One of the main issues with using an exercise treadmill for either walking or running is that it creates impact damage on the feet, ankles, knees and other parts of the body. While this can be okay for someone in their twenties or thirties, prolonged use of such equipment can create “runner’s knee” in last years.

In part because of this issue with stress to the joints and ankles, and also need to create an all-in-one piece of small exercise equipment that worked more parts of the body than a typical treadmill does, the elliptical came into existence.

The traditional design of an elliptical machine is one with two workout arms that the person using the fitness equipment grabs hold of. As they begin to use this trainer, the arms alternate in their forward and back movement. The arm movement is similar to human ones that are pumping away during an extended run. At the same time, the two foot platforms which help to keep the feet in place, move back and forth at the same time, in opposite directions. With this dual action, both the legs and arms are pumping away in alternative directions to create a single fluid movement.

The benefits of this type of elliptical-specific movement are continued use of the arms, legs, wrists, hands, feet and ankles, but without any impact damage to the body and its joints. The feet stay planted on the foot platforms during the full motion, and the hands continue to grip the rotating arms.

An LCD in front of the person exercising shows the current training program; distance traveled; current speed; average speed, and more. Monitoring the current heart rate is possible trough metal sensor pads situated in either of the hand grips.

The elliptical machine is more compact than a treadmill and works more muscle groups than a recumbent bike permits. It does this all without pushing the joints too far or causing any impact to them. Both the body and the neighbors will be grateful for the lack of noisy impact during the exercise program!

In recent times, elliptical machines have seen some alternative versions that are also popular with people who want to install a home gym:

One version is sometimes known as a hybrid trainer, which looks like an elliptical machine with the protruding arms that rotate, however, it includes a seat to avoid the need to be standing on the foot platforms while using the equipment. The hybrid trainer is ideal for a physically challenged or injured person who wishes only to exercise their upper body.

A second, smaller version of the elliptical is a foot pedal trainer that mimics the foot movement of the platforms for a standard trainer, and can fit under the desk. A monitor can track the number of strides, duration of exercise, and estimate the number of calories that have been burned off.

Depending on the manufacturer, each of these models can be considered an elliptical because they offer the impact-less training opportunity and include the tell-tale alternating rotational motion common to this type of fitness equipment. As such, buyers will see some different terms used in the market for these product variations, which offer many, if not all, the same benefits of using a standard elliptical machine.

What’s Included with The Best Elliptical Machine

A standard elliptical machine usually includes the main body, two arms, two feet platforms, and an LCD.

The pedal platforms have ridges to avoid feet slipping during use. The dual workout arms include heart rate sensors to monitor the standing BPM.

The LCD shows calories burned; distance traveled, time, and current speed.

A tension adjuster can change the level of resistance present when using the elliptical to keep challenging the person exercising as they get fitter.

Most elliptical have a steel frame with rubber and plastic components to avoid slippage during use. There are rubber feet to help the machine stay in position on the floor.

What to Know Before Making a Purchase

Look at the weight limit on any fitness equipment to check whether it can hold your current weight or that of other members of the family who may subsequently wish to use the machine too.

Some assembly is required before starting the first exercise routine.

Other Considerations

The number of calories burned, as stated in the LCD, is only an estimate. The machines will produce the estimate based on duration and speed, and sometimes the weight of the person is exercising, which all affect some calories taken off (a heavier person exerts their body more to produce the same movement and therefore burns more calories than a lighter person).

Adding a mat under the elliptical is a good way to help provide a safer dismount. It also avoids the fitness machine from slipping on the floor during use or when getting on or off it.

A foot pedal elliptical is an ideal tool for adding a little extra exercise into the workday without having to get to the gym every day.

Best Brands

Stamina In-Motion manufactures a substantial range of more affordable exercise equipment which often takes up considerably less space in a room or garage than other large equipment.

Schwinn Fitness is the training product brand of the well-known bicycle company. They produce ellipticals, treadmills, airdynes, upright bikes, and recumbent bikes.

ProForm has an expanding operation that covers the US, the UK, France, Italy, Canada, and Australia. The company offers treadmills, ellipticals, hybrid trainers, exercise bikes, and rowing machines.

Exerpeutic manufacturers treadmills, ellipticals, training cycles, and products with active therapeutic benefits.

What Consumers Say

Taking a look at consumers’ reviews, these are a few of the opinions most often voiced by buyers:

Space saver: An elliptical machine takes up a smaller surface area in the home than other fitness equipment.

Resistance: Don’t be afraid to adjust the resistance to see how more challenging the routine will be with a higher setting. Burn more calories by maximizing the time put into exercise each week.

Elevation: Some elliptical machines have pedals that point downwards rather than being level. The pedal horizontal level is reflective of the manufacturer’s design specifications and cannot be adjusted later other than by elevating the whole training machine to mitigate it.