Whether your knee problems are caused by arthritis, injury or obesity, you still need to exercise. The right kind of exercise can improve the condition of your knees by strengthening the bones and muscles around them. The trick is to avoid aggravating an existing knee condition. There are several exercise machines that work well for bad knees if you use them correctly.
If used with care, a treadmill is a good option for people with bad knees. Walking on a treadmill is a relatively low-impact exercise. It strengthens muscles and bones and offers aerobic benefits, especially if you walk at a brisk pace. However, as MayoClinic.com states, avoid running on a treadmill. Running is a high-impact activity that is hard on your joints.
An elliptical machine also offers a low-impact, aerobic workout that is relatively easy on the knees. In fact, the American Council on Exercise states that an elliptical is a good alternative to a treadmill for people with previous knee or leg problems. If you use an elliptical correctly -- maintaining good posture and not leaning on the handles -- it shouldn't cause knee pain. Underlying knee injuries, such as degenerative arthritis, might cause some pain when using this machine, however. If so, follow the advice of your physician.
If you have certain knee injuries, a stationary bike might be a better bet than an elliptical machine. The Cleveland Clinic notes that a bike might be the ideal choice if you have a knee condition that makes it difficult for you to walk without difficulty for extended periods of time. It's also an appropriate choice for people who are more that 50 pounds overweight. A recumbent bike, which allows you to sit in a chair instead of on a traditional bike saddle, can lessen strain on your back. Riding the bike is a relatively safe exercise for people with balance problems, such as arthritis sufferers, who frequently develop balance problems due to inactivity.
If you have bad knees and are seeking an alternative to exercise machines, swimming is another low-impact activity that can be good for sore or stiff joints. The buoyancy of water lessens stress on the spine, hips and knees. You can swim or do water aerobics or water walking in the pool for an aerobic workout that shouldn't stress your knees. However, If you have bad knees, or you have been inactive, consult your doctor before starting an exercise program.
- MayoClinic.com: Are Elliptical Machines Better Than Treadmills for Basic Aerobic Workouts?
- Arthritis Today: Benefits fo Stationary Cycling
- American Council on Exercise: What's the Best Piece of Cardio Equipment to Use?
- University of Washington Orthopedics and Sports Medicine: Exercise and Arthritis
- Cleveland Clinic: Heart and Vascular Health & Prevention
Jim Thomas has been a freelance writer since 1978. He wrote a book about professional golfers and has written magazine articles about sports, politics, legal issues, travel and business for national and Northwest publications. He received a Juris Doctor from Duke Law School and a Bachelor of Science in political science from Whitman College.