Non Weight-Bearing Exercise


Some people are unable to perform weight-bearing exercise due to joint pain or in some cases, obesity. Exercises that require loading the body, such as walking, jogging, or stairclimbing have proven to be stressful for some. However, there are alternative, non weight-bearing exercises that provide the opportunity to work aerobically without the stress on the joints. These exercises help foster adherence to a continued exercise regimen with low physical stress.

Stationary Bicycles

Incorporate either the standard stationary bike or the semi-recumbent bike as an aerobic option. Both offer cardiovascular benefits, however, the recumbent bikes offer back support for people with low back issues. Adjust the height of the seat so that when the foot is at the bottom of the pedal stroke, a slight knee bend is maintained. If your leg is fully extended or if your foot slips off the pedal, the seat is too high. Conversely, if during the rotation of the pedals your knee comes higher than your hips, the seat is too low, which adds stress to the knee joint.

Maintain a slight bend in your elbows as you grasp the handlebars on standard bikes. Lean slightly forward, but do not round your back. Contract your abdominal muscles to take pressure off of the low back.

Pedal at a moderate pace. Pedaling too slow will wear your muscles out quickly, shortening your session. Pedaling too fast results in wasted energy because your body is working hard on stabilizing your trunk. If you're a beginner, maintain a pace of approximately 60 to 80 revolutions per minute. If you're more experienced, try 90 to 100 revolutions per minute.

Seated Rowing Machine

Include the rowing machine into your non weight-bearing routine for more of a total body workout. Lower yourself onto the seat with care, as it can move. Once seated, place your feet in the pedals and lean forward to grasp the handles. Pull back until you are in an upright position. In this start position, your head should be upright and eyes straight ahead. Your knees should be flexed with the thighs just past parallel to the floor. The shin, or lower leg, should be vertical or near perpendicular to the floor.

Extend your hips and knees to full extension using the quadriceps, gluteals and hamstring muscles. Lean back slightly as you execute this move, but avoid hyperextension of the back. Once you have reached full extension with the legs, row the arms in towards the abdomen. Focus on not rowing the arms during the leg extension process. This will cause the smaller muscles of the arms to fatigue prematurely.

Return to the start position by extending your arms forward. Follow the arm extension with a slight forward lean. When the handle passes the knees, flex your knees and slide forward to the starting position. Wait until your hands pass your knees before flexing knees to maintain a smooth, coordinated flow. Repeat the cycle.


Using the rower, open the vent on the flywheel to increase resistance. Close the vent for decreased resistance.
Aim for 20 to 25 strokes per minute for beginners and 25 to 35 per minute for advanced users of the rowing machine. Keep a straight back and tight abdominals throughout the exercises.


Avoid the rowing machine if you have a history of low back pain.