You’ve probably heard that the elliptical is ideal as a mode of cross-training or low-impact exercise—which is true. But an elliptical workout routine also benefits your knees in three key ways. Here are the top three reasons to add elliptical workouts to your exercise plan immediately.
Elliptical workouts protect your knees from stressful impact.
Elliptical workouts are known for being a less stressful form of cardio for knees, hips, and the back. “They can be an alternative to running or jogging, due to the reduced impact of hitting the treadmill or ground,” says Aaptiv trainer Candice Cunningham.
“In general, the elliptical machines are easier on the knees and other weight-bearing joints,” notes Eran Kabakov, Physical Therapist. “The elliptical applies low-to-no impact on the knees. We call this type of exercise ‘closed chain’ movement. This means that the feet are connected to the pedals—similar to bicycling. This type of movement is easier on the knees. It requires less stabilization around the joints and offers minimum impact.”
Physical Therapist Dr. James Cassell agrees. “Elliptical workouts can be a great alternative to treadmill workouts. They stress the knees less via reduced impact. They can be equally as challenging as treadmill workouts. The resistance can be increased significantly to engage the leg musculature more. There is no way to increase resistance on a treadmill—only speed and incline.”
You can strengthen other muscles that keep knees healthy.
Studies show low-impact cardio workouts, like on elliptical machines, can increase blood flow to knee cartilage and strengthen the muscles around the knee. This helps keep your knee joints healthy, particularly if you suffer from arthritic knees.
“The lower impact of the machine on joints allows the individual to work by allocating pressure to glutes when driving through heels with strides/rotations,” says Cunningham.
Additionally, elliptical workouts strengthen your quads, hamstrings, and ankles. All of this contribute to healthy knees. The fact that your feet are always pressing into the pedals protects your joints from twisting. It also improves balance and keeps your body in alignment.
“Due to the low-impact nature of the machine, your feet never leave the foot pads, unlike the treadmill, which is repetitive impact,” explains Dr. Cassell.
The elliptical can help you recover from injury.
Using an elliptical can be a good way to ease back into exercise after injury, provided you’ve received clearance to work out from your doctor or physical therapist, says Cunningham. If you prefer to run, elliptical workouts can be a great way to reduce boredom and prevent injuries such as stress fractures or a mild meniscus tear.
“Elliptical workouts can be beneficial for those who are recovering from knee injuries, depending on the individual, injury, and stage of recovery,” says Kabakov. “A healthcare professional who is helping the individual would be able to make the final determination.”
But, If you notice knee pain during an elliptical workout, Cunningham says to stop rather than push through your workout. Also, make sure you are using the elliptical correctly, advises Dr. Cassell. “Ensure that hand placement, foot location, and incline are adjusted to your height and body type. If you continue to experience pain when using the elliptical correctly consult a healthcare professional. Try speaking to a physical therapist, chiropractor, or orthopedist, as the elliptical should not be causing pain to a healthy knee.”