Elliptical machines give you the same cardiovascular exercise as conventional running, but without the high-impact strain on your joints. These machines are an excellent way to get in your daily workout while still being gentle on your body.
What Makes a Good Elliptical Machine?
- Size: Elliptical machines tend to be pretty big. Many models can’t be tucked away easily, although some can even fit under your desk. If space is a concern, you’ll want to consider a model that fits in your available space. Remember the stride length of the legs can extend past the edges of the machine, so be sure to consider that when determining how much space is needed.
- Orientation: Elliptical machines come in rear-drive, front-drive, and center-drive models. Rear-drive tends to be smaller but can vibrate and be louder than a longer model. Front-drive models are much quieter and sturdier, but they tend to be very long and take up the most space. Center-drive models are more compact, but the overall radius of the pedals is longer due to its more natural stride than the other types.
- Technology: Modern elliptical machines are equipped with screens that display workout progress, intensity, and most have sensors in the handles or chest straps to measure your heart rate while you’re using the machine. Higher-end machines come with preset exercises and apps that track your progress, some of which allow you to make custom workouts.
- Exercise intensity: Not all machines are made equal. Some of the cheaper and smaller models simply can’t provide enough resistance for an intense workout. A more sturdy and solid machine is required to perform more intense workouts without damaging the machine (or yourself).
The Best Overall: Schwinn 470
Whether you’re training for a marathon or running your first mile, there’s one brand proven to help you Sch-WIN-n. The Schwinn 470 is the best elliptical trainer for most people. An incredibly sturdy machine, it’s a quiet, front-drive trainer that does a great job minimizing vibrations. You can adjust the incline and resistance with its easy-to-use buttons.
The Schwinn 470 has 25 magnetic resistance settings for intense workouts fine-tuned to your body. The computer on this model is also very advanced for its price with two backlit displays, multiple saved profiles, customizable workouts, and the ability to download your workout data to various phone apps. The handles have heart rate monitors built-in that show on the display and even a 3-speed fan to keep you cool while you work out. If you’re in the market for an elliptical machine, you can’t go wrong with the Schwinn 470.
Schwinn 470 Elliptical Machine
Whether you're training for a marathon or a mile, there's one brand proven to help you Sch-WIN-n. The Schwinn 470 is the best elliptical trainer for most people.
The Best Premium Pick: NordicTrack C12.9
If you’re looking for something more advanced—with all the bells and whistles of modern technology—check out the NordicTrack Commercial 12.9. This commercial-grade elliptical trainer is a top-of-the-line product that offers the most customizable workout experience. You can adjust the stride length and incline, and 26 levels of magnetic resistance allow you to mimic any street condition.
Run around real places all over the world with its 7-inch web-enabled touch screen display. The trainer has a pulse monitor in the grips, a Bluetooth-enabled wireless heart strap, and an iPod-compatible sound system. Just plug in and hit play while you watch an iFit trainer walk you through your workout. From feeling like you’re running on air to climbing up a steep hill, this elliptical trainer can do it all, making the NordicTrack C12.9 our premium pick.
NordicTrack NTEL71218 Commercial 12.9
From feeling like you're running on air to climbing up a steep hill, this elliptical trainer can do it all. Equipped with a web-enabled touch screen, you can work out around the world while the NordicTrack C12.9 mimics the street conditions.
The Best Budget Choice: SF-E3804
Elliptical machines can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars, and not everyone has that much to spend on an exercise machine. If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly alternative, the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-E3804 is the right machine for you. This rear-drive elliptical has 8 levels of magnetic resistance and pulse monitors in the grips that show on the digital monitor. This machine has a shorter stride length allowing you to use it in tight areas and has wheels to make it easy to move around. The Sunny Health & Fitness SF-E3804 has everything you need for a low-impact cardio workout on a budget.
Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Elliptical Trainer Machine w/ Tablet Holder, LCD Monitor, 285 LB Max Weight and Pulse Monitoring - Endurance Zone - SF-E3804
The SF-E3804 is a powerful rear-drive elliptical machine packed with features that won't break the bank.
The Most Compact Machine: SF-E905
Not everyone has the space for a large elliptical machine, but don’t worry—the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-E905 is made to fit into even the smallest corners. This rear-drive machine manages to measure in at 28″ x 17″ x 57″ (length, width, height) and has a stride length of 11 inches, making this the most compact full-size machine on our list when it comes to size during and after use. The trainer has pulse readers on the grips that show on the small display, and you can choose between 8 levels of resistance. The SF-E905 is great if you’re low on space, but the smaller machine means giving up a lot of advanced features and a stride length this short may be uncomfortable for some taller folk.
Sunny Health & Fitness SF-E905 Elliptical Machine Cross Trainer with 12 Level Resistance and Digital Monitor
The SF-E905 is the smallest elliptical trainer on our list. It can fit in the smallest of closets, making it easy to tuck away when not in use.
The Best for Under your Desk: Stamina In-Motion
Maybe you’re looking for a way to get in some extra cardio while working at your desk or even while watching TV. If so, compact striders can fit under your desk or sit in front of a couch or chair. The Stamina In-Motion is a fantastic elliptical trainer that you can use both sitting down and standing up. (You just sort of stand on it and do your thing.) It has an adjustable tension knob to provide a variable workout and a small monitor that tracks your strides and calories burned. This model is a great way to improve your circulation while gaming or browsing the internet. You won’t have a reason to procrastinate your daily exercise when you don’t even need to leave the comfort of your own couch to use it.