What Do I Think about Rowing Machines vs Treadmills for Knee Health?

I have consider the benefits of a rowing machine vs. treadmill for quite some time. When it comes to maintaining my own knee health, having had two arthroscopic surgeries following injuries, I know that exercise is crucial. My orthopedist told me 9 years ago, that I’d need a knee replacement in 5 years. With good self care, I have proved him wrong.

Two popular options for cardiovascular workouts are the rowing machine and the treadmill. Both offer unique benefits, but which one is better for your knees? In this blog post, I’ll compare these two machines and explore their impact on knee health. By understanding the advantages and potential risks, you’ll be able to make an informed decision on which equipment is most suitable for your knee health goals. Spoiler alert: My personal preference is for rowing machines.

Benefits of Rowing Machines

Rowing machines provide a low-impact workout that is gentle on the knees. The fluid motion of rowing engages multiple muscle groups while minimizing stress on the joints. By incorporating rowing into your fitness routine, you can strengthen your quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes without subjecting your knees to excessive strain. This makes rowing an excellent choice if you have knee issues or are recovering from knee injuries.

Additionally, rowing machines promote improved joint mobility and flexibility. The rhythmic, full-body movement of rowing helps increase the range of motion in your knees, reducing stiffness and enhancing overall joint health. Regular rowing workouts can also aid in weight management, reducing the burden on your knees and minimizing the risk of knee-related complications.

Advantages of Treadmills

Treadmills offer a familiar and convenient exercise option that allows you to engage in low-impact cardio workouts. They provide an adjustable platform, enabling you to control the intensity and impact on your knees. Treadmills with cushioned decks can further reduce the strain on your joints by absorbing shock and providing a softer surface to walk or run on.
Walking or jogging on a treadmill helps maintain knee joint strength and flexibility.

The controlled motion promotes blood flow, which can aid in reducing inflammation and promoting the healing of knee injuries. Moreover, the ability to adjust speed and incline allows you to customize your workout to suit your fitness level and gradually increase intensity without putting excessive stress on your knees.

Rowing Machines vs. Treadmills: Considerations and Precautions

While both rowing machines and treadmills offer benefits for knee health, it’s important to consider individual factors and take necessary precautions. Here are some points to keep in mind:

  1.  Existing knee conditions: If you have existing knee problems, it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new exercise regimen. They can provide personalized advice and recommend the most suitable equipment for your specific condition.
  2. Technique and form: Using proper technique and maintaining correct form is essential to minimize knee strain. Ensure you receive proper instruction on how to use the rowing machine or treadmill correctly to avoid unnecessary stress on your knees.
  3. Gradual progression: Whether you choose a rowing machine or treadmill, it’s important to start slowly and gradually increase intensity over time. This allows your knees to adapt and strengthen without being overwhelmed by sudden, excessive impact.
  4. Listen to your body: Pay attention to any discomfort or pain during exercise. If you experience knee pain or swelling, it’s important to stop and rest. Pushing through pain can lead to further injury.



In the rowing machine vs. treadmill debate for knee health, there is no definitive winner. Both options offer unique benefits and can be suitable depending on individual circumstances. Rowing machines provide low-impact, full-body workouts that are gentle on the knees, making them ideal for those with knee issues.

Both offer adjustable settings and controlled motion, allowing you to customize workouts to your fitness level. Ultimately, the best choice is the one that aligns with your personal goals, preferences, and any existing knee conditions. Remember to prioritize safety, consult professionals when needed, and listen to your body for a healthy and enjoyable workout experience.

My personal preference is for rowing machines. Here’s why: I like the rhythmic feeling of rowing machines, which are sort of ‘meditation in motion’ flowing experience. You can easily adjust your breathing to the motion of your body, stretching and contracting your body. On the other hand, I find treadmills kind of boring. I know people listen to music or motivational tapes to take their minds off of the treadmill. But there is a reason why modern life is compared to ‘being on a treadmill’.

If I am going to simulate walking or jogging, I’d rather be outside in fresh air. Jogging is too hard on my knees, anyway. And a good pair of well padded walking shoes is fine for me. I also like just being outside looking at the sights and hearing the sounds. I suppose if I were near a rowing club, lake or river, I’d consider outdoor rowing. But the indoor rowing experience has my vote.