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What Exercise Equipment and Machines Are Best for Bad Knees?

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What Exercise Equipment and Machines Are Best for Bad Knees?

Do you suffer from bad knees? Do the aches and pains leave you feeling frustrated and unmotivated to exercise? You’re not alone.

Approximately 25 million people in the US alone have knee problems, and they can range from mild pain to severe immobility. It can be difficult to determine which exercises and equipment are best for a person with bad knees.

Exercising is beneficial for your health as it helps to build strength and stability around the knee joints, plus reduces inflammation and pain. Therefore, it is important for individuals with bad knees to find ways to work out safely.

This blog post will tackle this very issue by giving an overview of what are the benefits of exercising with bad knees, and types of equipment that should be avoided or used cautiously, and finally, recommended exercise equipment for working out with bad knees.

Benefits of Exercise despite Bad Knees

Exercise is beneficial for individuals with bad knees. Research has shown that exercise can help improve knee range of motion, increase muscle strength and stability, reduce pain and swelling in the knee area as well as relieve stress on the joints; all of which can lead to an improved overall quality of life.

It’s easy to be intimidated by the thought of exercising with bad knees; however, there are low-impact exercises available that can still provide effective results without putting too much stress on your joints.

Other non-weight-bearing activities such as yoga or pilates classes or using an elliptical machine can also be beneficial in strengthening your muscles while providing support to your knees. Resistance band exercises in water resistance exercises are also suitable options when looking for ways to work out safely with bad knees.

Recommended Equipment for Working Out with Bad Knees

If you suffer from bad knees and are looking to work out, it's natural to worry that commercial gym equipment could cause further injury.

However, there is no reason to let your knee pain prevent you from reaching your fitness goals! With careful monitoring of pain and the right recommended equipment, you can easily reap the benefits of working out without allowing your bad knees to become a setback.

By understanding which pieces of equipment to use and how best to maximize their use for your own individual comfort and progress, you can safely increase strength and flexibility in spite of knee pain.

Here are some of the machines that are best for working out for people with bad knees.

1. Rowing Machine

Rowing machines are an excellent option for individuals with bad knees. They provide a full-body, low-impact workout that can help to increase muscle strength and improve the range of motion in the knee area.

Additionally, rowing machines come with adjustable resistance levels, meaning you can tailor your exercise to your specific needs - making it as intense or as easy as you need it to be. Furthermore, most rowing machines have padded seats and footrests, which helps to reduce the impact on the knees while you exercise.

2. Elliptical Machine

An elliptical machine is a great option for individuals with bad knees who are looking to get a full-body cardio workout. According to Carolina Araujo, CPT, this machine provides the same cardiovascular benefits of running without adding additional stress and pressure on your joints.

The elliptical cross between biking and walking or running uses mostly your legs but also provides a workout for your arms - providing an overall comprehensive workout. The movement is low impact yet still provides a good intensity level which can help to improve strength and range of motion and reduce pain in the knee area.

3. Stationary Bike

The stationary bike is an ideal exercise machine for people with a history of knee injuries or discomfort. In most gyms, both recumbent and upright bicycles are available. However, recumbent bikes are preferable for those who continue to experience pain in their knees (with the doctor's approval).

Both offer an excellent aerobic workout. However, the advantage of the upright stationary bike is the core-building requirement of maintaining body stability whilst pedaling.

The recumbent bike is the superior option for those looking for a low-intensity workout. Here are just some of the reasons why you should choose this cycle over a conventional one:

  • The seat on a recumbent bicycle is wide and cushioned, so your knees don’t take a stress as they would on an upright bike.
  • The pedals on a recumbent bike are closer to the ground, reducing stress and pressure on your knees.
  • You can adjust the resistance level to suit your individual needs, creating a more personalized and comfortable workout experience.

4. Treadmill

What Exercise Equipment and Machines Are Best for Bad Knees?

Treadmills are a great option for those with bad knees, offering a low-impact exercise experience that can be tailored to individual needs. For example, walking vigorously for 5-10 minutes has been recommended as an effective treatment for knee osteoarthritis.

Your physical therapist may also recommend walking to reduce knee stiffness and inflammation. Most treadmills have adjustable speed and incline settings, allowing you to adjust the intensity of your workout.

But don't overdo it! Make sure your treadmill also features built-in shock absorption to reduce the impact on your knees. Additionally, look for a pair of cushioned trainers to make your session even more comfortable.

If you don’t have access to a treadmill, the good old morning walk will do just fine, too.

5. Leg Curl and Leg Extension Machines

Resistance-training machines can be a great way to strengthen the leg muscles, which provide support to your knees. Leg curls are a great exercise to relieve knee pain, as they strengthen the hamstrings - an important muscle group for supporting these joints. Leg extensions target the quads, which also help take pressure off the knees.

But if your knee pain is due to the deterioration of joint tissues, this exercise may increase discomfort. If given clearance by your doctor, go light on weight when doing this exercise. Regardless of why you have "bad knees," it's important to begin with, lighter weights and slowly work up in order to prevent any potential strain on your legs. Besides your doctor’s approval, you may also consider working with a coach or personal trainer.

6. Stair Stepper

The stair stepper can be a godsend for those looking to exercise with bad knees. It's low-impact, but high reflectivity meaning it won't cause uncomfortable pressure on the joints in the same way as other cardio machines. Plus, you can adjust the intensity level to find the right one for your body and needs, allowing you to exercise without over-training your knees.

Using a stair stepper is akin to performing short lunges but with significantly less stress and balance issues. What's more, the stair stepper is fantastic for improving mobility and range of motion. By moving your legs in various directions, you'll keep your joints lubricated and flexible - helping reduce long-term knee pain and discomfort.

7. Vibration Plates

Vibration plates have been growing in popularity, especially for those with mobility issues. The concept behind vibration plates is that the vibrations help to increase blood flow and improve joint functionality. 

Plus, vibration plates are effective for all muscle groups, as they stimulate the muscles while you exercise. This allows you to get a more intense workout without having to engage in strenuous cardio or resistance training.

Vibration plates offer a great low-impact way to exercise, one that can be particularly beneficial for those suffering from bad knees. Pro tip: If your doctor approves, use your vibrations plate to massage any sore spots - it might just reduce inflammation and pain!

Final Thoughts                                      

Exercise can help manage knee pain, but choosing the right type of exercise is essential. Low-impact machines like the elliptical, recumbent bike, and stair climber are good for people with bad knees. Vibration plates can also help, as they provide a low-impact way to exercise without overly stressing the knee joint.

If you're looking for ways to stay active without worsening your pain, give these machines a try - but always check with your doctor first!


Take good care of your body, it’s the only one you have. 

Together with a bunch of top coaches I co-created the Live better, not perfect blueprint to optimal well-being. This is  an exclusive membership to achieve better health & happiness through expert guidance, education, and support of a vibrant community. We only have one life, so we better invest in optimizing our own well-being and happiness.

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