in certain aspects, like target muscles. The recumbent exercise bike only targets the lower body. You may have to add other upper body exercises if you’re looking for a full-body workout.

Q2. What is the best exercise equipment for a bad knee?

Ans.: Any low-impact exercise machine works well if you are looking to stay active while also sporting a bad or injured knee. Low-impact exercise machines include the elliptical and the exercise bike.
The elliptical is a full-body low-impact cross-trainer that takes the idea of walking on a treadmill to a whole new level.
A stationary bike will bring the experience of cycling outside right to your home.
Unique, perhaps the most effective, among all of these is the recumbent exercise bike which is specially designed with the comfort of the user in mind.

Q3. What is the difference between an upright exercise bike and a recumbent bike?

Ans.: At a glance:

FeatureRecumbent BikeUpright Bike
SeatsWide seats with backrest. Similar to an office chair. Can have cushioning options.Like regular bicycle seats
PedalsPositioned on the front of the machinePositioned under the seat of the machine
Target MusclesOnly lower bodyPrimarily lower body, but can easily work on upper body and core by letting go of the handles
Calorie BurnHighHigh

Recumbent Bike VS Upright Bike | Source:

➥ To know more, have a look at our comprehensive guide consisting of the difference between recumbent & upright exercise bikes.

Q4. Do recumbent bikes strengthen legs?

Ans.: Yes, the recumbent exercise bike focuses on the muscles of the lower body, and does so exclusively:

  • Gluteus muscles (or the glutes). Helps strengthen the lower back area for better posture and balance.
  • Quadriceps. The frontal thigh muscles.
  • Hamstrings. The back thigh muscles. Helps flex the knee. Works in tandem with the quadriceps to better knee joint health.
  • Calves. The lower back leg muscles below the knees.
  • Tibialis anterior or the shin muscles. The forward lower leg muscles. Works in tandem with the calves to assist the ankles and toes.

Q5. What are the benefits of recumbent bikes for seniors?

Ans.: Lower back problems, weakened joints, or arthritis, many seniors are prone to these issues. But that shouldn’t stop them from getting the exercise they need. Here, the recumbent exercise bike provides a solid solution.

  • Its wide ergonomic seats with a backrest are very welcoming to seniors.
  • Side handles allow for great balance and stability while working out.
  • The front pedals support a more reclined and relaxed sitting position.
  • Low-impact exercise reduces the pressure felt by the bones and joints.

➥ For a more detailed breakdown of the benefits the recumbent provides for seniors we suggest you take a look at are recumbent bikes good for seniors?

Final Words

To sum it up, recumbent exercise bikes provide the most comfortable exercise solution in regards to healthier joints. This machine understands that getting a calorie burn or toning leg muscles does not need to be fatiguing to the joints, especially those of your knees.

My name is Dion Lewis. I’ve been cycling since my childhood. When I was in high school, I started racing in our local competitions. In my college life, I took a part-time job in a bicycle shop and I learned how to repair and maintain bicycles professionally. Though I love racing, mountain biking is another thing I do frequently. My friends, neighbors, and colleagues treat me as an avid rider and take my suggestions while they plan for a new bike or bike gear.

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