What is the Best Exercise Machine for People with Bad Knees?

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Quite a large amount of people around the world suffer from some sort of issue with the knees. In the U.S. alone, the number of adults with some form of arthritis is expected to reach 78 million by 2040. And that is just one condition. People might have bad knees, either temporarily or long-term, for plenty of reasons. This does not mean that they have to be deprived of exercise. In this article, we will talk about the machines that you can use without exacerbating bad knees.

The best exercise machines for bad knees are ones with a low impact level. The most popular and safest options are Stationary Bikes, Elliptical Machines, and Rowing Machines. You can also use other machines such as Treadmills or Leg Extension Machines, but these should be approached with more caution and may not be for everyone.

Stationary Bike

There are three types of stationary bikes to choose from:

  1. Recumbent stationary bikes,
  2. Upright stationary bikes, and
  3. Spin bikes.

The most joint-friendly option is the recumbent stationary bike. On this machine, you remain seated on a reclined seat with a backrest. Therefore, the full weight of your body does not fall on the knees. Additionally, you will not face any back problems. Getting on and off the machine is very easy as well.

➥ Also, recumbent exercise bikes are good options for senior people. We reviewed and rated the top recumbent bikes in the market for senior citizens.

Recumbent stationary bike

Recumbent stationary bike

The next best option would be the upright stationary bike. As the name suggests, you sit upright on the seat, much like on a normal outdoor bike. You can choose to get off the seat and pedal standing up. A spin bike was built for taking indoor cycling to the next level. Typically, spin bikes have more resistance and are best used at high speeds. Unless you can cycle at high intensities, we would not recommend a spin bike to those with knee pain.

Upright stationary bike

Upright stationary bike

The advantage of stationary bikes is that they are low-impact and very safe to use. It is also very easy to vary the resistance according to your level. The downside is that the motion might eventually develop pain for some. The repeated circular motion can cause shearing and inflammation in the knee joint.

➥ If you’re into recumbent exercise bikes, we highly recommend you to have a look at how recumbent bikes can be beneficial for your knees.

Elliptical Machine

Elliptical machines were created to be a low-impact alternative to treadmills. Since the feet never leave the pedals, there is not much stress placed on the knees. Another major attraction of ellipticals is the moving handles. With these, you can work out both your upper and lower body. The motion on this equipment is sort of a mix between running, cycling, and stair climbing. Like the stationary bike, the resistance of an elliptical machine is also easily variable.

The only downside to an elliptical is that you remain in a standing position. This is not necessarily bad, but it could be for those who cannot remain standing for long without feeling pain in the knees. For these people, another option is available which is a recumbent elliptical. This type of machine is not that common but it might greatly benefit you if you manage to find one.

Elliptical machine

Elliptical machine

Rowing Machine

A rowing machine is another low-impact machine that provides great cardiovascular exercise. With this machine, you push yourself away with your legs while pulling a handle attached to a rope with your arms. Therefore, you get a full-body workout, and also a lot of calories can be burned. Rowing machines are great for those who don’t have a problem with the movement of the knee joint but experience discomfort supporting their body weight. Older rowing machines could not be adjusted for difficulty but it can easily be done on newer machines.

Rowing machine

Rowing machine


A treadmill might not be your first thought since it has a reputation for being a high-impact exercise machine. While you cannot run on a treadmill with knee issues, walking is completely possible. In fact, a lot of people might find that walking helps in improving the condition of their knees. It’s better not to walk too fast or walk in an incline unless it feels comfortable. The belt of many treadmills nowadays has built-in suspension. This reduces the impact by absorbing some of the force from each step.



Leg Extension/Leg Curl Machine

Sometimes called a leg extension machine and sometimes a leg curl machine, this kind of machine is great for building up your leg muscles. Most of the time, you can do leg extensions and leg curls on the same machine. The former exercise works your quads while the latter works the hamstrings. There is almost no load acting on the knees due to the position in which you perform reps. However, don’t load it with heavyweights from the get-go. Too much weight can cause strain on the knees. Start low and work up to heavier weights.

Leg extension machine

Leg extension machine

Other exercise options for bad knees

Well, those were the top exercise machines that you can use for safely working out with bad knees. However, you have a lot of exercise options other than these machines as well. One of the best ones is swimming. Swimming and water aerobics are excellent low-impact exercises that also burn a lot of calories. And of course, your knees will not be put under too much stress at all. Swimming works with almost all the muscle groups in your body.

Other great options include bodyweight exercises such as step-ups. However, you should exercise cautiously as you could easily put too much stress or lose balance with bodyweight exercises. Furthermore, you could try out pilates. This is good for improving muscle tone, balance, posture, and mobility. Whichever form of exercise you choose, be sure to consult your physician before starting any workout routine.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Does exercise help with knee pain?

Ans.: Well, there are several reasons for which knee pain might occur. In each case, there might be a different cure. In general, however, a certain amount of exercise is beneficial for the knees. According to the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center, physical activity strengthens the muscles and tendons around the joint. It also decreases bone loss and prevents swelling. Exercise also replenishes the lubrication in the joint cartilage which reduces stiffness and improves mobility. Before taking up any new exercise, always check with your doctor. They can give you the best advice depending on your condition.

Q2. Is outdoor cycling safe with bad knees?

Ans.: Cycling, whether outdoors or indoors, is always low impact. Hence, for less serious knee conditions, taking your bike out for a ride should not be a problem. Nonetheless, here are some tips to follow for safety:-

  • Don’t pedal too fast. Rapid circular motion might put too much strain on the knees in some people.
  • Stick to flat sections. Going uphill might put too much stress on the knees since you have to exert more force.
  • Raise the seat so that your knees do not have to bend too much. This might cause pain.
  • Finally, if at any point your knees start to hurt, stop immediately and have them checked out by a doctor.

Q3. Can I lose weight with bad knees?

Ans.: Yes, losing weight with bad knees is possible. The first thing you should take care of is your diet. Without the proper diet, you won’t lose weight, no matter how much you exercise. After you’ve done that, you will need a suitable workout routine. Most of the machines that we have mentioned offer a large amount of calorie-burning with the right kind of use. You can obviously do upper body exercises, but there are some that you will need to avoid to spare your knees. We recommend talking to a personal trainer so that they can tell you which exercise to do and which to avoid.

➥ If you’re specifically targeting weight loss while using a stationary bike, then, we suggest you have a look at our selection of stationary bikes for shedding pounds.


After thoroughly going through this article, you should now have a clear understanding of how to select the right exercise machine for knee rehab. You are now prepared to make an informed decision based on your needs. These machines are guaranteed to serve you well and help you on your journey to stronger, healthier knees and a better, more active lifestyle.

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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