Best Exercise Equipment for Arthritic Knees

Julie Kirk
Woman with knee pain

Exercising your knees safely can be one way of helping arthritis pain. Learn what types of exercise equipment are best for your arthritic knees, so you can reduce your pain and use your knees without worry. However, it is important that you discuss your new exercise regimen with your doctor prior to using any type of exercise equipment.

Best Aerobic Equipment for Arthritic Knees

Because running and jumping may cause pain, doctors frequently recommend a low-impact workout for those with arthritis. Choose a piece of athletic equipment that can give you a good aerobic workout without stressing your knees.

Stationary Bikes

Stationary bikes, both recumbent and upright, are excellent pieces of equipment for people with arthritis in their knees. They work the lower body without impact. Depending on which version you use, they also require little to no weight bearing on your knees, which can help relieve some stress. Pick the right one with these tips:

  • Make sure you select a bike that has an adjustable, wide, cushioned seat.
  • You should be able to easily reach the pedals with your leg extended in front of you, with a slight bend in your knee and your foot flexed.
  • Consider selecting a bike that has lumber support and multiple levels of resistance for the most comfortable, customized workout.

For your safety, do not use the straps on the foot pedals. Not only will using them possibly cause you to use the incorrect leg muscles, but if you lose balance on the bike, your foot may stay in the pedal strap which could be detrimental if you fall.

Woman exercising in health club

Elliptical

Depending upon the way in which your knee tracks, you may find that the elliptical is perfect for your knees. This low-impact exercise has a more limited range of motion in the knee joint, which can help keep your knees moving fluidly. Elliptical machines are also weight bearing, which can help you develop stronger bones around the knees to help support them.

Choose an elliptical that has a long, 21-inch stride. This may be more comfortable for those with problem knees. If you find, however, that your knees turn inward as you pedal, and this in turn causes you pain, you may want to avoid using the elliptical machine. For your safety you should avoid the pre-set programs on an elliptical machine. If the speed or incline changes too quickly, it could put you at risk of injury or falling.

Senior woman exercising in a fitness center

Treadmill

While running is not recommended for arthritic knees, walking on a treadmill can be a useful aerobic exercise for people with arthritis. Treadmills offer more cushion than hard pavement, and gentle inclines can help make the workout more challenging without being strenuous.

Start slowly, walking for five to 10 minutes at a time, as you build up strength and stamina. Use a walking treadmill at home for a comfortable indoor walk. For your safety avoid steep inclines which could cause excess stress on your knees.

Man and women exercising on treadmill

Rowing Machine

Rowing machines offer an excellent cardio workout that will simultaneously work your upper and lower body. It provides a low impact workout, strengthens the back muscles and gets the heart pumping. Be sure to choose a rowing machine with a bar handle versus the individual cables. You also want one that uses air or fluid for resistance rather than weights which can be hard on the joints.

Start at a low resistance to avoid injury as you get use to the mechanics of the machine. You can add more resistance as you get stronger. For your safety always sit upright and engage your core. Do not hunch your shoulders.

Senior man exercising on rowing machine in gym

Best Strength Training Equipment for Arthritic Knees

The best exercise programs are the ones that incorporate strength training with aerobic exercise to help strengthen the muscles around the knee joints. This can help keep the knees tracking properly and expand and preserve your range of motion.

Machine Weight Leg Press

A leg press weight machine can help to strengthen the entire leg without fear that you will go too far and injure your knees. Set the machine's weight plate within your knees' comfortable range of motion and begin with a light weight. For your safety you should build up slowly and as you gain strength, you can add more weight. Use a machine that allows you to adjust your upper body position to a comfortable incline.

Ankle Weights

Ankle weights are a great way to gain strength without stressing the knee joint. Lay on your side with the weight on the top ankle. Keep your leg straight as you lift it from the hip. This will strengthen the muscles on the sides of the leg, which can help keep your knee tracking while not stressing it. For your safety, use light weights and if you feel the slightest stress on your knees discontinue use until your knees feel stronger. Get adjustable ankle weights that have the ability to keep increasing your strength over time.

Woman at gym putting ankle weights

Resistance Bands

Resistance bands can help you strengthen all the muscles in your leg without stressing the knee joint. Loop the band around both feet at once and either stand on one leg while moving the other out to the side, front or back, or sit on a chair and bend one leg out in front of you while the other remains on the ground. The resistance band will add light pressure, making your muscles work harder. For your safety, make sure your band is looped securely and prior to each use check for tears in the band. Use simple bands which are designed to fit the upper or lower leg.

Best Exercise Equipment for Range of Motion Exercises

The third component of exercising your arthritic knees is doing range of motion exercises. Range of motion exercises help keep your joints moving properly by stretching and strengthening the areas around them.

Yoga Mat

Yoga is one of the most recommended exercises for range of motion, and it can be done with a simple yoga mat. Select a mat this is sticky enough to help you keep your balance and thick enough to offer some support to your knees when you are down on the floor. Look for a mat that is at least 5mm thick to get the best support for your knees.

Yoga mat

Cotton Strap

As you work to become more flexible, a cotton strap can help you achieve exercises and positions you may not be able to do at first. You can wrap the cotton strap around the soles of your feet to help you bend forward further, or you can use it to support one leg in the air, giving you some stability. Use a simple D-ring strap that will quickly thread your strap into a loop.

Start Slowly

No matter what exercise equipment you choose to use for your arthritic knees, make sure you begin slowly and check with your doctor to see which exercises may help you the most. There are different types of arthritis, and some may benefit from one exercise more than another. Choose the best pieces of equipment for your knees to reap all the benefits that exercise has to offer.

Best Exercise Equipment for Arthritic Knees