3 Low-Impact Exercise Machines for Bad Joints

Exercise Knee Joint Pain

Exercise machines are meant to help us achieve our fitness goals, such as to lose weight, build muscle or improve our endurance. However, if we take a longer-term view, we realize that when choosing the right exercise equipment, it’s just as important to choose low-impact machines that won’t put too much stress on our joints.

So which exercise machines are both effective and easy on the joints? Which workout equipment can help us achieve our fitness goals in a healthy way? In this article, I would like to introduce you to the best low-impact exercise machines. Have fun! 😉

How to Know Whether an Exercise Machine is Low-Impact or Not

Foot Strike on Treadmill

There are several things that determine whether an exercise machine is easy on the joints or not. The impact forces on our joints play an important role. Some machines put pressure on our joints, while others do not.

When running on a treadmill, for example, our joints are subjected to 3-4 times our own body weight with every step. The knee joint is particularly affected, so that knee pain is a common and recurring problem for many runners.

Furthermore, the joints do not like it when they are loaded unnaturally. What does that mean? Every joint has a certain range of motion within which it prefers to move. However, if we put our joints to the test of a load that does not correspond to the natural movement pattern, we are not exercising in a joint-friendly manner.

In summary, a low-impact, joint-friendly exercise machine produces low impact forces and follows our natural movement pattern!

Who is in Need of a Low-Impact Exercise Machine?

Overweight people are particularly affected by the negative consequences of the impact forces just described. As already mentioned, when running on a treadmill, each heel strike produces a force that equals 3-4 times our own body weight.

This means that the higher your body weight, the higher is the stress that’s put on your joints. Especially if you’re overweight, the treadmill is not the optimal choice.

In addition, people with joint problems in general are also advised to use joint-friendly exercise equipment, since the susceptibility to injuries is simply higher for these people.

The Best Low-Impact Exercise Machines

So much for the theory. Which exercise machines are low-impact and easy on the joints?

The Elliptical

Exercise with Elliptical Machine

The most popular alternative to the treadmill is the elliptical, which comes closest to walking in terms of its motion pattern. Since the feet remain in constant contact with the pedals, there are no impact forces!

In addition, the elliptical motion curve of this exercise machine is very easy on the joints. However, in order to ensure a healthy workout, there are some things to consider.

Basically, it is said that a combination of a long stride length and narrow horizontal pedal distance helps to work out in the most joint-friendly way.

You should also make sure that you have a high flywheel weight. This stores the swing energy that you produce yourself and returns it to you at the so-called “dead spots”. The flywheel weight is connected to how smooth the elliptical machine will maneuver, which is also an important part of a joint-friendly workout.

If you’re interested in the most popular low-impact alternative to the treadmill, you should take a look at the Schwinn Compact Elliptical. Here you can find all the further information you’ll need.

The Stationary Bike

Exercise on Stationary Bike

The stationary bike is also considered a very joint-friendly low-impact exercise machine. Just as for the elliptical, the impact forces are very low here as well, as the feet remain in constant contact with the pedals. Especially for cyclists, the stationary bike is considered the optimal solution for working out in the comfort of your own home.

Since, in contrast to real cycling outside, you will not have to deal with uneven surfaces, the workout is very easy to control, healthy and joint-friendly.

You should pay attention to the following things when choosing a low-impact stationary bike:

The Seat Height

At the lowest point of the movement, the angle in the knee joint should not exceed 170 degrees, so that the leg is still slightly bent.

The Seat Angle

The seat should be angled at a neutral position, parallel to the floor. A saddle angled downwards can cause knee pain, while a saddle angled upwards can lead to lower back pain and soft tissue discomfort.

The Body Posture

The back should be kept upright and straight. The wrists should represent the extension of the forearm. The shoulders are kept down and are not raised.

The best stationary bike to buy according to my personal experience is the Schwinn 570U Upright Bike. You can take a closer look at it here.

The Rowing Machine

Woman on Rowing Machine

Last but not least, let’s talk about what I consider to be the most underrated exercise machine: Although the rowing machine is enjoying an increasing popularity, it still lags behind the popularity of other workout machines such as the treadmill.

The rowing machine provides a full-body workout, that helps you to target up to 80% of your muscles at the same time. Rowing is considered to be incredibly effective and is suitable for every target group and every fitness goal.

And the best thing is that the rowing machine is also known as a very joint-friendly exercise machine. The rowing movement is very smooth and the stresses are distributed very well over the whole body without putting too much stress on specific joints.

However, especially beginners should be careful and should learn the proper rowing technique first. Since this can be explained much better with a video than just with words, I have selected a good video for you here:

A basic requirement helping you to exercise in a joint-friendly manner is also to adjust the machine correctly. First of all, you should choose a rowing machine with a sufficiently long seat rail. It is important that you can fully extend your legs at the end of the rowing motion.

The footrest, the part to which your feet are attached, should also be adjusted correctly. The taller you are, the further down the footrest should be. You will know when it’s too low when you are lifting your buttocks slightly off the seat during the eccentric movement.

The Concept2 Indoor Rower and the WaterRower have been competing head-to-head for the rowing machine throne for years. Both models are undoubtedly among the absolute top class, but they also come along with a hefty price tag. An affordable and yet high-quality alternative is the XTERRA ERG200 Rowing Machine.

Final Thoughts on the Best Low-Impact Exercise Machines

Exercise equipment should be designed to be effective of course, and yet it’s just as important that the machines provide a low-impact workout that’s easy on the joints. After all, what’s the good of losing weight or building muscle fast if we can no longer exercise properly in a few years’ time? Some exercise machines have been designed exactly that way. Ultimately, however, a lot depends on applying the correct technique and posture.

I hope that I could help you with this article. If you still have any questions or suggestions, feel free to write me an e-mail.

Otherwise, I wish you a lot of fun and success with your new joint-friendly, low-impact exercise machine! 😉

Benny Laker

I am the owner of High Tech Fitness. I love testing any kind of exercise equipment and enjoy sharing my insights with you.

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