7 Best Exercise Machines for Bad Knees

Knee pain is a common problem that can put a damper on your workout routine. But just because you have sore knees doesn’t mean you have to give up exercise altogether. In fact, several different types of exercise equipment can reduce knee pain. 

We’ll discuss these below. But first:

Factors to Consider when Choosing Exercise Equipment for Bad Knees

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for bad knees when it comes to exercise machines. Instead, you’ll need to focus on a few key factors to find the best option. 

With a little trial and error, you should be able to find an exercise machine that works for you.

Type of Exercise 

If you’re interested in cardio, ellipticals and rowing machines may be a good option, as they provide a total-body low-impact workout. However, if you’re looking to build strength, you may want to consider a machine that offers adjustable resistance levels, like a recumbent bike.

Type of Knee Pain/ Movement 

You’ll want to adjust your workout depending on your knee pain type. Thus, it’s essential to consider the kind of movement involved. 

Here’s a (somewhat) false statement you can read online:

Up-down movements can put more stress on the knees, while rotational movements are much easier on the joints. That’s why elliptical machines and recumbent bikes are often recommended for people with knee problems. These types of exercise are believed to involve a smooth, low-impact movement that won’t aggravate existing knee pain. 

That’s not always the case.

The repeated circular movement can worsen inflammation. Therefore, physical therapists recommend shallow bodyweight lunges and squats in many cases, plus walking.


Any seasoned gym-goer knows that padding is essential when working out – but nowhere is it more necessary than when dealing with sensitive joints. Thus, if you’re looking for exercise machines for bad knees, you should always prioritize those with plenty of cushioning. 

After all, you don’t want to aggravate your condition by putting too much stress on your joints. 

Padding will minimize the impact of your workout, protecting your knees as you stay active. So if you’re looking for a way to exercise without making your pain worse, choose machines that offer plenty of padding. 

Your knees will thank you for it!


Adjustability is critical when looking for new exercise machines to help with bad knees. That’s because different people have different needs for knee support, and what works for one person might not work for another. 

By choosing an adjustable machine, you can tailor the level of support to your own needs, ensuring that you’re always getting the right amount of help. 


When it comes to working out with bad knees, the grip can be everything. The wrong kind of grip can lead to all sorts of problems, from slips and falls to joint pain and inflammation. But with the right gym equipment, you can stay safe and comfortable while building strength and improving your conditioning:

Remember: Look for a machine with a firm, nonslip surface that’s easy on the joints. 

A good grip will help you keep your balance and form while you’re exercising, and it will also provide the stability you need to avoid further knee injury. 

What Is the Best Exercise Machine for Bad Knees?

Now that we’ve gone over the factors to consider when choosing an exercise machine for bad knees, let’s look at some of the best options.

1. Rowing Machine

best exercise machine for bad knees

Rowing machines offer a full-body, low-impact workout ideal for people with knee pain. Rowing is a great way to get your heart rate up without putting too much stress on your joints, and most rowing machines come with adjustable resistance levels, so you can make the workout as intense or as easy as you like. 

Additionally, many rowing machines have padded seats and footrests, which can help to minimize impact and protect your knees.

Pro tip: Choose a rower that mimics a natural, fluid movement. Water and magnetic rowing machines are your safest bet if you have knee pain (or other joint issues).

2. Treadmill

best home fitness equipment for bad knees

Treadmills are an excellent option for people with bad knees, as they offer a low-impact workout that can be tailored to your needs. For example, walking vigorously for 5-10 minutes is now being recommended as a treatment for knee osteoarthritis.

Your PT may also recommend walking to relieve stiffness in your knees and alleviate inflammation.

Most treadmills have adjustable speed and incline settings so that you can control the intensity of your workout. However, don’t push yourself too hard. 

Also, make sure your treadmill has built-in shock absorption, which can reduce the impact on your knees. Remember to wear cushiony trainers, too.

Pro tip: A 3 mph speed and 2% incline are enough if you have knee pain.

3. Elliptical Machine

best gym equipment for bad knees

For some people with knee pain, especially those recovering from a knee injury, the elliptical is a dream come true. This low-impact cardio machine provides an excellent workout with minimal joint stress. 

The smooth, circular motion is gentle on the knees (unless you have a throbbing inflammation), and the built-in handles provide support and stability. Additionally, ellipticals are often equipped with adjustable resistance settings so that you can tailor your workout to your fitness level. 

Warning: Treadmills and ellipticals are weight-bearing machines because you’re standing. As such, pushing on the pedals or walking puts increased pressure on your knees. If you’re recovering from a knee injury, rest for at least 72 hours and contact your doctor.

4. Recumbent Bike

exercise equipment for people with knee problems

Recumbent bikes are excellent exercise machines for people with bad knees – and here’s why. 

  • The seat on a recumbent bike is large and well-cushioned, so there’s no need to worry about your knees taking a beating. 
  • The pedals on a recumbent bike are closer to the ground than on a traditional bike, making it easier on your knees to push. 
  • You can adjust the resistance level on a recumbent bike to adapt your workout to what your body can currently do.

Pro tip: If you want to make the most of your recumbent bike, choose one with upper-body resistance bands. That way, you can exercise your entire body without purchasing additional equipment.

5. Stair Stepper

exercise machine for joint problems

The stair stepper can be a godsend for those of us with less-than-perfect knees. 

Unlike other cardio machines that rely on impact to get the heart pumping, the stair stepper uses a low-impact movement that is easy on the joints. And because you can adjust the intensity level, it’s a great way to get a workout without putting too much stress on your knees. 

Basically, climbing on a stair stepper feels like a shallow lunge without the added pressure and balance issues.

Additionally, the stair stepper is an excellent way to improve mobility and range of motion. By moving your legs in a range of directions, you’ll help to keep your joints lubricated and flexible. 

And lack of lubrication is a prominent cause of knee pain.

Pro tip: Remember to ask for your doctor’s approval before getting on that stepper.

6. Vibration Plate

vibration plates for bad knees

Vibration plates have been gaining popularity, especially for people with mobility issues. The theory behind these devices is that the vibrations help to stimulate blood flow and improve joint function.

Vibration plates are effective for all muscle groups. 

The vibrations help to activate the muscles, resulting in a more intense workout. Basically, you can keep your muscles activated even without strenuous resistance training or cardio. As a result, vibration plates offer a low-impact way to exercise that can benefit people with bad knees. 

Pro tip: The vibrations can help to reduce inflammation and pain. So if your doctor gives you the go-ahead, use yours to massage your aching knees.

7. 2-in-1 Elliptical Cross-Trainer

exercise equipment for joint issues

For people with bad knees, finding an exercise machine that is gentle on the joints can be a real challenge. Many popular options, such as treadmills and stair climbers, still put sufficient stress on the knees, which can worsen the pain. 

The 2-in-1 Elliptical Cross-Trainer is an excellent option for people with bad knees because it provides a low-impact workout that protects the joints. 

The elliptical motion is similar to walking or running but without the jarring impact on the knees. In addition, you can use the cross-trainer as a stationary bike if you sit down. That way:

  • You can take a break when the standing exercise starts feeling too hard.
  • You avoid repetitive movements that would increase knee pain and swelling.

Pro tip: Magnetic cross-trainers are smooth on your knees, therefore protecting them from the extra impact.

Final Thoughts

Exercise is an integral part of managing knee pain, but choosing the right exercises is essential. Low-impact cardio machines like the elliptical, recumbent bike and stair climber are excellent choices for people with bad knees. Additionally, vibration plates offer a low-impact way to exercise that can benefit people with knee pain. 

So if you’re looking for ways to stay active without aggravating your knee pain, give these machines a try. And as always, check with your doctor before starting any new exercise regimen!

Mary D. Brown

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