Elliptical trainers have become a popular piece of equipment in the home and gym.
A hybrid of the treadmill and stair stepper, it offers perhaps the lowest impact aerobic workout of any fitness equipment. If you have bad knees, a bad back, weak ankles, or other joint problems, exercising on one of these machines would be a good way for you to get a solid, fluid cardio workout without aggravating pre-existing injuries.
An elliptical trainer uses magnetic resistance – which is why you can feel a smooth, gliding motion when you step on these machines for a run.
Some primary benefits include:
Cross-training experience; Most models feature movable arm poles, which provide an upper-body workout while you’re pedaling. This is an advantage over treadmills and stationary bikes, which exercise only your lower-body.
Work out in reverse; Pedaling backwards will stimulate your muscles in fresh, invigorating ways.
Calorie burning; A quality elliptical exercise machine can burn calories almost as effectively as a treadmill. Smooth, Precor, Proform, Reebok, Life Fitness, Horizon, Sole, and Schwinn offer some of the top rated models available today. Precor, it should be noted, actually offered the first of these machines to the consumer market. Their health-club quality units, though pricey, are the gold standard in this exercise equipment category.
What to look for in a quality elliptical machine:
We’ll cover this subject in much more detail in the buying guide to ellipticals, but for now, some helpful pointers. Look for a machine that provides a smooth comfortable stride. The elliptical should not wobble or creak while you’re pedaling. It should remain solidly in place. Additionally, stride length is important. If you are tall (6ft and above), you’ll want a machine with a stride length of at least 20 inches. If the stride length is any shorter, you’re likely to feel cramped. For persons of average height, an 18″ stride length should be fine.
An adjustable incline ramp is nother useful feature. This will allow you to increase the resistance at your discretion and burn more calories. Comfortable pedals are critical. Your shoes shouldn’t slip out of them as you’re pedaling. It should be easy for you to maintain your balance.
Look for a full menu of workout metrics on the electronic display. A good elliptical will keep you informed of elapsed time, calories burned, distance traveled, resistance level, and your heart rate, for starters. The display should be clear, and easy to read. Along the same lines, make sure the console includes a decent number of preprogrammed workouts. Many machines come with programs designed by certified personal fitness trainers. Simply hitting a button will put you through a program created to burn calories, test your heart rate, increase your cardio capacity, and much more. This feature will keep your exercise sessions fresh, and challenging.
Before you purchase an elliptical, verify that you have enough space in your home. Some of these machines have a rather large footprint–they can take up as much space as a sofa. Additionally, make sure that that ceiling isn’t too low in your reserved area, as the pedaling motions will send you up and down — you wouldn’t want to bump your head!
A solid warranty is important, too. A strong warranty is an excellent indicator of the quality of the machine. Three to five years on parts and two years on labor would be ideal, and you can find this level of coverage with the better equipment.
Dollar wise, you can expect to pay a minimum of $1,000 for a good machine. You can find cheaper models, but the lower the price, the less likely the equipment will stand up to rigorous exercise.
To assist you in navigating through all of these choices, we’ve compiled an extensive amount of information, reviews, and ratings, so you can select the best elliptical trainer for your fitness needs.