Elliptical Machines Provide
Good Cardio with Low Impact

Elliptical machines are also called “elliptical trainers” or “cross trainers.” They are the second most popular exercise machines sold (treadmills being the first) and their numbers are growing.

They are stationary exercise machines used to simulate walking or running but without putting much pressure on your joints. This of course reduces risk of overuse and impact injuries.

Most elliptical machines work your upper and lower body at the same time and are designed for cardiovascular workouts rather than muscle building. The workouts can vary from light to high intensity depending on adjustable resistance levels.

On some machines, the incline of roller ramps underneath the pedal links can be adjusted to produce varying pedal motion paths. And some models allow varying of both the incline and resistance over the course of a workout according to preset programs. You can drive some trainers in reverse as well as in a forward direction.

They are primarily driven by leg power, but most also have hand-levers attached to each pedal in order to put some burden on your arms as a secondary source of driving power. Thus, you grip the handles below shoulder height and push/pull as you shuffle your feet back and forth within elliptical paths.

Note that some poorly designed machines are too dependent on leg power alone. Consequently, you feel like your arms are simply going along for the ride, rather than doing some share of the work. On better models, there is a harmonious combination of legs/arms sharing the effort.

The machines produce an intermediate range of leg motion that falls somewhere between that of a stationary bike and a treadmill. They are comparable to treadmills in their exertion levels.

Before buying an elliptical, go to a health club or store and try out a few models. Note which features you prefer. As it is with treadmills, with an elliptical you usually get what you pay for. Don’t skimp and buy on price alone. A cheap price usually means poor design and/or construction.

What is the company’s return policy? When buying a cross trainer, be sure you can change you mind. Each model has its own feel. If you get it home and it doesn’t feel right, you want to be able to return it.

When you do get it home, set it up right away and try it out. In the unlikely event your machine has a factory defect, find out immediately. If you wait and find out later that it arrived with a defect, there could be some question about who is responsible.

Examine the warranty. The people at Consumer Reports say that exercise machines are among those rare products where it may be smart to consider an extended warranty. In general, however, the higher priced machines have warranties that are adequate without extension. Consider an extended warranty for an elliptical with less than a year of parts and labor coverage.

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