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Deciding to go through with knee replacement surgery takes a lot of planning and preparation and you’ll want to make sure you have the best TKR treadmill, stationary bike, and elliptical to ensure long term health.
One of the things I concentrate on is overall health, swelling and pain management, and exercise. Maybe it’s because I enjoy being active, or maybe it’s because I want to do everything in my power to feel great.
In either case, being in great health before surgery, during surgery, and during rehabilitation will help you feel better, be more confident, and ensure that you’re prepared for recovery.
As you prepare for TKR, you’ll likely make a number of purchases to prepare your body and home for the journey ahead. Most purchases like compression sleeves, ice, and pillows will be minor expenses that are easily justified.
In this article we discuss 3 of the large purchases you might consider. These items aren’t mandatory nor are they cheap, however they may be an excellent long term investment when compared to paying a monthly fee at a gym or a trainer/physical therapist. The TKR recovery equipment we’ll discuss are:
There are a number of models available for treadmills, ellipticals, and stationary bikes and we’ll share the best and most reliable brands. This investment will pay dividends for your health and might save you money in the long run.
Related: Best Shoes to Wear After Knee Replacement Surgery
My Use of Exercise Machines for Knee Health
I’ve been battling knee pain for decades, ever since I injured my knee in my twenties. At first the pain was minor and didn’t keep me from enjoying all the activities I enjoyed. I played basketball, ran on the track, and played softball on the weekends when I wasn’t working.
The pain I experienced was gradual and after a decade I began walking a little more gingerly on the leg. I began to over compensate with my other leg.
It’s not uncommon that due to overcompensation on the good leg many people end up experiencing knee problems with the opposite knee. Thankfully my other knee remains in great shape and leading up to my surgery I relied on it heavily.
As my knee pain increased, I gradually changed my exercise routine to include cycling and swimming. In the 1990’s our family purchased our first exercise machine, a Nordic Track, which fit nicely in our bedroom. A Nordic Track mimics cross-country skiing and is a good low-impact exercise (however it might cause some people knee pain depending on the individual).
These days I have a gym where I live and I can use the equipment any time of the day. I’m often found using the Elliptical machine. If you’re not familiar with an Elliptical machine we’ll highlight it below.
I don’t use the treadmill much, but that’s because I now live in a warm area where I can walk outside every day. I used a stationary bike for years in my garage and it was perfect for days I couldn’t get outside due to the weather. I understand that depending on each person’s situation, an exercise machine may or may not be a good idea.
For people who live in hilly areas or places that have weather extremes, an exercise machine like a treadmill, Elliptical, or stationary bike may be the perfect addition for knee replacement recovery.
Related: Must Have Items After Knee Replacement Surgery
Considerations For Exercise Machines After Knee Replacement Surgery
There are a number of things to consider before you invest in an exercise machine before or after knee replacement surgery and they’re not limited to the list I’ve created below.
With any significant purchase, I suggest talking to your doctor and or physical therapist about the exercise and your individual needs. I also suggest making a list of pros and cons for how the machine will impact your TKR recovery.
Consideration 1: Space
This is a biggie. Do you have adequate space in your home or garage for an exercise machine? In recent years exercise machines have evolved so that they break down and utilize less space when not being used.
For exercise machines like the stationary bike, there are models that can fold up and fit in a closet or a spare bedroom. Machines that breakdown are great for smaller homes.
Treadmills, however, are larger and can be bulky. Some treadmills require 18-25 square feet and if you have a small home it can take over.
For people fortunate to have a spare room or “man/woman cave”, a piece of exercise equipment will likely complement the room. They also work well in a garage if there is enough space.
If you only plan to use the exercise machine for 3-6 months while you rehabilitate you might be ok with having it in the middle of your television room. Having to see the machine every day is a good reminder to use it. Plus you’ll get to watch sports, news or a program or read a book while exercising.
Consideration 2: Climate
As I mentioned above I’m fortunate to live in the land of “eternal spring”. 99% of the time I can get outdoors to walk or cycle. I take advantage of the climate I live in and enjoy being outdoors. But I understand that’s not the case for everyone.
Some people might live in an area of the U.S. where it rains a lot. Others might experience freezing temperatures for 6 months of the year and if you have surgery during the winter you won’t be going outside to exercise much.
If you live in the Southwest of the U.S. you’ll experience 5 months of really hot weather. I don’t blame you for wanting to stay inside and exercise.
Consideration 3: Allergies
Allergies are becoming more and more common in the U.S. and some people have trouble going outside without feeling ill. If you’re allergic to grasses and trees you’ll likely prefer to exercise indoors.
In this case an indoor exercise routine makes sense and a treadmill, stationary bike, or elliptical makes the most sense.
Consideration 4: Gym Membership / Workout Alternatives
Like me, you’ll also want to consider other options for exercise. Yes, I prefer to exercise outdoors and I have the right climate. But I also have access to a gym where I can use equipment (included in the HOA cost where I live).
Thankfully I don’t pay a gym membership because they can be costly but I understand that a gym membership might be the only option for many people. If you’re paying a monthly fee, do the math and compare whether the membership is more expensive in the long run than buying 1 or 2 exercise machines.
I’d bet that a gym membership is much more expensive, however, there might be other perks to visiting a gym like classes and personalized training that you can’t receive at home.
Those of you who are senior citizens might check the “Silver Sneaker Program” that might pay for your gym membership.
Consideration 5: Easy To Use (Digital Display/Electricity)
When looking at exercise equipment consider its ease of use. More than likely you won’t be able to plug it in and “go”. You’ll have to read the directions, especially if it has a digital display, and figure out the settings.
If you’re an older adult it might take a little more effort to learn – hopefully you’ll have someone to help you learn. At any age it’s always good to learn new things.
If you’re concerned about electricity usage double check to see if it’s energy efficient and if it can be unplugged when it’s not in use.
Consideration 6: Warranty
I check the warranty for all the purchases I make. A warranty can say a lot about the mission of a company.
- Are they committed to their product?
- Are they willing to back up the quality of their product?
- How long is the warranty?
I’ve found that exercise machine warranties are usually longer than your average product – and they should be. You’re paying a premium for something that should take some punishment (use) and may require electricity. It takes quite a few components to create an exercise machine.
Consideration 7: Cost
We mention cost last, but don’t be confused – it’s just as important as the other considerations we’ve listed. Just a decade ago, treadmills were huge and heavy and some of them cost a few thousand dollars – not anymore.
Now you can find high-quality treadmills for around $500. It’s still an investment but much more affordable than they were a few years prior.
Elliptical machines and stationary bicycles are also more affordable than ever. And they are more compact. Know your budget when buying an exercise machine before or after knee replacement surgery and find a product that meets your needs and expectations.
3 Exercise Machines (Treadmill, Elliptical, and Stationary Bike) To Help Your Knee Replacement Recovery
No. 1 Treadmill
The earliest treadmills were created to assist with work. Treadmills harnessed the power of humans or animals to do things like process grain. These days, the term treadmill is ubiquitous with health and exercise, not actual labor.
Treadmills use a platform with a wide belt. The belt is the surface of the treadmill and the speed can be increased or reduced for walking or running.
Of all the exercise machines available, treadmills are the number one selling piece of equipment.
Treadmills are relatively simple to use. Most use a digital display and have elevation (slope) levels that can be adjusted.
If you want to walk or run uphill, the treadmill can be adjusted automatically (in most cases). A treadmill will likely be used while you’re rehabilitating with your physical therapist.
I like the NordicTrack T 6.5 S Treadmill (check price and options on amazon). First, it has great reviews and is a customer favorite. It utilizes a digital screen and has an automatic adjustable incline up to 10 percent with a 1-10 speed option
There are 20 built-in workouts designed to mix your workout up and target various muscle groups. NordicTrack trainers designed the workouts. It uses a 2.6 CHP drive system and a 20 x 55 inch belt so there’s plenty of space to walk.
Pros. You can connect your iPod/iPhone to the device and it also has a heart rate sensor. The warranty is what separates this treadmill – 25-year motor warranty and 1-year parts and labor warranty. The fully assembled dimensions are 55H x 72L x 35W inches.
- 25 year motor warranty, 1 year parts and labor warranty
- Reliable brand
- Heart rate monitor
- Variable speed and slope settings
- Can set on slow speed walking or up to faster speeds
- Folds up (still takes up space but less of it)
- Side handles for stability
- Sync Google maps routes and iFit compatible
- Walking is the most common exercise after TKR surgery
- Space required (cannot fit in closet but folds up)
- No TV
- Considerable cost (but expected for a quality product)
- One color option
No. 2 Elliptical
I remember when the elliptical entered the exercise market in the 1990’s. It caught on quick not because it was simply another exercise machine, but because it improved exercise.
One of the reasons the elliptical caught on was it offered a low-impact alternative to exercise. In the 1990’s people were just beginning to understand the wear and tear of road running and pushing the body.
The elliptical offered a way to get a full body workout without taxing the joints (especially the joints of the leg; hips, knees, and ankles). If you visit any health club across the U.S. you’ll see just as many elliptical machines, as you’ll see treadmills and bikes.
If you’re recovering from injury the elliptical trainer is one of the best machines to use and in my opinion, it’s better than a bike. With a bike, you’re sitting and the upper body isn’t engaged in the activity.
With an elliptical the whole body is working, arms included (although the arms can also rest if desired). I, as well as many health professionals, rank the elliptical as the best exercise machine after knee replacement surgery.
I like the Exerpeutic Aero Air Elliptical Trainer (check price and options on amazon). It comes at a very reasonable price but doesn’t lack the options you’d want in an exercise machine. It has digital display, multiple settings, and optional arm workout that can be used with the leg workout.
The movement takes some time to get comfortable but it won’t put much pressure on your new knee after surgery. This particular machine has a weight limit of 250 lbs. but there are others that are larger.
- Low-impact, yet whole body workout (my rank is 2nd only to swimming)
- Very affordable
- Optional arm exercise
- Various difficulty levels (dial tension adjustment)
- Digital display – distance, calories, time, and speed
- 1-year warranty
- Takes some time to adjust to movement
- Not collapsible
- Requires some space
No. 3 Stationary Bike
Stationary bikes have been around forever. As you can imagine the first stationary bikes simply lifted the back wheel off the ground – you could peddle and stay in the same place.
Today, competitive cyclists use their road bikes as stationary bikes too. They connect them to a device off the ground and can ride the same high-quality bike while watching television.
If you’re an avid cyclist recovering from knee replacement surgery, you should check out the bike trainer stand that allows you to use your own bike. The workout will be more realistic than a “stationary bike machine” and the equipment needed is minimal – bring your bike inside and attach to the stand, then take your bike back to the garage after you finish. The stand can be placed out of the way until you use it again.
If you’re not a big cyclist you’ll likely be more comfortable recovering from knee replacement on a stationary bike with digital display. These stationary bikes include the pedals and seat and will take up more room than a “training stand”.
But the Exerpeutic Stationary Bike (check price and reviews on amazon) can be folded and stored in a closet, which is very convenient. It has a heart rate monitor, multiple speeds, and an 8 level tension control system. The Exerpeutic is best for users 5 foot 3 inch – 6 foot 1 inch and less than 300 lbs.
- “Bike trainer” is compact and uses your existing bike
- Stationary bike is larger and requires more space to use
- Stationary bike can fold up and fit in a closet
- Digital display
- 8 level control system
- 5’3” – 6’1” and 300 lbs.
- 1000’s of positive reviews
- 1 year limited warranty
- Space needed
- Height and weight limitations
- Doesn’t exercise upper body (lower body focused)
In this article, we discussed the in’s and out’s of the best exercise machine before and after knee replacement surgery. Depending on your specific situation, you may not need exercise equipment.
- Does your community have exercise equipment to use?
- Do you belong to a gym?
- Can you exercise outdoors on a daily basis?
These are the questions you’ll need to ask yourself before making an investment in exercise equipment. You’ll also want to consider the weather, cost, warranty, allergies, gym membership, and space you have in your home.
Lastly, consider the type of workout you want to have.
- A total body workout?
- A simple easy workout for your legs?
If you want a low-impact, total body workout then consider the elliptical – it’s my personal favorite that puts less pressure on my knee. I cycle a few times a week and I get a great workout with minimal pressure on my joint.
A treadmill might be the perfect addition to your knee replacement recovery if you can’t get outside because of weather or allergies. Depending on your situation and how you prefer to exercise, I’m sure you can find the right exercise equipment.
I hope this article provided some insight on the best exercise equipment before and after knee replacement surgery. Your preparation for surgery, and rehabilitation routine are just as important as the surgery itself.
We encourage you to get outside and be active. A strong body will help you enjoy a faster recovery. Thanks for reading!