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Daniel Mesa

Is Elliptical Good For Knees? Pros And Cons

The knees are one of the most injury-prone areas of the body. Many former athletes and everyday people suffer from pain in this area. Given the sensitivity, you do not want to aggravate the knee joint further by doing harsh, intense forms of cardio.

is elliptical good for knees

The elliptical machine is often seen as a low-impact alternative for those that suffer from joint pain. In this guide, we will delve into the pros and cons of using an elliptical machine with bad knees.

Benefits Of Elliptical For People With Bad Knees

Compared to other forms of cardio that involve running or jumping, it is no question that elliptical machines are far superior for knee health.

While on an elliptical, your feet remain firmly planted on the pedals as they glide back and forth. The benefit of this gliding motion is that you are still engaging your cardiovascular system while avoiding the impact that comes tied to traditional running.

At a deeper level, here are the main benefits of the elliptical machine if you struggle with your knee pain:

Strengthen Surrounding Muscles

Studies have shown that exercising on the elliptical can actually help reduce pain in the knee joints. The motion of the elliptical was found to strengthen the surrounding muscles and ligaments. As these surrounding muscles strengthened, the knee joint itself was put under less stress.

Not only that, the elliptical machines work to strengthen your quads, glutes, and hamstrings. The stronger and more capable these muscles become, the less strain will be placed on your knee over time.

Injury Recovery

As we have already mentioned, knee injuries are one of the most common injuries for athletes of all levels. If you are recovering from a knee injury and trying to work your way back to running, the elliptical can help you bridge the gap.

While you rehabilitate, you can maintain your cardiovascular fitness and mobility by using the elliptical. However, if you notice any knee pain at all, it is best to stop and wait until you are further along in your recovery.


As mentioned before, elliptical machines have way less impact on your joints and recoveries than other forms of cardio.

When you run or jump, your knees and ankles have to repeatedly absorb the impact with the ground. Over time, this can lead to degradation or flare of existing knee pain. An elliptical trainer avoids this problem by maintaining your feet in constant contact with a surface.

Potential Drawbacks To Elliptical Training

Like any other piece of exercise equipment, the elliptical can do more harm than good if used improperly. If you use improper form and lean too far forward or back, you can potentially stain your lower back and knees.

Aside from the problems that come with poor form, there are few considerations you have to keep in mind before you start using elliptical trainers:

Unnatural Strides

Unlike conventional walking or running, elliptical machines have set stride lengths between 16-22 inches. Therefore if you are below or above this range due to your body’s build, you may find the elliptical to feel unnatural.

Not only that, the gliding motion of an elliptical takes some getting used to.

Too Much Resistance

One of the traditional elliptical benefits is that you can quickly change the resistance of the machine to make the exercise harder. Many ellipticals take advantage of this by having built-in elliptical workouts that change back and forth between intensity levels.

A common mistake for someone with knee pain is choosing one of these programs blindly or using too much resistance from the start. Since you are trying to avoid knee pain, it is best to slowly increase the resistance as your body and knees get warmed up.

You should not be doing any sort of program that involves going back and forth between extreme levels of resistance as this can lead to further knee pain.

Can Lead To Imbalances

By design, the elliptical has imbalanced force distribution across your body. Compared to natural walking or running, more load will be placed on your hip and knee joints. This is not necessarily a problem since the elliptical is low-impact, but repeated use can lead to imbalances in your body over time.

It is best to combine your elliptical training with some kind of strength training to avoid any kind of muscular imbalances.

Can Ellipticals Cause Knee Pain? How To Avoid It

It is possible for ellipticals to cause knee pain, especially when the person using it is not being careful and using poor form or if there is an underlying condition present. To prevent knee pain from elliptical use, follow these basic tips:

Elliptical Tips

Wear Proper Shoes: You should be using shoes that have good grip, ankle support, and plenty of cushion. Some people have been known to use an elliptical without shoes, but you should avoid this when you start out.

Adjust The Machine To Fit Your Body: Most elliptical machines allow you to adjust the positioning of the pedals and arms to make it more suitable for you body type. Make sure to adjust the machine so your feet are level with the pedals and your knees are over your toes.

Use Smooth Motions: The elliptical is not designed to be jerked around even during points of exhaustion. Try to keep things fluid and smooth.

Listen To Your Body: If you notice any sort of knee pain, stop and rest. Do not push through pain as this can worsen your condition.

Start Slow: Every time you hop on the elliptical, you should take the time to warm up and work your way up in resistance. You want to increase blood flow to your knees before you really kick up the intensity.

Treadmill vs Elliptical For Knee Pain

The elliptical and treadmill are the two most common cardio machines found in home or commercial gyms. Either can be a great fitness tool for most people. However, for those with knee pain, there are a few key differences you should consider:


  • Much harsher on your knees and other joints. Does not do much to lessen the impact compared to traditional running. This effect is felt more in people with higher body weight.

  • Allow you to use your natural walking pace and form. Can feel more natural for most people.

  • Provides more strength benefits as your legs have to push you for each step. May make it more suitable for those who have been cleared for weight bearing exercise.


  • A low-impact form of cardio. Your feet are in constant contact with the pedals which avoids any type of impact from repeated steps.

  • The gliding motion may seem unnatural to some people. Also, the gliding motion does not strengthen your muscles as much as there is less resistance.

  • Better for people who are coming back from an injury or just getting into working out.

At the end of the day, if you have more involved knee problems like arthritic knees or ligament problems, the elliptical will always be the safer option.

Final Thoughts

Ellipticals are designed to allow you to work your cardiovascular system while limiting impact on other areas of your body like your knees. If you are looking to keep your knee joints healthy, there is really no better alternative cardio machine.

Just keep in mind that like with all workout machines, you have to use proper form and listen to your body as needed.


Can elliptical damage knees?

If you use the improper form or have very severe knee injuries, the elliptical can damage your knees. However, most people will find that they can use an elliptical pain-free.

What is better for knees elliptical or the bike?

Both are good, low-impact options. Generally, the elliptical will cause less impact on your knees but you should try both to see which works best for you.