FH Tip: Make Exercise Equipment Work for YOU

It’s time to stop thinking of exercise machines as a take ’em or leave ’em proposition.  By using traditional cardio machines in non-traditional ways, you can get a lot more bang for your buck out of treadmills, stationary bicycles, ellipticals, and others.  With a little knowledge and a bit of creativity, you can change a machine from something that aggravates your condition to something that improves your condition, or from one you’ve had to give up to one you can do again.  It’s about making the equipment work for you by knowing which adjustments to make to suit your needs. 

Take the stationary bike (or any bike for that matter):

  • Raising the seat will lessen the bend in your knee and thus decrease the pressure on the knee cap when you push down.  Good for those with Patello-femoral Pain Syndrome, or pain in the front of the knee with prolonged sitting or stairs. (just don’t raise it so much that your toes are pointing down at the bottom of the stroke)
  • Angling your feet out slightly on the pedal will engage the inner quadricep muscle (the “VMO”) more.  Also good for those with anterior knee pain, Patello-femoral Pain Syndrome. (just don’t turn out so much that you’re twisting your knee)   
  • Lowering the seat will cause you to push less with your ankles and help rest the calf muscles. Good for those with Achilles tendon problems.
  • Sitting more upright, typically by raising the handle bars or bringing them closer, will relieve some of the pressure on the spinal discs. Good if you have symptoms from degenerative disc disease or herniated discs.
  • Bending forward more, by lowering the handle bars or pushing the seat back, will help unload pressure from the back of the spine.  Good for those with spinal stenosis, or narrowing of the spine.

Let me know if you try any of the recommendations above, or share some of your own…

I’ll cover similar suggestions for other equipment in later posts.


  1. How can I get more information about memory engrams I have Multiple sclerosis I have never ending calf pain and spasms I had worked on my feet but it got worse but I kept on thought I needed to build leg muscles. Any suggestions on how not to have or is it cause my other body muscles are week. I have a stationary bike will give it a try but suggestions are great

    • Hi Karen,

      Although strengthening your legs and doing the stationary bike might be good things to do, it doesn’t sound like engrams are really the issue with what you describe. Pain and muscle spasms, particularly in MS, can often be treated much more directly with medicines specifically for that, and often require it.

  2. Great recs, thanks!! I have patelofemoral syndrome and was always just told to avoid the bike, which was really frustrating….

    • Glad to hear it, Casey. Just don’t forget to address whatever’s actually causing your patellofemoral issues… that will be the REAL solution to your problem! Take care…