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Is an elliptical the best machine for knees that are chronically painful?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Any exercise machine that takes pounding away from the knee but still strengthens the muscles above and below the knee can be a great option for people with chronic knee pain. An elliptical machine does that -- but stationary bikes and rowing machines can, too. 
Elliptical trainers are growing in popularity. One reason may be that because the person who is exercising is not taking his or her feet off of the pedals, and exercise can be done at a gentler rate, while still getting the same degree of results as with a treadmill.  This will create less impact on your joints and can help reduce the stress on your knees. The walk / run motion is important for most people that can't run on a treadmill because of their knees. The elliptical can be a good way to strengthen the legs in the walk / run motion so that you can add running or walking into your fitness routine in the future.  Alternately, if your knees don't improve, you can still get some of the benefits of running by using an elliptical. However, not all ellipticals are the same, and they have different ranges of motion. You will need to test several different models to find the best position for your knees and you will hopefully find one that will help strengthen them.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.