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Ellipticals Buying Guide

Ellipticals (aka cross-trainers) give you a great cardio workout that is low impact, so it’s easy on your knees, ankles and hips.

 

One of the most popular fitness machines at the gym and at home ellipticals let you enjoy the benefits of a full body workout without the wear and tear on your joints. An elliptical machine works by simulating the movement of walking and jogging, but instead of your foot hitting the ground with each step, you move in a smooth, continuous elliptical (egg-shaped) pattern. Not only can you obtain a good cardio workout on an elliptical, but it also provides weight-bearing exercise, which can help protect against osteoporosis. Add in moving handlebars and you’re working out your upper body too.

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How to Choose

The most important thing to consider when buying an elliptical is how it feels when in use. How smooth is the motion? Is their any wobbling or jerking as you move faster? Is it easy to get on and off it? If it’s not comfortable to use or you don’t feel stable on it in the store, you probably won’t use it very much at home. Other factors to keep in mind when shopping are listed below.

Price

Have a clear price range in mind before you start shopping. Ellipticals can be divided into two price categories: budget models for under $1000 and higher-end models for over $1000.


Generally, the more money you spend, the better quality of elliptical you’ll get. Fitness experts suggest looking at models over $1000 if you plan to exercise regularly at an intermediate to advanced level. These machines tend to have a heavier, smoother and more durable flywheel, a greater range of resistance, longer stride length and more programs.


It is possible to find good lower-end models for under $1000 if you look around and make sure to test them. They usually have fixed stride lengths, less programs and a smaller weight capacity. Less expensive ellipticals can be more noisy and wobbly and have a shorter lifespan, so shop carefully. It’s not a deal if your elliptical trainer just ends up collecting dust. .

 

Types

Rear-Drive
A rear-drive elliptical has its flywheel located at the back of the machine. This is the model most often seen in gyms, as it has a smoother motion and a floating system with free-rolling bearings, which means fewer parts so less wear & tear and less noise. Rear-drive models also use less overhead space, which could be a concern if you have low ceilings.


Front-Drive
A front-drive elliptical has its flywheel located at the front of the machine. This model also incorporates a track that dirt can build up on, causing the elliptical to feel less smooth over time. Therefore more cleaning and maintenance is required. One advantage a front-drive elliptical does have is that it usually takes up less floor space.

 

Fitness Goals

Deciding on how much to spend on an elliptical largely depends on who will be using it, for how long and how intensely. As each of these factors goes up, so should the quality and price of the elliptical machine.


Users
If more than one person will be on the elliptical and there is a large height difference among users, then look for a model with a variable stride feature. This allows each of you to adjust the stride length to your own comfort level. Also, how much does each person weigh? Most models can smoothly operate with a user weight of between 250 to 300 pounds. Over that and there can be an increase in shaking and noise, so looking for a more stable elliptical may be in order. Choose an elliptical that can handle at least 50 pounds more than the current weight of the heaviest user. Plus more users means more wear and tear. Buying a more durable machine with a heavier flywheel and larger brake may be a good investment in the long run.


Workout Time
Time to be realistic. How often and for how long will you be on the elliptical? If you are a light to moderate exerciser of average height (e.g. 10 minutes a day, 3 times a week) then a decent lower-end elliptical trainer may suit your needs. However, if you plan on exercising regularly (e.g. up to 30 minutes a day every day) then invest in a higher-end machine that can withstand constant use.


Your Workouts
What are your exercise goals? Weight-loss? Toning up? Staying in shape? Your fitness level and goals may determine the types of features you want in an elliptical. If you’re a beginner, basic functions may be fine, while advanced exercisers may want more programs and features (such as incline) to keep them motivated and working hard.