Are Steppers Good for Knees?


Whether you are recovering from a knee injury or from runner's knee -- painful symptoms associated with long distance running -- you can still stay active without putting the additional strain on your knees of running on a flat surface. You may be interested in using a stepper machine, also known as an elliptical, as a way to relieve the stress on your knees while still getting a good cardio workout.

Stepper Basics

  • A stair stepper is composed of pedals that step forward and mimic the motion of walking or running. The pedals on most elliptical machines move in reverse as well, allowing you to work your hamstrings. Some steppers feature pole handles that move forwards and backwards in unison with the foot pedals. The design of the elliptical allows you to work both your upper body and your lower body simultaneously. A stepper engages your cardiovascular system and is a form of aerobic exercise.

Reducing Knee Stress

  • The design of an elliptical machine follows the natural path of your ankles, knees and hips, which greatly reduces the stress on your knees and hips, according to the Wellness Council of America (WCA). Elliptical machines allow you to adjust the resistance settings so that you can work out comfortably without straining. If you are recovering from a knee injury, lower the resistance so that you can glide easily without pressuring your knees. Keeping the proper form is important, says the WCA. Stand up straight with your shoulders back and look straight ahead.

Improves Knee Function

  • If you are involved in sports activities where you turn quickly while running, training on a pivoting stepper machine may help prevent knee injuries by improving knee stability. Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries are common knee injuries in sports such as football and soccer. Researchers at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago found that training on a pivoting stepper machine significantly improved neuromuscular control associated with tibial rotation, helping to prevent ACL injuries. The results were published in the August 2008 issue of "Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society."


  • Consult your physician before starting any aerobic activity if you currently have a knee injury. Stop and consult your doctor if you experience knee pain while using an elliptical machine. Walking on a treadmill is less stressful on your knees than running and exerts the same force as using a stepper machine, according to the Mayo Clinic. You can also relieve the stress on your knees with activities such as water aerobics.

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