Cycling is an awesome way to get your daily exercise, no matter what you are training for. Whether you're trying to manage your weight, build a little leg muscle, tone up, be more flexible, or improve your fitness, there's a place for it. Add an exercise bike in the mix, and things get even better. They offer you different styles, different workouts, different shapes and sizes; you're spoiled for choice. One topic that gets brought up often, though, is which exercise bike will be best for your knee trouble? You need to be looking out for them after all, especially if they're already at risk.


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Cardio Exercise

Let's start by looking at cardio exercises in general. They're notorious in the world of exercise for the impact they can have on the body. That goes for the long term and the short term, in terms of muscle damage on joint issues especially. It’s important to know what equipment and which kinds of exercise will benefit you the most.

Cardio is most famous for being bad for the knees in the long term. That's mostly because of the high impact of moving in the same way for such long periods of time. With that being said, not all exercises are as bad as each other. Running, for example, is the most impactful exercise due to the complex movement and the repetitive and consistent impacts that the feet make with the floor. Walking is much less, but you see what we mean.

This isn’t the same with other forms of exercises, though. With cycling not having any contact between the feet and the floor and moving in a constant circular motion at your own pace, it's far lower impact. (You do still have angles and weight to think about, though).

This often makes alternatives like using an exercise bike increasingly popular with people concerned about the health of their joints. That's why it is important to know the different types available to you and what they can do for you. There's more than you probably realise, and they're all different.

Types of Exercise Bike

The two most popular types of exercise bikes are the upright bike and its counterpart, the recumbent bike. The upright is designed to almost simulate an outdoor bike in terms of positioning the pedals and the handlebars. However, the recumbent places pedals in front of you rather than underneath and have a backrest to make sure this positioning is practical. That's them in a nutshell.

They, of course, have their differences both in their styles and how they operate. That has a huge impact on your results and the type of exercises they offer you. Back to the topic at hand, though, one of the biggest concerns is how the exercise bikes treat your joints, and specifically, your knees.

Upright Bikes

bottom half of a person on an upright bike

The upright exercise bike is the most commonly purchased type of exercise bike, often due to its similarities to regular outdoor cycling and the familiarity of the exercise and the positioning. On top of that, it's the most famous too. That goes a long way.

The positioning of the pedals means that your legs stretch directly downwards. That's providing the seat is adjusted correctly to prevent overstretching or under stretching. Bad positioning is never a good thing.

Upright bikes mean it's generally easier to work your thighs and glutes than it would be on a recumbent bike. It's mostly due to the back support on recumbent bikes and how the upright also allows you to stand and peddle if you choose to. On the one hand, it's good for giving a wider range of movements to enable the most comfortable knee movements; however, this could also lead to long-term damage because of the increased stress on the joints. There are both sides to consider with an upright.

Recumbent Bikes

elderly people on recumbent bikes at the gym

Recumbent bikes tend to be the better choice. Because of the reclined position and the larger seat, and the pedals being in front of you rather than below, you are much more supported. No weight is on your legs. That's a huge plus. This means that there is less impact on the knees and would be better in long-term situations if the exercise is regularly performed. It has to be a long term habit of being healthy.

The recumbent bike is easier to use correctly, and although costing more, does have a lower knee impact than the upright bike. This is, however, countered by the lack of motion range in comparison to the upright bike. Thus the decision really relies upon preferences and the fitness and capability of the person using it.

Overall, both machines have relatively low impacts, especially compared to other cardio machines such as a treadmill. Both should not cause too much damage to the knees if used correctly, but if you have concerns or preexisting conditions, the recumbent bike is the way forward. Even as an exercise bike to aid arthritic knees or knee replacements, recumbent bikes can be a huge help in your health. You'll thank yourself for the support.


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Before beginning any exercise or nutrition program, consult your physician, doctor or other professional. This is especially important for individuals over the age of 35 or persons with pre-existing health problems. Exercise.co.uk assumes no responsibility for personal injury or property damage sustained using our advice.

If you experience dizziness, nausea, chest pain, or any other abnormal symptoms, stop the workout at once and consult a physician or doctor immediately.