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  1. #1
    Registered User FJC's Avatar
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    Elliptical for bad knees?

    My first post here! I'm a 42 year old man who's always had some knee issues, even when I was a teen . I'm overweight (240lbs at 6'), and back in November started doing something about that (hey, I was 257 back then, so I've made progress). In addition to diet, I started exercising regularly, primarily on a treadmill at home.

    I've kept to walking speeds to avoid flaring up my left knee problems, but after two solid months of 5-6 times per week, 30-60 minutes per session, it's starting to act up. I believe it's primarily impact-related. Prior to this, I had worked up to doing 30-60 minute sessions, at a steady 3.5 pace (warm up and cool-down speeds lower, of course). 3.5 is about as fast as I can go without breaking into a jog.

    Now I'm finding that to keep my knee from feeling strained, I've had to back off to 30-40 minutes at 2.8-3.0 pace maximum. I don't even break a sweat any more at that pace, so don't feel I'm getting much of a workout.

    I've been looking at some alternative machines to use for cardio that would be less strain on my knee. Ellipticals seem to be the way to go.

    Any comments on this? Are they actually easier on the knees, or do they cause strain in other ways? I've done a little research on various machines, and would be looking at roughly $1000-1200 (really can't do more than that)...specifically the Spirit XE150/Sole E35 machines.

    Any comments from those who also suffer knee problems? I tried a very cheap elliptical for about 5 minutes and it seemed to better, but that was hardly a long enough test.
    --FJC
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  2. #2
    Registered User Lat-eralus's Avatar
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    First off, good work....keep it up.

    I also have bad knees. I would suggest some type of lifting program (it does not have to be heavy). Strengthening the muscles of the legs will help with your knee pain.

    As far as cardio exercise, I would suggest an elliptical or a bike. I try to bike outside twice a week when the weather permits and this has been a great help to my knees.
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  3. #3
    Rebuilding a Geezer michaelnel's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by FJC View Post
    I've been looking at some alternative machines to use for cardio that would be less strain on my knee. Ellipticals seem to be the way to go.
    Have you considered a rowing machine like the Concept 2 Model D? I just got mine this past Monday, and it's an awesome full-body zero impact workout.

    http://www.concept2.com

    Another great thing is that they cost $850. While that might seem like a lot of money, for that price you get a top quality commercial rower, the same one used in commercial gyms around the world, and the same one used by Olympic rowing teams for training.

    In contrast, for $850 in the elliptical market you can only get a shoddily-made Chinese POS that will self destruct in short order and be very expensive to repair. The reason is that ellipticals are very complex machines, and to make a good commercial quality one is expensive. The ones they have in gyms run from about $3500-$5500.

    Rowing machines like the Concept 2 are relatively simple mechanically, and therefore a top quality one costs a lot less.

    Mind you, I am not trying to talk you out of an elliptical, but I do think buying an inexpensive one would be a mistake.
    Last edited by michaelnel; 01-24-2007 at 07:55 AM.
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    Registered User mtl's Avatar
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    Similar question answered here as well:
    http://forum.bodybuilding.com/showpo...1&postcount=11

    The rower is also a good suggestion especially with slightly overweight people.
    You should also keep the impact on your knees to a minimum until you build up strength first.
    Last edited by mtl; 01-24-2007 at 09:19 AM.
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    For me, ellipticals feel unnatural and strange. The feet are essentially locked in place while the rest of the body is running, which strains the joints at certain points in the range of motion.

    My best suggestion for running-associated knee pain is to start running on a dirt/grass surface. The soft grass cushions knee impact, and the natural irregularity of the surface minimizes repetitive motion strain.
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  6. #6
    Registered User FJC's Avatar
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    A little more info...

    The knee pain isn't that bad - it's not enough to make me limp, but I think it could easily become so if I push things. I've been pretty conservative, backing off my treadmill workouts to avoid it getting bad enough to have to stop altogether. One symptom - if I press on the inside middle of my knee, there's pain - something is sore in there. Does this help narrow down that it is a knee-strength type of problem?

    Also, in addition to the treadmill I've done some minor weightlifting, mostly dumbbell and barbell stuff. No squats or leg work, just some light benchpressing, bicep curls, etc. My cheap old bench does have a cheesy leg curl thingy on it that I could try using.

    I've never cared for stationary bikes - my rear/crotch always goes numb after 15 minutes or so. I'll have to look into a rower, I hadn't considered that.
    --FJC
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    Rebuilding a Geezer michaelnel's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by FJC View Post
    I'll have to look into a rower, I hadn't considered that.
    Most people don't consider them. But those who use them in gyms and have purchased them for home use make up a fairly fanatical community. The Concept 2 website has lots of info, and provides lots of support in terms of documentation, forums, incentive programs, etc..

    It's a very smooooooooth motion with NO joint impact that works out your whole body, and you control the amount of effort required in real time... if you pull harder, the resistance goes up, pull lighter, it goes down. This ability to dynamically control the resistance makes it ideal for interval training and / or pyramiding too.
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    I have similar problems

    My old Nordic Trac ski machine gives a great workout, and is a very durable
    piece of equipment. It is over 10 years old, probably can get a used one cheap. Zero impact.

    If you have to walk, walk on grass or a rubberized track. I think some of them are called Tartan. Absolutely no concrete.
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  9. #9
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    Originally Posted by FJC View Post
    My first post here! I'm a 42 year old man who's always had some knee issues, even when I was a teen . I'm overweight (240lbs at 6'), and back in November started doing something about that (hey, I was 257 back then, so I've made progress). In addition to diet, I started exercising regularly, primarily on a treadmill at home.

    I've kept to walking speeds to avoid flaring up my left knee problems, but after two solid months of 5-6 times per week, 30-60 minutes per session, it's starting to act up. I believe it's primarily impact-related. Prior to this, I had worked up to doing 30-60 minute sessions, at a steady 3.5 pace (warm up and cool-down speeds lower, of course). 3.5 is about as fast as I can go without breaking into a jog.

    Now I'm finding that to keep my knee from feeling strained, I've had to back off to 30-40 minutes at 2.8-3.0 pace maximum. I don't even break a sweat any more at that pace, so don't feel I'm getting much of a workout.

    I've been looking at some alternative machines to use for cardio that would be less strain on my knee. Ellipticals seem to be the way to go.

    Any comments on this? Are they actually easier on the knees, or do they cause strain in other ways? I've done a little research on various machines, and would be looking at roughly $1000-1200 (really can't do more than that)...specifically the Spirit XE150/Sole E35 machines.

    Any comments from those who also suffer knee problems? I tried a very cheap elliptical for about 5 minutes and it seemed to better, but that was hardly a long enough test.
    my husband also has wonky knees and even the well cushioned treadmill that we own bothers him.
    costco has an elliptical for sale within your price range, I believe. Put on some work clothes and go work out on it and then see if you like it. We're thinking about getting an elliptical, along with our treadmill for variety and less impact on his knees.
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  10. #10
    Registered User FJC's Avatar
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    I went to a local sporting goods store that carries the Sole brand and tried one for a few minutes. Definitely liked the longer stride (it has a 20" stride, the others I've tried were in the 15" stride range). I really think I'd enjoy an elliptical, and it would be nice to be able to switch off between it and the treadmill for variety.

    From there I went home last night, and used the treadmill for 30 minutes. Using some advice here and from some other threads, I did some extra stretches. Also, it occurred to me that my knee pain started about a week after I got some new running shoes. I had previously been using my regular wear-everywhere cross-training shoes, and felt they were pretty worn and not very supportive. So, I went out and bought a pair of new shoes just for use on the treadmill. Some Nike running shoes. I didn't notice any knee pain last night, so perhaps this is all due to the new shoes...

    Also did two sets of 10 squats (without weights) to work on strengthening my legs, and did double the number of stretches afterward. No pain today at all - between the shoes/stretches, so far it feels as if I took yesterday off.

    I still think finding some no/low impact cardio would be good for these knees, though.
    Last edited by FJC; 01-25-2007 at 03:54 AM.
    --FJC
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  11. #11
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    Originally Posted by FJC View Post
    My first post here! I'm a 42 year old man who's always had some knee issues, even when I was a teen . I'm overweight (240lbs at 6'), and back in November started doing something about that (hey, I was 257 back then, so I've made progress). In addition to diet, I started exercising regularly, primarily on a treadmill at home.

    I've kept to walking speeds to avoid flaring up my left knee problems, but after two solid months of 5-6 times per week, 30-60 minutes per session, it's starting to act up. I believe it's primarily impact-related. Prior to this, I had worked up to doing 30-60 minute sessions, at a steady 3.5 pace (warm up and cool-down speeds lower, of course). 3.5 is about as fast as I can go without breaking into a jog.

    Now I'm finding that to keep my knee from feeling strained, I've had to back off to 30-40 minutes at 2.8-3.0 pace maximum. I don't even break a sweat any more at that pace, so don't feel I'm getting much of a workout.

    I've been looking at some alternative machines to use for cardio that would be less strain on my knee. Ellipticals seem to be the way to go.

    Any comments on this? Are they actually easier on the knees, or do they cause strain in other ways? I've done a little research on various machines, and would be looking at roughly $1000-1200 (really can't do more than that)...specifically the Spirit XE150/Sole E35 machines.

    Any comments from those who also suffer knee problems? I tried a very cheap elliptical for about 5 minutes and it seemed to better, but that was hardly a long enough test.
    Elliptical machines were developed by physical therapists for people with knee and hip issues so I don't think you can go wrong. Also an exercise bike or recumbent bike might be just what you need. For less money you can get a rowing machine, which is what I plan on getting soon.
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  12. #12
    Registered User FJC's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the advice, I truely appreciate it. I've spent the past couple of days going to various stores, trying out different machines.

    I tried some rowing machines, and just don't care that much for the motion. I do think I'd get a better upper-body workout with them - maybe I'll eventually get one.

    As for the ellipticals, I think I'm sold on one. A local store is a Spirit dealer, and I can get the XE350 delivered and assembled for about the price of the XE150 online. I'm going to mull it over for a day or two, but right now I'm leaning heavily toward getting it. Looking forward to my workouts being *quieter* (our old ProForm 500se treadmill is horrendously loud, even at relatively slow speeds).

    I'm also working hard on strengthing my leg muscles to help with my knees. I think I've read every thread on this forum with the word "knees" in it over th past few days.
    --FJC
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  13. #13
    Registered User FJC's Avatar
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    Resurrecting my own thread to give a little followup. I did end up buying a Spirit XE350 back in February. I started using it in place of most of my treadmill workouts, and as I had hoped all my knee issues have gone away. I still use the treadmill occassionally, and walk as much as I can at work, but that's not enough to flare up the knee issues.

    I'm very happy with the Spirit. After a good 6 months of fairly hard use (4-5 times per week of 30-50 minutes per time), it's still running like a champ. Nice and smooth, and very quiet.

    I've dropped to 224lbs, down 33 from when I started back in late November 2006. I've taken up a little weightlifting now, and need to do a bunch of reading to figure out the best way to get serious about that with my meager equipment and my 40+ body.

    Anyway, just thought I'd post this little followup on how the elliptical has worked out for me.
    --FJC
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    Originally Posted by FJC View Post
    Resurrecting my own thread to give a little followup. I did end up buying a Spirit XE350 back in February. I started using it in place of most of my treadmill workouts, and as I had hoped all my knee issues have gone away. I still use the treadmill occassionally, and walk as much as I can at work, but that's not enough to flare up the knee issues.

    I'm very happy with the Spirit. After a good 6 months of fairly hard use (4-5 times per week of 30-50 minutes per time), it's still running like a champ. Nice and smooth, and very quiet.

    I've dropped to 224lbs, down 33 from when I started back in late November 2006. I've taken up a little weightlifting now, and need to do a bunch of reading to figure out the best way to get serious about that with my meager equipment and my 40+ body.

    Anyway, just thought I'd post this little followup on how the elliptical has worked out for me.

    Good to hear. If you are still having problems with your knees, can it be narrowed down to either arthritis or patellar tracking problems at all? If its arthritis, talk with you Dr about an anti-inflammatory regimen (most likely ibuprofen, 800mg 3x per day). If you have patellar tracking problems (floating knee caps which can cause pain) try doing bodyweight squats and body weight lunges to help strengthen the quads. That should help.
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    Registered User FJC's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by FNULNU View Post
    Good to hear. If you are still having problems with your knees, can it be narrowed down to either arthritis or patellar tracking problems at all? If its arthritis, talk with you Dr about an anti-inflammatory regimen (most likely ibuprofen, 800mg 3x per day). If you have patellar tracking problems (floating knee caps which can cause pain) try doing bodyweight squats and body weight lunges to help strengthen the quads. That should help.
    At the time I got the elliptical, I was still having knee pain regularly. I'm convinced it was related to the impact from all the power-walking I was doing, both on the treadmill and outside of the treadmill.

    After getting the elliptical, the pain in my left knee continued for a short while. I had a week or two of muscle soreness (mostly quads and such) right after starting the elliptical, but stuck with it until my quads strengthend up some. That alone, as you suggest, may have helped my knees.

    I'm currently doing regular sets of body weight squats every few days. Since about the third or fourth week of switching to mostly the elliptical for cardio workouts, I haven't had any knee pain whatsoever.
    --FJC
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    Concept 2 Model D rower is a great product. Better for overweight users with joint issues than an elliptical; you can get off your feet.
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    elliptical trainer & knees

    I'm 64 and used the Elliptical for 30 minutes after weights and had no trouble. Then I tried to peddle backwards. That was a mistake, my knees ached for a good ten days. When the pain stopped I got back on and zero trouble. There was a recent article comparing the training effect of the this trainer and the jogging machine, and results could be equal depending on what you put into it.
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