Are Elliptical Machines Hard on Your Knees?

Are elliptical machines hard on your knees? Generally speaking, the answer is no. In fact, these are the types of machines that you really should consider working out on if you already have bad knees or if you are nursing some type of knee injury.

The Design

Elliptical machines are designed to be much kinder to the joints than running on a treadmill because they are considered to be low impact machines. If you have never been on an elliptical before, you stand on the machine and then you use a pumping leg action to propel yourself in place, much the same way that you would on a stationary bicycle. The difference is that you are standing up. As a result, you can get a great cardiovascular workout while simultaneously working out your lower body, including the buttocks, without punishing your knees in the process.

Some ellipticals even have a design that allows you to exercise your arms to a certain extent by holding on to the handlebars that move consistently with the rest of the machine. As a result, you can get in a great workout without running or doing anything else that causes a lot of strain on your knees or other joints.

A Word of Caution

The one thing that you really have to look out for is the possibility that you could hyperextend your leg while you are working out. When you hyperextend your knee, it forces the knee joint to straighten out all the way and then the entire joint loses its stability, allowing your leg to collapse backward. A better way to explain it is that instead of your leg being in line with the rest of your body, the hyperextended knee is actually out of alignment and behind the rest of your body. Obviously, this places a great deal of stress on the joint and it can do a lot of harm, like tearing cartilage or pulling the joint out of its socket.

This type of hyperextension rarely happens on an elliptical, but it does sometimes occur. Typically, it happens when you are trying to exercise at a pace that is too rapid for your fitness level or when you are simply not paying attention. If you allow yourself to get distracted or you try to push yourself too hard, you can experience this type of knee injury.


With that being said, simply paying attention while you are exercising can eliminate this from happening in most cases. As a result, the elliptical is easily one of the best types of machines that you can use when you need to get in a solid workout, yet your knees simply can’t take any more punishment on the treadmill or the stair climber.

In addition, the elliptical works equally well whether you simply have bad joints or you are trying to strengthen your knees after an injury. Your workout can be as intense as you want it to be without grinding your joints into the ground with every step. This makes it one of the best choices out of all the machines available in the gym. If you notice that after running on the treadmill your knees are sore and tender to the touch, you would be doing your body a favor to abandon it and start exercising on the elliptical instead.