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Buyer Guide for Ellipticals

An elliptical machine is one of the most popular types of in-home fitness equipment, and the benefits of owning one are significant. It is simple to use and delivers a workout that promotes cardiovascular health, strength training, and weight loss. Elliptical machines are also commonly referred to as "elliptical trainers" or "ellipticals".

An elliptical is one in a family of cardiovascular machines that includes treadmillsexercise bikesstair steppers, and rowing machines. The elliptical is classified as a cross - trainer since it works both the lower and upper body at the same time. The lower body exercise comes from working pedals with the feet. The upper body gets its workout from the machine’s arms that are moved back and forth like cross country ski pole

 

 

Must Haves

Adjustable incline. This is a feature that makes this product a true cross-trainer. Adjusting the incline varies the focus on muscle groups and provides a great way to add variety to the routine. It’s a feature worth finding since that added variety can reduce boredom, enhance motivation, and keep you from reaching an exercise plateau.

Smooth elliptical motion. The elliptical motion provides the closest simulation to walking and running available without the impact. An important factor to look for here is the feel of the motion. Some machines have a "kick" in their motion where the heel comes up off of the platform. You don't want to feel any "kick" or "bounce" in your motion. Find a machine that provides a true elliptical movement pattern for both forward and backward directions.

Natural movement. How does the movement "feel?" This is a critical question to ask when trying an elliptical. Does the product feel smooth? You can only determine this by trying several types. Spend at least 20 minutes exercising on a unit. You should not feel unusual stress on your knees or hips. Also when using the unit, you should be able to exercise in a neutral position without reaching for the handrails or bending over.

Dependent upper body motion. Some machines have upper body levers to add an upper body workout element. If you are not strength training, having upper body movement can help accomplish some upper-body strengthening. Keep in mind that if you are testing an upper and lower body elliptical trainer, make sure that both motions are comfortable and intuitive. You should not have to lean to complete the range of motion or otherwise compromise your position. Test different machines to find what is most comfortable for you.

Adjustable resistance. Good units will have a broad range of resistance that is adjusted electronically. Look for a system that makes resistance changes simple and intuitive so that interval training sessions can be easily incorporated into your routine.

Forward and reverse motions. The ability to move in a forward or reverse motion adds variety and challenge to the workout. This also greatly reduces the risk of repetitive use injuries common with some treadmill and stair climber users. Most ellipticals have this option.

Quiet operation. Look (and listen) for a product that feels smooth and is quiet in operation. A truly well designed elliptical trainer should be relatively silent at all intensity levels.

Electronic features. Many ellipticals have a spectrum of features to lure buyers ranging from fans and interactivity, to displaying calories burned. Consider what is important to you and how you will use it. The key is to look for electronic features that are both motivating and challenging to YOU. Look for an electronic package that will grow with you as you progress and one that will accommodate the needs of multiple users.

Heart Rate interactivity. Measuring your heart rate (HR) is the surest indicator of progress and intensity. Everyone has a target heart rate range which they should work within. Too high and you risk injury. Too low and you won't reach your goals. The best ellipticals have heart rate control programs that will actually adjust your workout variables while measuring your heart rate to make sure that you stay within this range. You simply enter the desired heart rate and the machine will respond accordingly throughout the workout.

Pre-set and custom programs. One of the biggest reasons people quit a program is boredom. Having a product that provides a myriad of programs will help keep a program fresh and full of variety. The ability to customize a program for your specific needs is also a great feature. Look for some research behind the programs.

Health Benefits

The elliptical machine promotes cardiovascular health. This translates into energy needed to perform jobs like shoveling snow and mowing the lawn. An elliptical workout increases the heart rate, has no negative joint impact, burns calories, and works muscles in the legs, arms, back, chest, and shoulders all at once. Because the elliptical works muscles simultaneously, this results in shorter workout times.

In many ways the elliptical provides a better workout for the legs than walking or running. The feet remain supported on foot pedals instead of pounding against a hard surface like pavement. The end result is exercise for leg muscles without exerting pressure on the joints and back.

Easy to Use

Operating an elliptical machine does not require any special training or practice. Since the machine orchestrates the movements, no special coordination is required to operate the pedals and arms. Most ellipticals have controls that are easily adjustable. Primary among these are resistance switches that adjust the intensity of a workout. Some machines include pre-set programs that are based on time elapsed or calories burned.

Portability

Commercial elliptical trainers like the ones seen in fitness centers and gyms are fitted with lots of bells and whistles. As a result, they are large, heavy, and expensive. Luckily, there are smaller elliptical models designed for home use, including those that fold for easy storage under the bed or in the closet