Exercise and Arthritis

Recently we came across an interesting paper published in the well known journal “Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise” which investigated the loads imposed on our joints when using an elliptical exercise machine. Some of the more interesting results were as follows…

knee arthritis

knee arthritis

Elliptical Machine, Stairclimber or Treadmill?

In terms of cardiovascular exercise, an elliptical machine can give you a workout that is comparable to that of a stairclimber or a treadmill (according to the research results). We found this surprising!

Osteoarthritis and Running

In general, there is less impact force with an elliptical machine when compared to running on a standard treadmill. Therefore, for people with conditions that are aggravated with impact like osteoarthritis (“arthritis”), it may be wise to choose an elliptical machine over a treadmill.

Is an Elliptical Better?

An elliptical machine requires a greater amount of hip and knee flexion (pictured above). This places a greater demand on the hip flexors and the quadriceps than that found with the use of a treadmill. For those with an injury in either of these areas (especially overuse injuries in the quadricep complex or the hip flexors) extensive use of an elliptical machine may be unwise.

Knee Pain and Elliptical Machines

The pedal trajectory of a standard elliptical machine is usually wider than the trajectory used for walking. Since your feet have to follow the pedals on an elliptical machine, you’ll impose a different set of demands on your hips, knees and ankles than you would with the use of a treadmill. For some individuals, prolonged exercises on the elliptical may lead to alignment injuries like mal-tracking of the patella. This can eventually lead to conditions like patello-femoral syndrome or patellar tendinosis (“tendinitis”).

Treatment for Arthritis

The results of the aforementioned study suggests that elliptical exercise is indeed a worthy form of exercise for the right individual. In particular, it may be a good option for someone with arthritis. Consideration of your body type and history of injury can assist you in choosing the right path, usually best achieved with the help of a professional. Our Chiropractic and physiotherapy clinic is familiar with assisting patients find exercises that are helpful for them. For more information please contact us at info@burlingtonsportstherapy.com or 905.220.7858.


Lu TW, Chien HL, Chen HL. Joint loading in the lower extremities during elliptical exercise. Med. Sci. Sports Exercise. 2007: 39(9); 1651-1658.