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An elliptical trainer is a stationary exercise machine that simulates walking or running but may exert less pressure on the leg joints. It offers a minimal-impact, weight-bearing cardiovascular workout that can vary from light to high intensity based on the speed and resistance set by the user. Elliptical trainers use a lot of muscles in the legs, but on some models you can add upper-body motion as well, creating a full-body workout. To use an elliptical, you stand on top of the pedals and grab the handles. Move your legs in a gliding back-and-forth motion. Most elliptical machines have an option to use handles that are in a stable position or handles that move in an opposite arm-and-leg pattern, like cross-country skiing. Not holding onto the bars will work your core muscles (abdominals, hips and back) and allows you to exercise your balance. Because the elliptical is low-impact, and the resistance and speed are adjustable, not many modifications are necessary for people with arthritis.


Specific modifications will depend on your joints affected, but you may consider the following.

  • Wraps or braces can be worn on your affected joints for support and comfort.
  • You may choose not to hold onto any handles. Not holding on will work your core muscles more because it requires much greater balance.


  • Use variety. Go forwards or backwards to emphasize different leg muscles. Use variable speeds, resistance, incline and programs.
  • Correct posture and movement will prevent your back from getting sore and your feet from going numb.


  • Slowly increase the time, speed and resistance of your workout.
  • Incorporate interval training: go at a regular pace then add short bursts of faster speed.

This is general elliptical information. Get personalized results, with specific modifications and tips customized to your problem joints and level of fitness.