The Best Exercise Equipment for Bad Knees, According to a Personal Trainer

older couple on recumbent bikes

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Bad knees can affect anyone. In the U.S. alone, almost 25% of adults have knee pain. Knee pain can be caused by anything, including arthritis, being overweight, or even from an inflammatory diet. No matter the cause, you don't have to sit back and live with the pain. The best exercise equipment for bad knees allows you to engage in workouts that strengthen your knees, thanks to low-impact machines like ellipticals or rowing machines.

The Best Exercise Equipment for Bad Knees - Our Top Picks

But how do you find the best exercise equipment for bad knees? Should you avoid treadmills or stationary bikes? In this article, we're taking a close look at five pieces of equipment that will work great for people with bad knees. I'll explain a little bit about why each type of equipment is a good option if you have knee pain, and offer a recommendation for equipment to consider. As a general rule, you should always consult with your doctor about knee pain, but this list of equipment is a great place to start.

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Best Treadmill for Bad Knees - NordicTrack Commercial 1750

NordicTrack Commercial 1750 Treadmill


  • Dimensions: 65" H x 80" L x 38" W
  • Weight: 340 lbs.
  • Weight capacity: 300 lbs.


It may sound counterintuitive, but a treadmill can also be a good option for certain types of bad knees. Treadmills offer a lower-impact alternative to walking outside while still strengthening those key muscles to protect your joints. Treadmills are especially helpful if you're trying to lose a bit of weight to get rid of some knee pain before moving on to other types of exercise.

NordicTrack Commercial 1750 is a bit of an investment, but it is completely worth the cost if you can fit it into your budget for a few reasons. First, NordicTrack integrates with iFit which has a library of several thousand walking/running/hiking workouts to choose from. It also has a 14" touchscreen that you can use on or off the treadmill, and a slimmer build than others of its class.

What We Like

  • 14" detachable touchscreen that shows iFit workouts
  • Slimmer build than other treadmills
  • Folds for storage

What We Don't Like

  • Expensive
  • Some of the controls could be easier to use while you're using the machine

BUY: NordicTrack Commercial 1750

Best Rowing Machine for Bad Knees - ProForm Pro 750R Rower

ProForm 750R Rower


  • Dimensions: 45.5" H x 86.5" L x 22" W
  • Weight: 116 lbs.
  • Weight capacity: 250 lbs.


Rowers are my favorite equipment for people with knee pain with one qualification: You have to use proper form. Bad form on a rower can actually aggravate your knee pain instead of alleviating it. On a rower, you have the power to choose the range of motion for your legs. If a full extension or full flexion are causing you problems, you can operate in the middle.

ProForm Pro 750R Rower is a great option if you're ready to try rowing. Not only does it have a display screen that is compatible with iFit, it has a place to put your devices for an even better display. This machine is also easy to move and designed to be both quiet and smooth.

What We Like

  • iFit compatible
  • Oversized foot pedals so you can customize your experience
  • Device shelf to hold an iPad or other device

What We Don't Like

  • Built-in display screen is only 5"
  • Limited workouts without iFit membership

BUY: ProForm Pro 750R Rower

Best Stair Stepper for Bad Knees - NordicTrack FS10i

NordicTrack FS10i


  • Dimensions: 74" H x 58.5" L x 29.5" W
  • Weight: 284 lbs.
  • Weight capacity: 375 lbs.


Most people with bad knees are going to struggle to try to use a traditional stair stepper because that motion is one that aggravates knee pain most consistently. But, there's a way you can hack the system and get the benefits of the exercise without the pressure on your knee.

The NordicTrack FS10i is a 3-in-1 system that includes a stepper, treadmill, and elliptical options. Because of this, the stepper function is a gliding motion similar to an elliptical where you will have zero impact on your knees while still building that muscle.

What We Like

  • Auto-adjusting resistance
  • Large touchscreen display
  • Plenty of workouts built in, plus its iFit compatible

What We Don't Like

  • Only twenty resistance levels
  • It can be difficult to switch between functions

BUY: NordicTrack FS10i

Best Elliptical for Bad Knees - Sole Fitness E35

Sole Fitness Sole E35


  • Dimensions: 71" H x 82" L x 31" W
  • Weight: 231 lbs.
  • Weight capacity: 375 lbs.


If you have bad knees, one of the most popular pieces of equipment to use is an elliptical. Ellipticals offer a low-impact cardio option that uses the muscles around your knees, but doesn't necessarily put any pressure on the joint itself—which is exactly what you want.

One of my favorite ellipticals for this purpose is Sole Fitness E35. The E35 is heavy, but you can thank the flywheel for much of the weight, which is important because a heavy flywheel means the pedals will move very smoothly. The display screen is also pretty big and bright so you shouldn’t have problems navigating the workouts.

What We Like

  • 20 different incline levels to adjust to your fitness level
  • Integrates with Sole's workout app, Studio
  • Excellent warranties

What We Don't Like

  • Requires significant assembly
  • Not touchscreen

BUY: Sole Fitness E35

Best Exercise Bike for Bad Knees - Sole R92 Recumbent Bike

Sole R92 Recumbent Bike


  • Dimensions: 50" H x 57" L x 30" W
  • Weight: 134 lbs.
  • Weight Capacity: 300 lbs.


There are several different types of exercise bikes out there, and if you have bad knees you're probably going to want to avoid all of them with the exception of recumbent bikes. Recumbent bikes are different from other exercise bikes because they are designed to let you extend your legs and pedal without much pressure on the knee joint.

If a recumbent bike sounds like the equipment for you, check out the Sole Fitness R92. This bike has a patented pedal design that keeps your knees protected, an adjustable seat, 20 resistance levels, Bluetooth compatibility, and several other features you'll love. Give it a try and see for yourself.

What We Like

  • Wide, heavy-cushioned seat
  • Multiple heart rate monitor methods
  • Tablet holder attachment if you want to watch a show or check your email

What We Don't Like

  • Only 10 pre-planned workouts
  • No integration with tracking apps

BUY: Sole R92 Recumbent Bike

What to Look for in Exercise Equipment for Bad Knees

Footprint and Space

If your exercise equipment doesn't fit in your room, that is going to be a problem. But if you're like me and have a hard time visualizing with just the floor dimensions, consider the height and visual appeal too. This is especially important when you're using equipment like treadmills or ellipticals where you are standing and your own height needs to be considered.


A lot of exercise equipment these days comes with built-in workouts that will automatically adjust the resistance or incline of a given piece of equipment. Otherwise, there are pieces of equipment with almost any feature you can think of from Bluetooth connectivity to compatibility with other health apps so you can track your progress.

Just keep in mind that the more features you're looking for the higher the price of the machine will be.

Sources of Knee Pain

The source of your knee pain should be one of the biggest factors you consider when buying exercise equipment. For example, if you have arthritis or other chronic knee pain you're going to want to avoid high-impact equipment like treadmills and stair steppers. Rowers and recumbent bikes will be a piece of equipment you can use indefinitely so they are probably a better investment.

Similarly, if you have knee pain from an old injury or a weakness in your muscular chain, then you have more options for equipment because as you strengthen the muscles around your knee the pain will subside.

FAQs About Exercise Equipment for Bad Knees

What kind of exercise equipment is best for bad knees?

The best exercise equipment for bad needs really depends on the source of your knee pain. But in general, focus on equipment that has little to no impact and gets the muscles around your knee firing.

Is a bike or treadmill better for bad knees?

If you have arthritis or another type of chronic knee pain, stationary bikes and treadmills could aggravate your symptoms. But there are options of both that can accommodate knee pain.

What exercises can I do to lose weight with bad knees?

If you're overweight with bad knees, the two are likely working together to hold you back. A recumbent bike or rower will be your best bet to shed some pounds and protect your knees.

Is walking good for knee pain?

Yes, walking is good for most types of knee pain because it strengthens your muscles. But if walking makes your knee pain worse you may need to start with a rower or another no-impact piece of equipment.

About the Author

Cory Kessler, CPT, FNC

Cory is a certified personal trainer and fitness nutrition coach. After spending six years as an educator and coach, Cory joined the ACTIVE team as a staff writer turning his passion for education toward helping ACTIVE readers live their best, healthiest lives.

See More from Cory

Cory is a certified personal trainer and fitness nutrition coach. After spending six years as an educator and coach, Cory joined the ACTIVE team as a staff writer turning his passion for education toward helping ACTIVE readers live their best, healthiest lives.

See More from Cory

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