Cardio exercise equipment for bad knees

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how to exercise with bad knees

A lot of people, if they have problems with knee pain, because of an injury, being overweight or arthritis, try to “protect” it from everything.

One of my friends did the same after surgery. He tried to avoid knee pain, and he used his other leg instead. In the end, it took him a lot of time to recover, and he had problems with the other knee because of the increased pressure.

I do not want to blame anyone, because it hurts. However, sometimes we have to suffer a little bit to reach something much better.

If you have problems with your knees doing the right types of exercises can help you much. Exercising strengthens your bones, joints, and muscles speeding up healing processes.

What is the best exercise for bad knees?

Obviously, you should avoid high-impact exercises and do low-impact ones that do not put such stress on your knees. Start slowly and carefully, and increase the resistance and intensity little by little.

Fortunately, you can choose from various exercise machines that help to strengthen your knees.

Note: Always consult your doctor before starting to use any machine or exercise program.

1. Stationary Recumbent Exercise Bikes

The recumbent bike is the right choice for those people who have such severe conditions that even walking for a long time is hard for them.

Also, compared to the upright bike, you can sit in an ergonomic seat which makes exercising even safer and convenient. Hence, it is also better for the back.

Because the recumbent exercise bike provides such a safe environment, it is widely used for rehabilitation. It can be adjusted in several ways to find the optimal position and resistance.

Perfect choice for seniors, obese people and people with severe knee injuries. These exercise machines provide smooth low impact cardio for bad knees.

2. Upright Stationary Bikes

aerobic workout on stationary bike

A stationary bike has the same benefits as the recumbent bike, but it is not as comfortable to use. Sitting on it requires more control from the upper body. Plus, sitting up and getting off is a bit more complicated as well.

Otherwise, the upright bike is useful since we can choose from various levels and provides safe cardio for bad knees at home.

3. Treadmill

The treadmill is also called a running machine. However, it a very beneficial home exercise equipment for bad knees to have low impact walking.

Modern treadmills come with a very safe shock absorption belt (running area). This way walking on the treadmill is safe protecting your knee joints.

Also, you can choose from a wide range of walking programs, and the handlebars give even more safety and support.

4. Elliptical Machine

The elliptical trainer is another useful knee exercise machine to strengthen our joints. With the help of it, you can get a low-impact and knee-friendly cardio workout. It put a little bit more stress on the knees, so it is better to use later in the healing process.

I have read a lot of times that people experience hurting knees while working out with an elliptical machine. In most of the cases, that comes from the incorrect usage. You should not lean forward while using it, keep a good posture.

5. Rowing Machines

low-impact cardio workout with rower

The rowing machine provides the most compound exercise. It works almost every muscle. Also, it has cardio and strength training benefits. But, rowing seems to be a movement that engages the knee joint too much.

Well, yes, if you do rowing incorrectly according to A typical poor form is when the user in the drive phrase just uses the power of the legs. 60% of the power should come from the legs, 20% holding the core and 20% from the arms at the end of the motion.

Also, a modern rowing machine like Concept 2 lets you choose from various resistance levels. So, you can tweak it to your level and treatment. Start with the lowest level, and gradually increase the speed, resistance and time.

In my opinion, the rover is also the best home fitness equipment for weight loss.

6. Other alternatives

If for some reason, you do not want to use the mentioned low impact knee exercise equipment, you can try water exercises or maybe swimming. The water decreases the pressure on every joint of your body. It is a good start for rehabilitation.

Related: What is the best exercise equipment for seniors?

Leg strengthening exercises for bad knees without equipment

Of course, you can moderately strengthen your legs without the need for any exercise machines. Here are a few exercises for bad knees.

Note: Always start with a few minutes of warming up before.

  1. Straight leg raises. Lie on the floor. Lift one of your legs by keeping in straight. Do 10-20 reps. Then switch to the other leg. This exercise works your quadriceps, the front muscles of your thighs, and the core without putting stress on your knee joint.
  2. Standing hamstring curl. Stand behind a chair and grab the back of it. This helps to keep your back straight. Now lift your heels as close to your buttocks as you can and stop for a few seconds. Do 10-20 reps. After some time, as your knee gets better, you can use ankle weights or resistance bands to increase the resistance. This exercise works your hamstring muscles that can be found at the back of your thighs.
  3. Standing calf raise. Stand straight and lift your body weight with the power of your calves. You can do 15-20 repetitions.
  4. Step-ups. For this exercise, you need a slightly elevated surface. Do not use too high things as the move puts too much stress on your knees. Step up on the elevated surface by using the power of your leg. Then, step back and repeat it with your other leg. Do 10-15 reps for both legs.
  5. Side leg raises. Lie on your side and bend your leg which is on the floor for better support. Now straighten your other leg and lift it to 45 degrees or more if it is not uncomfortable. Do 15-20 reps for each side.

Here a few more leg exercises that don’t hurt knees.

Note: If you feel any knee pain stop immediately to avoid future problems.

How to lose weight with knee pain

Well, if you are overweight, the first step is modifying your diet to reach a daily calorie deficit. This way, your body starts burning the stored fat. You can do all sorts of exercises if you overeat, you will hardly lose any weight.

Of course, exercises are also necessary not just because of burning more calories but also for developing your muscles mass, cardiovascular system, and endurance. For example, the more muscle mass you have, the faster your metabolism will be, which leads to consistently increased calorie burning.

Besides the mentioned cardio equipment, walking is among the best cardio exercises for bad knees. You need a good pair of shoes. And, if it is still difficult, you can try Nordic walking when you use two special poles. No matter which you choose, you get a full-body workout.


I hope you like this guide to the best exercise equipment for bad knees and workout advice. Most of these exercises are easy ones so you can start safely. With time as you improve, you can switch to harder moves. Be careful! Switching to advanced practices too fast will do more harm than good. So, be patient.

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James Wright

James (36) has been working out since he was 15 years old. He has a home gym where he pumps iron, does bodyweight workouts and boxing. He likes sharing his experiences with others who want to build a better physique.

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