Why Cycling is One of the Best Knee Rehab Exercises

Nearly 50% of adults in the United States alone will be affected by chronic pain at least once in their lives.

A staggering 20% of adults dealing with this daily, serious discomfort say that knee pain is especially common. 

Unfortunately, knee pain is complicated, and there are lots of different types of knee injuries you can have. Fractures, a dislocated knee, ligament injuries, tears to the meniscus…the list goes on.

Cyclist for Knee Rehab

There are also many reasons why you could be suffering. Maybe you play sports, took a hard fall, or your knee just gave out after years of stress and pressure. 

Of course, whether we like to admit it or not, our age can also be a factor in knee injuries and pain. Recent studies show that knee pain is a common symptom of osteoarthritis.

Whether you’re in rehab and looking for the best knee rehab exercises, or if you’re just trying to find out which movements and exercises will help you ease knee pain, you need to read this article.

We’ll tell you why cycling is one of the best knee rehab exercises out there! We’ll also touch on why adult tricycles are an excellent choice of bike when you’re dealing with knee pain. 

Why Cycling is Among the Most Popular Knee Rehab Exercises

We know what you’re thinking. 

Doesn’t cycling put pressure on my knees? 

Don’t I have to have good balance to ride a bicycle? 

I’m too afraid I’ll fall again if I get on a bike!

These are a lot of common misconceptions we hear regarding cycling as a part of a knee rehab exercises routine. 

The reality is, they just aren’t true. 

First, let’s think about the overall fitness and strength goals of most knee rehab programs. 

  • To help end or alleviate pain
  • To stop your injury from coming back again
  • To give you more movement in your knee
  • To get your knee stronger and more stable
  • To help you build up the strength of the muscles that surround and support the knee
  • To prevent conditions like osteoarthritis from getting worse faster

Now, let’s look at the main benefits that cycling knee rehab exercises offer:

  • It’s super low impact, meaning you won’t further stress out your knee
  • It doesn’t put excessive weight on your knee, weakening it further
  • It lets you stay in a stable and upright position, meaning less pressure on your knee
  • The circles of cycling are repetitive movements, so you can slowly and safely strengthen your knee
  • The movement is slow and controlled
  • You can slowly increase resistance as you get stronger, whether through a program or by picking more challenging paths
  • It’s great for your overall cardio health!

Looking at the Benefits of Cycling in Greater Detail

To strengthen your knee, and to make sure you keep it safe as you continue to heal, you need to find an exercise that will work your entire leg. This is one of the reasons why cycling is such an ideal knee rehab exercise. 

When you go through the motion of a pedal, you’re using several different leg muscles. Your quads will work when you push down on your pedal, and your hamstrings help to bend your knee.

Your cartilage also gets a benefit from this motion, as it’s not holding all the stress and weight throughout the entire motion of the cycle. Instead, it’s more evenly distributed throughout your whole leg. 

A total rotation on your bike gives your knee between 30-115 degrees of movement. That means your knee gets stronger and faster because it’s working on several different angles and motions. 

Since many knee injuries happen because of bad form in exercise, using a bicycle will help to retrain your muscles to hold the weight more evenly. This won’t just heal your injury – it will prevent other ones from happening in the future. 

What Else Should I Know About Cycling to Strengthen and Heal My Knee?

First of all, how you sit on your bike while you perform these cycling knee rehab exercises is crucial. 

When you’re choosing a bike, or just adjusting your seat, you need to make sure that your seat position lets you almost straighten your leg when your pedal is closest to the ground. 

If your leg is fully straight, lower your seat slightly. A full leg extension is simply too rough on an injured knee. 

Also, be sure that your seat is as close to perfectly horizontal as possible. If your seat is tilted forwards or backwards, you’ll add unwanted pressure to your knees. When you’re pedaling, focus on pointing your toes when you push downwards. 

When you’re performing knee rehab exercises on your bike, you don’t want to over-extend yourself. Always start with little to no resistance, and begin with no more than 10 minutes a day. 

As you get stronger, you can add a little more time and resistance to your cycling routine. However, even if it “feels too easy,” try to add no more than 1 additional minute every workout. 

Keep working gradually until you can handle a 20-minute workout. Then, start upping your levels of resistance. Don’t go more than 1 level every 20-minute workout. If you’re cycling outside, try to stay on flat terrain at the start, and always walk your bike up or down a hill if you feel like you’re not ready to ride it out. 

Finally, if you feel like your pain is only getting worse when you work out, remember that when you have a knee injury, there is no such thing as “good hurt.” This isn’t an indication you’re “getting stronger.”

It just means you’re either not ready to work as hard as you are, or that you’re doing the movements incorrectly. 

What Kind of Bike Should I Get for Knee Rehab Exercises?

Now that you know all of the benefits of making cycling a part of your knee rehab exercises, you likely want to know how the type of bicycle you use makes a huge difference! 

While stationary bikes and two-wheel bikes have been used for years as a form of knee rehab, in recent years, the tides have turned towards adult tricycles (bikes with three wheels.) 

Why? There are many reasons. 

First of all, stationary bikes tend to get boring after a while! You’re not going anywhere, you’re usually indoors, and it can be tough to stay motivated when all you’re looking at is the wall in front of you at the gym. 

Also, many two-wheel cyclists often find that returning to their usual routes after a serious knee injury is harder than they thought. Their balance is off, their knees aren’t yet strong enough to propel themselves forward, and the bikes don’t offer enough support. 

Often, they can just end up getting injured again. 

We know this is something you want to avoid happening to you. 

What’s the solution? The adult tricycle!


Here are just a few of the benefits of using an adult tricycle for your knee rehab exercises: 

  • Bikes with three wheels are more stable than two-wheel options. This is because the weight is more evenly balanced between three wheels. This means that you don’t have to lean forward, putting pressure on your knees, to keep from tipping over. 
  • Stopping is easier and puts way less pressure on your knees. Just stop pedaling and hit your breaks – no need to lean on your knee to balance.
  • It’s much easier to get up hills on a 3-wheel bike! You don’t have to put downward, forward pressure on your knees. Just switch gears and pedal with the same pressure you’d use when you travel flat ground.
  • They can carry a lot of your junk! It’s harder to travel light these days, even when doing your knee rehab exercises. Pack water, a snack (for longer rides) and even your cell phone in case of emergencies with ease. They won’t weigh you down or throw off the balance like they would on a 2-wheel bike.

How Can You Find the Best Bikes for Your Knee Rehab Exercises?

We know you’re probably curious about how you can find the safest and highest-rated adult tricycles for your knee rehab exercises. 

We know that, between heading to appointments, work, and trying to follow the doctor’s orders to “relax,” you don’t have time to comb through the Internet for hours. 

That’s why we’ve reviewed some of the most popular adult tricycles in the market today, and made them easily available to you. 

No matter what kinds of knee rehab exercises you’re doing, you need to know that they bike you’re working with has your back. No matter your injury, your budget, or even your cycling experience, we’ll make sure you find the best fit. 

Don’t let your knee pain keep you from doing what you love! Get back on your bike, or explore a new hobby that helps you heal – starting today. 

About the author

Mike Bravetti

Mike is the senior author for Adult Tricycles Pro. His main duty is to update, edit and post articles/reviews on tricycles. He's a HUGE fan of adult tricycles models - his dream is to create his own tricycle brand!