Do you love running but find it’s too painful? Have you been an avid runner but are now suffering from joint and knee pain from the constant impact on roads and sidewalks? Maybe you transitioned to running on a treadmill as many feature a shock-absorbing system to help reduce knee and joint pain. But if you still find yourself with knee pain–but your cardiovascular endurance is still good–you’ll want to consider using an elliptical machine.
An elliptical machine mimics the motion of running but without any impact on the joints. You will be able to engage in the familiar running motion, but your knees, joints, ankles, and feet won’t face the brunt of the impact. This is a great machine to engage your leg muscles and still get a good cardiovascular workout. They also have attached handles that will engage your arms which is a feature you don’t get on an ordinary treadmill.
The elliptical is one of the most popular ways to get fit, and it’s why you see so many of them in the cardio section of a gym. In many gyms, you will find as many ellipticals as you will treadmills. You may have been interested in getting one for your own home, but worried they are too expensive. The good news is there are many great options you can find under 500
Best Elliptical Machine
1. Schwinn A40 Elliptical Machine
Schwinn is world-famous for making bikes, but they’ve taken that skill and applied it to creating the A40 Elliptical machine. This is a great space-saving unit that not only gives you a great leg workout but engages the upper body too. The A40 has built-in arm attachments to give you a full-body cardiovascular workout.
Despite being compact, the A40 has a weighted flywheel which helps drive the machine. This flywheel is also very quiet so you can work out without disturbing those around you. The great option with machines like the A40 is you can just jump on and start going. Using the manual, quick-start button you can start working out instantly. You also have the option to use 7 pre-set programs to create variation in your workouts. The A40 also has different magnetic resistance levels so you can change the intensity depending on how energetic (or not) you’re feeling.
- Large LCD console to track time, distance, speed, etc
- Built-in heart rate sensors in the handles
- 17.5-inch stride length for all different heights
- Takes some assembly to put together
2. ProForm Hybrid Trainer
This is a unique elliptical that is a hybrid between an elliptical and a recumbent bike. If you suffer from several physical issues–but are still healthy enough to exercise–this is the machine for you. Because of the added seat, the ProForm is suited towards those with lower back issues. The seated position will take the pressure off of the lower back, and the knees and joints are still protected through the pedaling motion.
What makes this machine stand out from a recumbent bike is that you still have the option to use it as an elliptical machine. This is perfect if you have days where you are experiencing some knee or joint stiffness, but still want to exercise. The ProForm still comes with a great LCD display which can also serve as a tablet holder to watch your own media. A big feature with this is the IFit app which gives you interactive training sessions and global workouts to keep you challenged.
- An amazing 16 different levels of resistance
- Can accommodate weights of up to 350 pounds
- Oversized pedals for more stability and comfort
- A little larger due to its hybrid design
- Not as transportable as some other units
3. Sunny Health & Fitness Elliptical Machine
The elliptical machine from Sunny Health is another great option that serves as a hybrid machine. In this case, you have a combination of an elliptical and a stepper machine. If you’ve used a stepper or stair climber, you know what an intense workout it is. This machine gives you both options in your own home. This way, you can adjust your workouts depending on how intense you want to go.
Despite the various features, this machine is very quiet while still being made of a sturdy steel frame. It also has 8 different levels of magnetic resistance to increase your intensity while training. You are still able to track your stats with the LCD display, and it even has built-in pulse monitors to make sure you are staying in your target heart rate training zone.
- Performance monitor has a goal-oriented function including a calendar to stay on track with your goals
- Attached wheels to easily move and store out of the way
- Floor stabilizer to keep the exercise as comfortable and stable as possible
- A specific type of machine so may not appeal to you if you’re looking for just an elliptical
- No pre-programmed workouts
4. Sunny Health & Fitness Elliptical Trainer – SF-E3890
The E3890 looks like it would fit right in at any commercial gym. This is a larger unit, but it comes with more performance features. It contains an electromagnetic resistance system that gives you 16 levels of different magnetic resistance. This is what you would find in machines at much higher price points. It also features 12 different pre-loaded exercise programs which makes this a great option if you are someone who likes constant variety in your workouts.
The E3890 also has some great technology with its performance monitor. This will track a lot of data such as time, distance, calories burned, heart rate, and watts among other stats. This elliptical machine has one of the longer stride lengths you will find at 18 inches. If you’re taller, this makes it the ideal choice for your longer stride. You also have the ability to go backward on this elliptical. This is not only great for creating a new stimulus during your workout but also targets the hamstrings better.
- Amazing value for the price
- Multiple resistance levels and programs
- Built-in pulse sensors
- Wheels for easier transport
- Only weighs 103 pounds
5. EXERPEUTIC 1000XL
The 1000XL is a heavy-duty elliptical that is designed for intense exercise. If you can go hard during your workouts, this is the best elliptical machine for you. Despite its strength, it only weighs 75 pounds and can accommodate up to 300 pounds in weight. It’s a compact elliptical machine that can fit in any room. What makes this a great choice is that you can use the movable handles for a full-body workout, but it also has stable handles. This is great if you are looking for a more intense lower body workout–but still need the stability.
The 1000XL also has some great technology. It comes with a large LCD display to track your progress and stats, but also has Bluetooth connectivity. This can connect to an app to give you even more training options for your workouts. It is also a very quiet unit that comes with a precision-balanced flywheel and V-belt drive. If you live with other people, you can still get an intense–but quiet–workout without disturbing those around you. It’s so quiet that you can listen to your own music, or watch TV, without any disturbance.
- Build quality
- 8 levels of resistance
- Large pedals for more stabilization and comfort
- Dual direction to be able to go forward and backward
- Doesn’t have room for tablet or phone
- No water bottle holder
6. Body Power 2-in-1 Elliptical Stepper Trainer
The Body Power 2-in-1 stepper is a unique elliptical option that will not only get you in great shape–it can fit in even the smallest spaces. This is another option that combines the elliptical motion with a stair stepper to give you an intense lower body–and cardiovascular–workout. It also has movable handles making this a true full-body workout. This is the perfect machine for high-intensity interval training which can even further improve your fitness, burn calories, and decrease body fat.
It features curve crank technology which creates the smoothest motion and efficiency, so you are getting the most out of each step. This machine creates the experience of being on a vertical climber along with the stepping and elliptical motion. All of this adds up for a true cardio experience so is an ideal choice for those in higher levels of fitness.
- Zero impact despite creating a stepping movement
- 8 levels of resistance
- 2 sets of built-in foot pedals to create different angles
- May be more intense for the person looking for a simple machine
- No pre-programmed workouts
7. SNODE Magnetic Elliptical Trainer
The Snode elliptical trainer is another option that looks right out of a fitness club. This is a heavy-option that is challenging and will give you great results. It starts with the magnetic control system that gives you a smooth and quiet exercise experience. It also features 8 different levels of resistance to be able to adjust your intensity on the fly. It comes with an LCD monitor to track all the important stats you should be aware of.
The Snode has large comfortable hand grips to keep you more secure while you’re using it. It also has built-in heart rate sensors so you know if you are in the right heart rate training zone. The smooth and quiet experience of using it will feel similar to the type you would have used in a gym, but that cost thousands more. Despite only weighing 77 pounds, it can accommodate weights of up to 265 pounds and features large non-slip pedals to keep you secure, but allow you to train intensely.
- Compact size despite its performance ability
- Front wheels to help easily transport it
- Horizontal stabilizers to keep it as secure as possible
- No pre-programmed workouts
- Larger than some other units
Important Things to Consider When Buying an Elliptical Trainer
Since you’re reading this article, you’ve already determined your budget. From here, you need to consider your fitness needs. If you are looking for a simple workout, or have various issues; you may want to go for a simple elliptical. They will come with various levels of resistance, but if you are just looking for general fitness, you don’t need too many features.
If you are fitter and looking for more challenging workouts, you’ll want to consider one of the hybrid machines. The ones that combine stair climbing with the elliptical motion will give you intense, and challenging workouts. If you like a lot of variation in your training–and get bored by doing the same thing–you’ll want to go for an elliptical machine that has pre-programmed workouts. Even better are the ones that are connected to fitness apps. These give you an endless amount of options for training and have more interactive workout experiences.
Personal Trainer Recommendation & Conclusion
If you aren’t used to an elliptical trainer, you need to make sure to step off the machine under control. The motion can sometimes feel disorienting as if you’re still moving even after you’ve stopped. This is normal but can be similar to the effect of getting off a boat and feeling like you’re still moving as you’ve been moving without any contact to a solid surface. It shouldn’t be a concern, just be aware of this the first few times you’ve been using it.
It’s a good idea to move around a bit after you’ve finished a session on the elliptical trainer to help your body transition back to a normal walking stride. A workout on an elliptical should finish with a 5-10 minute cool down where you transition down to a slower pace. This will help return your heart rate to normal and start to relax the body.
Stretching after your elliptical workout will also be helpful in starting the recovery process. Remember to start with a 5-10 minute warm-up on the elliptical machine at a lower intensity to warm up the body, increase the heart rate, and get the blood flowing to working muscles.