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An elliptical trainer is a stationary exercise machine. A person uses an elliptical by placing their feet on platforms and moving them forward or backward in an elongated circle or gliding motion. Elliptical machines are available at most fitness centers, but people can also purchase them to use at home.
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For people with certain fitness goals, an elliptical trainer can play a valuable role in a home workout regimen. For instance, using an elliptical can help burn calories for those trying to lose weight or maintain a lower weight. It can also provide an excellent aerobic workout to boost cardiovascular capacity.
An elliptical may also be a good choice for someone who is recovering from injury or needs to avoid high impact exercises, as it does not place force on the arms, knees, hips, and ankles. For home workouts, an elliptical is also a good cross-training option. For example, a runner may benefit from using an elliptical for a low impact workout if they wish to rest their joints.
Everyone has different needs when looking for the best elliptical for home use. Some people may need something that takes up minimal space, whereas others may consider the cost to be the most important aspect. However, general factors to keep in mind include:
- Hand placement: Some machines offer two hand placement options. These allow a person to choose between using moveable handles to engage the upper body and holding onto stationary handles for balance.
- The number of programs: The number of preloaded programs varies among different elliptical machines. For instance, some elliptical machines offer programs that include intervals, hills, or a steady climb.
- Incline and resistance level: Some trainers have a control panel that allows a person to change between several incline and resistance levels.
- Stride length: The perfect stride length will typically differ for each person, depending on their height, so an adjustable stride length could be a useful feature.
- Tracking ability: Certain elliptical machines track a range of metrics, such as distance, heart rate, and calories burned, and display them on an LCD screen.
- App connectivity: Some ellipticals link with fitness apps that can track progress over time or connect the user to an online community, personal trainer, or training program.
Below are some of the elliptical machines currently available on the market.
Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information is purely research-based.
NordicTrack makes several types of home exercise machines, including the SE9i elliptical.
This machine folds vertically to save space. It has padded foot pedals to reduced impact and a fan to keep a person cool when working out. The trainer has a 350-pound (lb) maximum user weight.
The SE9i also offers 24 resistance levels and a 7-inch (in) touch screen console that connects to iFit — an interactive personal training and fitness experience.
The NordicTrack SE9i has the following dimensions:
- Length: 78.7 in
- Width: 31.9 in
- Height: 66.4 in
- Boxed weight: 218 lb
The product comes with a 10-year frame warranty, a 2-year parts warranty, and a 1-year labor warranty.
The Sole E25 has 20 resistance levels for a varied workout.
The company states that physical therapists designed the foot pedals to decrease strain on the ankle, hips, and knees. It has a 350-lb maximum user weight.
The machine includes a cooling fan, Bluetooth speakers, and a water bottle holder to ensure that a person can maintain sufficient hydration throughout their workout.
The Sole E25 has the following dimensions:
- Length: 70 in
- Width: 24 in
- Height: 71 in
- Item weight: 212 lb
Sole Fitness provides a lifetime frame warranty, a 3-year electronics and parts warranty, and a 1-year labor warranty.
The Nautilus E618 has 25 resistance levels, and users can customize 29 programs, with the tracking system displaying details such as distance and calories.
The machine has a cooling fan, a shelf for a tablet, and adjustable foot pedals that allow a person to get the best possible heel support. The maximum user weight is 350 lb.
The elliptical has the following dimensions:
- Length: 51.2 in
- Width: 22 in
- Height: 34.3 in
- Assembled weight: 231 lb
As with other elliptical trainers, the Nautilus E618 warranty differs by part, as follows:
- Frame: 15 years
- Parts: 5 years
- Electrical: 5 years
- Motor: 15 years
- Labor: 2 years
The M9’s design combines the motions of a stepper and an elliptical trainer and allows different handlebar positions.
The machine has a 10-inch touch screen console and 20 resistance levels. The maximum user weight is 300 lb.
The M9 has the following dimensions:
- Length: 49 in
- Width: 30.5 in
- Height: 65.5 in
- Assembled weight: 148.8 lb
Bowflex offers a 3-year frame and parts warranty and a 90-day labor warranty.
The ProForm Pro 9.9 offers 24 resistance levels and up to a 20-degree incline. This trainer has a 350-lb maximum user weight capacity.
It has a 6-in backlit display, and the company states that it is very quiet when in use. A person can use an iFit subscription with the machine.
The dimensions of the Proform Pro 9.9 are:
- Length: 72.25 in
- Width: 25.75 in
- Height: 79.75 in
- Product weight: 275 lb
This elliptical comes with a 10-year frame warranty, a 3-year parts warranty, and a 1-year labor warranty.
There are pros and cons to using an elliptical for home workouts. These include:
- Low impact: An elliptical machine puts less stress on the knees and hips than other forms of cardiovascular exercise, such as jogging. Research in the Journal of Sports Science & Medicine found that the vertical impact during running is about
2.5–2.8times body weight.
- Suitable for rehab after an injury: In a study in
Gait & Posture, researchers compared the weight-bearing distribution of ground walking, ground jogging, treadmill jogging, and elliptical exercise. They found that elliptical training reduced weight bearing compared with other activities, which could benefit people returning to activity after injury or leg surgery.
- Works the arms and legs: The elliptical motion allows the user to work not only the legs but also several other muscles. Moving both the arms and legs can increase the number of calories burned per workout. The muscles that the elliptical works include:
- deltoids (shoulders)
- Reduced strengthening: Lower impact exercises can be helpful, but weight-bearing exercises can help strengthen the bones and build muscle. Using an elliptical machine may be less effective in achieving these outcomes.
- Numb feet: Some people may experience numb feet after using the elliptical for several minutes. The repetitive motion when using the machine can place some pressure on the feet, reducing blood flow and leading to numbness.
- Unnatural movement: To some, the motion that moves the elliptical trainer may feel unusual. Using the upper body while simultaneously using the lower body may feel awkward initially.
As with any exercise equipment, an elliptical machine carries some risk of injury. People can take certain precautions, such as:
- maintaining good posture, including keeping a straight back and a tight core
- making sure that the feet are securely in place on the foot pedals
- holding on to the handles to maintain balance
- ensuring that the elliptical is well-balanced and on a stable surface
- starting slowly and gradually increasing the resistance, intensity, and duration of the workout
An elliptical trainer provides a complete, low impact cardiovascular workout. When choosing a machine for home use, a person should consider how much space they have for it. They can also compare the features of different machines and check for the option to adjust the resistance levels and stride length.
Using an elliptical trainer has pros and cons. It can be a good choice for post-rehabilitation exercise after an injury or surgery but may be less helpful for bone strengthening.