Running and jumping are pretty much no-go's if you're dealing with knee issues. But that doesn't mean you have to take a hiatus from exercise while you recover (unless that's what your doctor says).
Instead, you may just need to swap your usual routine with some low-impact machines. Read on to learn the best exercise equipment for bad knees to stay on track for achieving your fitness goals.
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1. Elliptical Machine
The elliptical machine is for anyone looking to get a full-body, low-impact cardio workout, according to Carolina Araujo, CPT, a California-based strength coach. Elliptical machines are especially ideal for anyone with knee issues, as it shouldn't cause further pain or discomfort.
"I recommend the elliptical for anyone who likes to run or jog but feels pain in their knees," Araujo tells LIVESTRONG.com. "It still gives you the cardio benefits, but your joints aren't absorbing the impact from the ground."
The motion is a cross between biking and walking or running, using mainly your legs to propel movement. This knee-friendly exercise machine also provides a workout for your arms, which are the secondary force in the movement, assisting the powerhouse of the exercise: your legs.
Ellipticals We Love
- Precor EFX 885 Elliptical Crosstrainer (Amazon.com, $3,628)
- Sunny Health & Fitness SF-E902 Air Walk Trainer Elliptical Machine (Amazon.com, $96)
- NordicTrack FreeStride Trainer Series FS10i (Nordictrack.com, $1,799)
2. Rowing Machine
The rower is another low-impact machine that offers both cardiovascular and strength-building benefits. Like the elliptical, this machine targets your lower and upper body without putting extra pressure on your knees, according to Araujo. And you can increase the resistance on the machine, challenging your strength and endurance even more.
"Thanks to the resistance settings, you can also use the rower to build strength in your quads and hamstrings, which are muscles that support your knees," she says.
To use a rowing machine, sit on the moving seat and strap your feet into the pedals. Next, grab onto the handlebar at your feet. With arms extended and torso leaning slightly back, drive through your heels to straighten your legs.
As your knees straighten, lean your torso back slightly, keeping your abs engaged. Finish with the arms by pulling row bar to the chest (base of the sternum). To end the motions, extend your arms as you lean forward slightly, allowing the bar to pass over your knees, then bend your knees to slide forward.
Rowing Machines We Love
- NordicTrack RW700 (Nordictrack.com, $1,199)
- Sunny Health and Fitness Magnetic Rowing Machine (Amazon.com, $240.91)
- Ergatta Rower (Ergatta.com, $2,199)
3. Stationary Bike
The stationary bike is an exceptional knee exercise machine for anyone with past knee injuries, according to Araujo. Most gyms offer a recumbent or upright bike (sometimes both!). But the recumbent bike is a better choice for anyone that still struggles with knee issues or discomfort (assuming you get your doctor's OK).
Both offer a great cardio workout, but the upright stationary bike offers core-building benefits, as you need to keep your body stable as you pedal. For those who need a lower-intensity workout, the recumbent bike is a better option.
Stationary Bikes We Love
- Peloton Bike (OnePeloton.com, $1,195)
- NordicTrack S22i Studio Cycle (NordicTrack.com, $1,899)
- Echelon Connect Bike Ex-5s (EchelonFit.com, $1,499.99)
4. Leg Curl and Leg Extension Machines
These resistance-training machines allow you to strengthen on your lower body, specifically, the leg muscles, which support your knees.
Leg curls can actually help relieve knee pain by strengthening the hamstrings, which support these joints, according to Jereme Schumacher, DPT, a California-based physical therapist and personal trainer.
Similarly, leg extensions target the quads, which are also essential for taking pressure off the knees. However, if your knee pain is due to joint deterioration, this exercise may exacerbate your symptoms. If your doctor clears you for this kind of workout, it's best to go light on the weight.
Regardless of why you have "bad knees," it's a good idea to begin with light weights and work your way up to heavier weights slowly so you don't strain your knees.
Leg Curl and Extension Machines We Love
- Marcy Adjustable 6 Position Utility Bench with Leg Developer (Amazon.com, $129.99)
- Valor Fitness CC-4 Leg Extension Leg Curl Machine (Amazon.com, $445.98)
- XMark Heavy Duty Adjustable Rotary Leg Extension and Curl Machine (Amazon.com, $755)