Four Ways to Get an Elliptical Workout

Match an elliptical machine to your exercise needs and lifestyle.

An elliptical machine provides one of the best and safest workouts possible outside of a gym. These machines utilize resistance in foot pedals and hand levers to get your arms, legs and cardiovascular system moving. The result? You burn calories, tone your muscles, and strengthen your heart and lungs.

Ellipticals are low-impact, because your feet never leave the pedals. Unlike running, you don’t pick up your foot and slam it back down ahead of you over and over again, putting all that weight and stress on your knees and feet. That makes an elliptical an excellent choice for people who are trying to avoid an injury or are recovering from one. They’re also simple to use. Even someone who’s never exercised before can hop on an elliptical and get moving.

One more advantage: Because ellipticals can be used without strain, it’s actually easy to get a good workout. That also means you can use one often. Ellipticals are an investment in your health, so it’s important to choose the right one for you. Here are four types of elliptical machines and features to look for in each.

The Full-Body Elliptical

The Bowflex M5 Max Trainer has eight workout programs, 16 resistance levels, and works in conjunction with an app that lets you track personal fitness goals and stream video from trainers. Bowflex

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These are the classic ellipticals, in which you stand up on the foot pedals. You need to keep your body balanced as you pedal while pushing and pulling the arm levers. That effort engages your core, resulting in a true full-body workout.While full body ellipticals may look similar, not all efficiently provide a good workout. Make sure the one you choose offers a variety of resistance levels, so you can make the workout harder or easier as needed. Ellipticals that display data such as heart rate and calories burned guarantee that you will be able to maintain the level of exercise you want, and set targets.Some manufacturers of full body ellipticals have developed machines that don’t take up much floor space, allowing even those with small living spaces to fit one easily into their homes.

The Recumbent Elliptical

The Teeter FreeStep Recumbent Elliptical allows you to isolate your legs or arms for a better workout. Teeter

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Ellipticals that you use while sitting down are ideal for those who don’t want to put strain on their knees or back. Because they involve the arms, recumbent ellipticals provide a better workout than recumbent bikes—but, like the bikes, they allow you to exercise for long periods. Look for a recumbent elliptical that allows you to isolate arm and leg movement so you can target those areas if you desire.

The Strider Elliptical

Stamina InMotion’s E1000 Compact Elliptical Strider weighs 24 pounds, making it easy to move and transport. Stamina

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Strider ellipticals don’t involve the arms. These “step machines” are much smaller than full-body and recumbent ellipticals—you can store one in a closet or cabinet—and less expensive. Because you can use striders either standing up or sitting down, you can get a workout almost anywhere. They’re also easy to transport, so you can use a strider away from home.

The Under-Desk Elliptical

The Cubii Jr. Under-Desk Elliptical is quiet to use, and the tension can be adjusted. Cubii

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If you’ve ever sat at a desk for hours and wished you could get in a workout, the under-desk elliptical is the solution. These are specifically designed to be used while sitting, and the pedal revolution is small enough so that your knees won’t hit the underside of the desk when you’re using it. If you like to multi-task, an under-desk elliptical is your kind of machine.