For a low-impact, whole-body cardio workout, elliptical trainers are a great way to get in shape. They combine several different motions including stepping, cycling, running and cross-country skiing. We try out some trainers to find out which get us moving best.
30 minutes on the elliptical trainer burns almost as many calories as running on a treadmill, without heavy impact on your knees, ankles, hips and feet.
Look for an option that allows adjustment to the resistance of upper and lower body movement separately to maximize your workout of different muscle groups.
A leg stride between 18 and 21 inches is suitable for most people. Try it out to make sure the stride feels comfortable.
Some machines have an adjustable stride, handy for use by people of different heights.
A heart rate monitor is a good feature to let you know how hard you’re working.
A trainer that uses magnetic resistance is smoother than one with belt-based resistance.
Look for pedals with a wide, non-slip surface and a lip around the edge to prevent your foot slipping off.
When you test it out, make sure the pedal supports your foot throughout the entire motion.
Look for a good warranty from the manufacturer and the retailer. Consider an extended warranty if it’s an option, since complicated equipment like this tends to develop problems.
- Some machines have a lot of interactive bells and whistles. These cost more but allow you to customize your workouts, use pre-programmed routines, and even synchronize with iFit.com.
Some personal trainers helped us test these four elliptical trainers using the same basic workout on each so we could compare how far we went, our heart rates, and how many calories we burned:
- Infiniti: $899
- Tunturi: $1,499
- Schwinn: $1,740
- Octane: $4,536
Our tests and results include:
- The Infiniti and Tunturi may be a good, economical start with their simplicity and compact design, but they don’t feel like they’d last the test of time.
- The high-end Octane’s computerized features were handy and the electronic adjustable stride line allowed you to change in mid-stride.
- The Schwinn had a really natural feel to the movement, and the arm handles were positioned comfortably. The display screen took a little getting used to, but was effective.
OUR TOP PICK
The mid-priced Schwinn and high-end Octane both provided great workouts. Remember that ease and comfort are the biggest factors in a workout, so take a thorough test spin before committing to a machine.
Thanks to Our Experts
- Carmen Bott, sports scientist