Treadmill vs. Elliptical: Which Is Best for Your Knees?

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The treadmill and elliptical are popular cardio machines for excellent strength and aerobic workout sessions.

However, one thing remains a mystery to many, and that’s the best choice for your knees.

First, both machines have their health benefits. So, the choice often narrows down to preferences and goals.

On the other hand, none of the cardio machines is a perfect choice. They have their advantages and disadvantages, and understanding them makes deciding easy.

Their suitability also differs from case to case.

For instance, people with knee osteoarthritis are highly recommended to train on an elliptical since the trainer doesn’t strain joints much.

Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean the treadmill is out of bounds for them.

As long as they take certain measures, such people can also reap the benefits of the treadmill.

So, let’s delve into areas that can help you decide between treadmill and elliptical. The article will also help you choose the best for your knees, so keep reading.

Treadmill vs. Elliptical

Since it can be tough to solve the tag of war between the two, let’s look at both sides of each cardio machine.

Advantages of Treadmill

The advantages of a treadmill include the following;

  • It effectively strengthens your calves, hamstrings, quadriceps, and other leg muscles. Other muscles the machine can strengthen include the glutes and hip flexors.
  • Thanks to its various settings, it is a versatile workout machine. It also gives you control over your sessions, including their intensity.
  • Its settings also allow you to choose what works best for your goals.

Disadvantages of Treadmills

Equally important, treadmills have their disadvantages, including the following;

  • Don’t expect treadmill workout sessions to work on many muscle groups. They are mostly limited to strengthening the glutes, hip flexors, and leg muscles.
  • The machine makes you prone to injuries since it exerts too much pressure on your joints and bones. Stress fractures, knee injuries, and shin splints are common treadmill injuries.

Related: How to Prevent Injuries When Running on a Treadmill?

Advantages of an Elliptical

On the other hand, an elliptical also has its advantages, including the following;

  • You get to work on various muscle groups simultaneously
  • Elliptical with arm handles allows you to work on your lower and upper body simultaneously. It affects the quadriceps, chest, shoulders, back, hip flexors, and glutes.
  • It is suitable for challenging exercises after an injury; hence, you don’t want to choose between your fitness and recovery.
  • Since it is a low-impact cardio machine, it is quite easy on joints. Therefore, consider it when experiencing osteoporosis, arthritis, hip pain, knee pain, and lower back pain, among other similar health conditions.

Disadvantages of an Elliptical

As for the disadvantages, check them out!

  • It is not quite effective in muscle development.
  • It usually takes some time to learn how to use the elliptical comfortably.

Which Is the Best for Your Knees Between a Treadmill and an Elliptical?

Whereas both treadmill and elliptical machines have their health benefits, the latter is ideal for your knees due to the following reasons;

Great Assistance after an Injury

After experiencing an injury, your knees will need some time to recover. However, that doesn’t mean giving up on exercising altogether.

On the contrary, you can opt for elliptical machines since they ease your way back into your workout sessions.

However, even exercises on elliptical machines are unsafe if your physical therapist or doctor hasn’t cleared you to work out after an injury. After all, its suitability depends on the person, recovery stage, and even the nature of the injury.

So, only a professional can determine if and when it is safe to exercise after an injury.

Besides, be alert if knee pain occurs when on an elliptical. Unfortunately, most people choose to push themselves to finish the workout session.

Ultimately, the exercises that should have helped you only worsen your situation. So, avoid that at all costs.

Proper use of the machine is also crucial, especially during recovery. Every recommendation, including adjustments and settings, makes a huge difference, from the incline to foot placement to hand location.

Strengthening Supportive Muscles

Did you know that various muscles work complementary to ensure you have healthy knees? As you strengthen them, the health of your knees improves, so you should consider an elliptical.

Such exercises increase the blood flow to your knee cartilage. Coupled with the strong muscles, your knee joints become healthy.

No wonder people with arthritic knees should give it a shot. Besides knees, your ankles, quads, and hamstrings also benefit from such exercises.

As your feet press into their pedals all the time, the chances of joint twists decrease. It aligns your body excellently and enhances one’s balance.

Minimizing Impact on Your Knees

During elliptical workout sessions, don’t expect exertion of too much pressure on your back, knees, and hips. That’s why the cardio machine is often the best for your knees.

The exercises don’t put as much pressure as when you are jogging or running. After all, you don’t need to hit the ground or the treadmill belt.

It is about settling for an easy machine on your weight-bearing joints, such as your knees. It is no secret that elliptical machines are a perfect definition of such.

Remember, elliptical workouts are similar to riding your bicycle. Since your feet never leave the pedals, the pressure on your knees is insignificant.

Besides offering little impact, you don’t need much stabilizing around the knees or other joint areas. Consequently, it is the best for your knees.

Remember that you can also increase its resistance for a more challenging routine. That’s not an option for a treadmill since the only adjustments are incline and speed.

Isn’t knowing you can have challenging workout sessions without stressing your knees great?


Treadmill vs. elliptical. So, which is the best for your knees? As tough as the question seemed initially, there is a high chance it is no longer the case.

First, you understand the difference between the duet despite having similar purposes. Each of them has its benefits as long as one uses them correctly.

From the discussion, elliptical is the best for your knees most of the time. However, you can always use a treadmill for your bad knees, although in a certain way.

Whenever in doubt, ask for clarification from your trainer or doctor. Lastly, always listen to how your body feels; a session doesn’t have to be painful to be effective.

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