Elliptical Trainer vs. Treadmill: Which Is Better for Arthritic Knees?

For people of the modern world, it is important to keep the body in healthy and tip-top shape. With the advancement of technology making our lives more convenient and easier than before, people are also transcending into a sedentary life.

Which is why regular exercise and keeping your heart beating faster once in a while can help our overall health. A 30-minute or less walk or jog every morning should be enough to keep our body healthy and in shape and prevent problems such as osteoarthritis. Read Here: Top 10 Best Treadmills Under $1000

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Osteoarthritis and Cardio Workouts

Osteoarthritis not only affects the elderly but also adults in their 20s, affecting about 27 million Americans. There is strong evidence that a moderate workout like walking can offer numerous benefits for osteoarthritic people without causing disease progression or worsening their symptoms.

Adults with OA can expect dramatic improvements in physical function, pain mental health, and quality of life by engaging in low-impact physical activities for at least 150 minutes a week. In addition, people who did light workout more than 3 days per week for less than 2 hours a day had much healthier and stronger knee cartilage than those with a sedentary lifestyle.

Furthermore, a low-impact cardio exercise can help arthritic knees by:

  • Strengthening the muscles around the knees, reducing pressure on joints and lessening the wear and tear of cartilages.
  • Increasing the blood flow to the cartilages and providing nutrients in order to keep them healthy.
  • Promoting weight loss which helps in reducing stress on the knees.

Indoor Workout

However, when the pollen count is high or the weather is not that great, you might want to take your cardio workout indoors. Two of the most popular workout machines that will keep your heart pumping are the elliptical trainer and the treadmill. Both are great in making you sweaty and breathless, however, for the arthritic people, each machine has its own pros and cons. Read Here: 5 Best Home Gyms 

Treadmill VS. Elliptical Trainer: How Are They Similar?

Both an elliptical trainer and a treadmill are great in working out your legs and offers cardiovascular benefits. They are also able to simulate walking or running motions without the need to leave the comforts of your home.

This means that you are more likely motivated to work out and staying in better shape. Both machines are flexible to use. You can get a low-impact routine or change the setting in order to have a more intense workout. They also come in various price ranges that can be affordable for the larger demographic.

However, the two have some key differences, especially on the amount of stress that they can put on your joints when using.

Treadmill: What Is It And How It Impacts The Knees?

Treadmills are machines with a moving platform allowing the user to run, walk, climb or jog while staying in the same place. They usually feature adjustable speeds as well as inclines in order to vary your workouts and simulating outdoor aerobic exercise with just a single push of a button. Some models of the treadmill can reach inclines of 10 percent and higher and go as fast as 12 MPH.

So, how does working out on a treadmill it affects the knees?

Remember how you jog or run outside? Without realizing, it, you are absorbing hundreds to thousands of pounds of force with every step. And when you upgrade such intensity to running on the treadmill belt, the musculoskeletal system significantly takes the brunt of such impact.

If we are forcing a step and strike down, we also increase the amount of force that we need to absorb. And even if the ankles are the first contact point, our knees take more damage. This is because they fall in the middle between our hips and ankles and have a higher likelihood of injury.

In addition, although this depends on your running style, most people tend to run on their toes when on a treadmill.

Now, running on your toes means that your knee is bent when your foot strikes the treadmill. Thus it absorbs far more force with every step. And unlike running outside, the unnatural constant pace on a treadmill causes prolonged stress of each step which can cause injuries to the knees. Read Here: Best Treadmill Machines For Walking

Tips To Properly Using a Treadmill

Treadmills

Although most experts do not guarantee treadmills for arthritic people, it does not mean that they can’t benefit from this machine. With simple tips to follow, you can help alleviate some of this impact and prevent injuries on your knees or worsen arthritic joint pains.

  • First, Walk

The great thing about treadmills is that you can change its setting as you want. With some tweaking, you can have an effective and enjoyable treadmill workout without wreaking havoc on your knees.

A smart way to train your steps and prevent pains in your knees is to first take it slow. Do a walking session and practice a heel-to-toe step when walking normally, which is much healthier on the knees.

The heel-to-toe pattern allows the force made by the step to be absorbed through the ankle, knee then hips. Thus, reducing the force through multiple joints. You can put this into practice as you speed up.

  • Don’t Force Yourself

Your energy-inducing, the heart-pumping playlist is at maximum volume and you are eager to start sweating up.

However, for those with knee problems, a treadmill is not the time to push through your comfort zone. When you are working out on a treadmill, make sure to focus on slower, longer runs rather than beating your best personal score. This should help you find a more natural step and avoid worsening your knee issues.

  • Focusing On Posture

Most people struggle with a treadmill workout, especially those with arthritic pain complaining about worsen symptoms, mainly because they are not practicing the proper posture.

If you are half-running and focusing more on whatever is happening on the movie you are watching, chances are, you are not I tuned to your arms, stomach, and back.

When treadmill running you need to keep shoulders pulled down away from your ears, your core tightened and a straight posture in order to keep your body in the correct alignment and reducing the burden on your lower body, especially the knees.

  • The Correct Running Shoes

If you have not been fitted for the correct running shoes, then you are not doing your body— or your workout— justice. At any athletic store, experts will have you run in a treadmill first in order to track your stride. With that information, they can only recommend a pair of shoes. Also, they can tell you any adjustments that can make your feet more supported and comfortable.

After all, the right pair of shoes can make a world’s difference in eliminating and avoiding pain by absorbing some force. That and being mindful of your form and how your body feels should allow you to run pain-free on the treadmill.

Elliptical: What Is It And How It Impacts The Knees?

Elliptical

Also called an X-trainer, an elliptical is a stationary workout machine used to mimic walking, running or stair climbing without the excessive force to the joints. It offers a non-impact cardio workout that can vary from high to light intensity based on the resistance and speed of exercise.

In addition, most elliptical trainers work your lower and upper body and can be either self-powered by the user or need to be plugged in for motion adjustment and powering the resistance systems and electronic consoles. Read Here: Top 5 Best Elliptical Under 1000

An elliptical workout can benefit your knees in 3 ways:

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Prevents Stressful Impacts

An elliptical trainer is known as a less stressful cardio machine for hips, knees and the back. They make a great alternative to jogging or running, because of the reduced impact of hitting the ground or a treadmill belt. In general, an elliptical machine is easier on the knees as well as other weight-bearing joints, applying low to no impact on your knees.

As a matter of fact, this kind of workout is called the close chain movement, meaning that the feet are connected to the pedal which is similar to cycling. That kind of movement is much easier on the knees and requires less stabilization around the joints.

Although they have reduced impacts on the knees, elliptical workouts can be equally challenging and effective as treadmill workouts. The resistance can be significantly increased in order to engage the leg musculatures, with treadmills only working on inclines and speed without resistance.

Recovering From Injuries

An elliptical trainer is a good solution to easing back into exercise after an injury provided that you have received clearance to do so from your physical therapist or doctors.

If you like to run, then elliptical workouts can help in reducing boredom while preventing injuries such as mild meniscus tear or stress fractures.

Although elliptical can be beneficial for those recovering from knee injuries, it still depends on the individual, the stage of recovery and injury. During an elliptical workout, you also need to ensure the correct foot location, hand placement, and incline adjusted to your body type and height. Now, if you notice knee pains during elliptical workouts, then you need to stop and consult your healthcare provider.

Strengthen Muscles Around The Knees

Studies revealed that low-impact cardio workouts such as on elliptical machines can help increase the blood flow to the knee cartilage and strengthen n the muscles around the knees. This should keep the knee joints healthy, especially for those suffering from arthritic knees.

Also, the low impact of the machine on joints allow you to work by distributing pressure on the glutes when driving through the heels with rotations or strides.

In addition, an elliptical workout can strengthen your hamstrings, quads and ankles, all contributing to healthy and strong knees. Also, the fact that the feet are always on the pedals protects the joints from bending or twisting. This helps improves your balance and keep the body in alignment.

Lastly, because your feet never leave the footpad, unlike the treadmill, you do not have to absorb force from repetitive impact, making it gentler on your knees.

Safety Tips

Since elliptical trainers more difficult to use and operate than a treadmill, it is even more important that you get a demonstration and learning the controls before getting onto one.

If you are new to elliptical trainers, then you might want to avoid the moving arm handles first. Most elliptical have a set of stationary handles that is easier to use and allow you to get on the machine safer.

If you have a choice, then make sure to choose machines with wider foot platforms, allowing you to adjust your stance for better stability and placing less pressure on your joints. Read Here: Top 5 Best Cardio Machine

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The Verdict

So, which is better? An elliptical? Or a treadmill? Well, when used correctly, both elliptical trainer and treadmill can be effective and safe workout options for those with arthritic knees.

However, depending on your specific skill level and needs, one may suit you better than the other. If you are new to workout machines, then a treadmill can be a user-friendly way to safely exercise while promoting bone health. Following the proper running and posture as well as the right speed on a treadmill, you should have no problem with worsening your knee pain.

However, if you have intense knee pain or just recovering from an injury, then the elliptical is a much better choice. This machine puts less stress on your knees and works as effectively as the treadmill, however, they can be difficult to operate at first. More importantly, you will need to listen to your body.

If you ever experience discomfort or knee pain on one machine, then you can try the other. If both options worsen your knee pain or make you uncomfortable, then you can try other low-impact workouts such as water aerobics or a stationary bike. Lastly, regardless of what workout machine you are using, make sure to always check with your health provider before starting a new fitness routine.