The 7 Best Exercise Equipment for Bad Knees
a Person practicing knee exercise

Best Exercise Equipment for Bad Knees – Reviews & Comparison

With the global pandemic still rearing its ugly head, staying indoors is the new normal. While this is a necessity to curb the spread of the virus, remaining sedentary for a prolonged period is neither fun nor healthy. If you can’t visit the gym or engage in sports to keep fit, home exercise equipment is a great alternative.

The trick lies in finding a piece of equipment that complements your needs and capabilities. For people with arthritis, joint injuries, or other knee niggles, you need to find the best exercise equipment for bad knees. These are machines that improve your fitness without straining your joints and knees.

But although exercise equipment for bad knees is a niche market, the number of possible options can be overwhelming. The buying decision gets even more complicated when the health and safety of your joints are on the line. With this in mind, read on for a list of some of the best cardio machines for bad knees.

Prices and images pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

Which Exercise Machine is Best for Bad Knees?

Exercise—or any physical activity for that matter—can be a challenge when you’re dealing with knee pain. The wrong kind of exercise could trigger more pain, hence beating the whole purpose of the workout.

So, which exercise machine is best for bad knees? Our suggestions for the best exercise machine for arthritic knees draw on the recommendations by the Arthritis Foundation. They include:

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Rowing Machines:

A rowing machine mimics the movement of a…wait for it…rowing a boat. The user straps his or her feet and sits on a movable seat that rest of a rail. The activity involves reaching out to a bar near the feet and pulling it towards the chest while pushing away with the feet. This strengthens the back, legs, and arms without applying to much tension on the knees.

Disclaimer: Ensure you use proper form when using a rowing machine to prevent injury.

Pros

  • It gives you a full-body workout
  • Great for both strength training and cardio
  • Activates major muscle groups, keeping you well balanced and strong
  • Rowing a non-weight-bearing and impact-free exercise, which is ideal for people with bad knees or joints
  • Installation is straightforward
  • Works for people of all fitness levels

Cons

  • Not recommended for people with chronic back problems
  • Rowing tends to be noisy
  • The track and flywheel make for rather chunky equipment that takes up considerable space

The Best Rowing Machine for Bad Knees:

The Arthritis Foundation advises people with bad knees and joints to opt for a rowing machine that features a bar attachment and one that does not use stacked weights for resistance. This ensures the exercise is forgiving on the joints and generally smooth.

Our pick for the best rowing machine for arthritic knees is the Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Rowing Machine. It’s stable and sturdy to support most body weights (up to 250lbs), the magnetic resistance is quiet and impressively smooth, you get 14 levels of resistance, there’s a handy LCD screen, and you can even connect it to your phone via Bluetooth for app-led workout goals.

But keep in mind that the range of motion is not all that wide at 39 inches.

Tip: If the pain in your knees is unbearable, you can skip the lower body exercise and focus on pulling the bar attachment.

Elliptical Machines:

Climbing stairs, running, and walking are great exercises to get the heart pumping. But they’re also unforgiving on your joints, especially if you suffer from arthritis and other age-related joint problems. Luckily, you can do all these physical activities without the drawbacks—courtesy of an elliptical. This makes the elliptical one of the best exercise equipment for bad knees.

The machine is specifically built to offer a low-impact full-body workout. Unlike a treadmill, your feet never leave the pedals in an elliptical—which means you’re exposed to a minimal risk of injury to your knees, hips, and back. You get to build your cardiovascular fitness, ‘scorch’ some calories, and promote the health of your joints – it doesn’t get better than that!

PS: If you’re short of space, there are compact ellipticals that are just as functional as their commercial-grade counterparts.

Pros

  • Ellipticals provide both lower and upper body workouts. When done correctly, it targets core muscles, triceps, biceps, back muscles, chest, hamstrings, and glutes.
  • They are easy on the knees by offering protection against stressful impact.
  • The exercise helps strengthen muscles and improve balance.
  • You can achieve targeted exercise by adjusting the resistance and inclination of the pedals.
  • An elliptical is easy to learn. You only need to get accustomed to the movement of the machine—and voilà!
  • Most ellipticals have several pre-programmed routines—allowing customizability to your needs.
  • They don’t have overly complicated moving parts, meaning they’re typically durable.

Cons

  • Conventional ellipticals are often pricey—but there are budget-friendly options available.
  • You don’t get the same muscle activation achieved with jogging or running.
  • Movement is more-or-less limited to a back and forward motion. This unnatural movement may throw some people off.

The Best Elliptical Machine for Bad Knees:

When shopping for an elliptical or the best cardio machine for bad knees, there are a few features to look out for. This includes a jerk-free operation, low step height, a rear-wheel drive, and a full-motion stride length. While there are tons of ellipticals that meet these conditions, you’ll likely love the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-E905 Elliptical.

The machine boasts of a ton of features that don’t match its modest price (under $200). It’s a rear-wheel-drive elliptical, the motion is silky smooth, the pedals have anti-slip padding, it has movable and static arms, the digital monitor is decent, 8 levels of resistance, floor stabilizers, and even transportation wheels.

To further cement its place as one of the best exercise machines for arthritic knees, the SF-E905 is widely popular on Amazon with over 7,000 reviews. The only drawback to this otherwise perfect piece of equipment is its somewhat short stride length.

Indoor Cycling Machines

If your knees are acting up, it’s only logical that you engage in monitored physical to improve their strength and flexibility. But it’s not that straightforward. You need a fat-burning workout that targets the legs, but with low-impact.

Indoor cycling machines are specifically designed to minimize stress on your hips, knees, ankles, and joints. You mainly have three choices: upright stationary bikes, spinning bikes, or recumbent exercise bikes. If we were hard-pressed to pick one, we would go with the recumbent bike—since it has a low impact and better support, making it ideal for several types of joint injuries.

Pros

  • Easy on your joints and muscles. Great for rehabilitating injuries.
  • The sitting position and back support make it comfortable.
  • The relaxed exercise motion is perfect for obese users or the elderly.
  • Frees your hands for multitasking.

Cons

  • Recumbent bikes tend to be expensive than other exercise bikes.
  • You burn fewer calories than on an upright bike.

The Best Cycling Machine for Bad Knees:

With a surprisingly low price of less than $200 and a plethora of functional features, choosing the Marcy ME-709 as the best cardio machine for bad knees was a no-brainer. If the 4.5/5.0* rating out of around 13,000 real-user reviews doesn’t tip you off on the awesomeness of this recumbent bike, then maybe its capabilities will.

Like most recumbent bikes, the large seat, placement of the pedals in front, and reclined position of the Marcy ME-709 lift the weight from your legs—which is a huge plus for someone with bad knees. But what sets the Marcy ME-709 apart is the heavy-duty design with a weight capacity of up to 300lbs, the ingenious step-through design, contoured handles covered with foam for extra support, a clear LCD display to monitor your progress—all at a throw-away price.

However, the bike is not perfect. Its motion range is limited, it doesn’t have pre-programmed routines, and it lacks a heart rate sensor.

Bonus Tip: The Arthritis Foundation advises patients to skip foot pedals in stationary bikes because they tend to promote the use of the wrong leg muscle.

Other Exercise Equipment for Bad Knees:

Outside of the mainstream exercise machines mentioned above, other low-impact types of equipment may work for some users.

Treadmills:

Featuring a treadmill in a list of the best cardio machine for bad knees is a rather divisive choice—but the exercise equipment has its undeniable benefits for users with mild knee pain. Look for options that feature inclined and cushioned belts to decrease impact when walking or running. If you decide to try out treadmill with the go-ahead from your physio, check out the NordicTrack T Series Treadmill. It’s foldable, it has a 10-inch touch screen display, tons of pre-loaded programs, FlexSelect deck cushioning, and you can adjust its inclination automatically.

Resistance Bands:

Looking for an inexpensive way to increase the flexibility and strength of your knees, glutes, and hips? Resistance bands are a simple yet versatile way to workout when you’re dealing with bad knees. You can try body-squats with knee press-out, hip raise with knee press-out, or lateral band walks. Just ensure the resistance bands you buy are sturdy – i.e., check out the Omeril Resistance Bands.

10 BEST KNEE/VMO STRENGTHENING EXERCISES

Video Credit: ACTIV CHIROPRACTIC

Wrapping Up:

Although these low-impact exercise equipment are designed to alleviate pressure on your joints, you still need to be careful with how much you push yourself.

If you experience any niggling persistent pain, take a break. Overuse of an injured or inflamed joint can make things worse. Instead, isolate the affected region and consult a medical expert immediately. The internet is great and all—but it’s not a substitute for a professional assessment.

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