Ellipticals offer an intense, low-impact workout
An elliptical provides a workout that resembles a combination of walking
(or running) and climbing in place. Ellipticals feature oversized pedals that move
with the motion of your legs. Many people like ellipticals because they are
easier on the joints than walking outside on a hard surface or running on a
treadmill. You can go as fast or slow as you'd like on an elliptical machine, and
in either forward or reverse to vary your workout. In addition to giving you a
great cardio workout, most ellipticals have moving handlebars that provide
full-body resistance as you pedal in place. One great feature of a home
elliptical is that it is very quiet, so you won't disturb your downstairs
neighbor -- a big plus for apartment dwellers.
Types of Elliptical Trainers
Full-sized ellipticals offer a range of workout options, from intense to easy, as well as the ability to work your upper body and lower body; some even offer the option to isolate the upper body (most allow you to isolate the lower body). Many also feature plenty of nice touches -- like LED screens, cup holders, tablet rests, fans and more -- to make your exercise session a bit more pleasant. Some even offer Bluetooth connectivity so you can sync your workout with your smartphone and various fitness apps. We found plenty of really good full-sized ellipticals in the $600 to $2,300 price range, although a sub-$1,000 elliptical won't have quite as many bells and whistles as a pricier machine. Still, even those cheaper choices get great reviews for features and durability.
If you simply don't have the space for a full-sized elliptical, we found a couple of very highly-rated home ellipticals that give you a great workout, but have a relatively small footprint -- some are even small enough to tote to the office. One drawback is that these elliptical machines are designed to have one, relatively low-intensity workout level. However, users who are just trying to move more, who describe themselves as "un-athletic" or who simply want an easier workout love them.
Finding The Best Elliptical Trainers
"10 Best Ellipticals "
"Elliptical Reviews by Industry Experts"
To find the best home ellipticals, we looked at a few important factors:
Smooth, stable and quiet performance; easy-to-use features and controls; long-term
durability and reliability; and a good warranty backed by responsive, helpful
customer service. ConsumerReports.org is the only credible professional
organization we spotted that tests and ranks ellipticals, but there are some other
good expert sources that review individual ellipticals. Most important, we
evaluated hundreds of customer reviews to gauge owners' satisfaction with the
features and usability of their home elliptical machines. This information,
along with expert evaluations, led us to finding the best ellipticals for any
home fitness regimen.
The best ellipticals
Of all the ellipticals we evaluated, the front-drive (Est. $2,000) boasts
the best combination of stability; durability; useful features; smooth, quiet
resistance; and affordability. Users say it feels very solid, like a
gym-quality elliptical. Many say that they, and sometimes other members of
their family, use it every day, multiple times a day.
The Sole E95 offers 20 levels of eddy current braking -- the gold
standard for quiet operation and reliability -- and is backed by a solid
warranty: Lifetime frame coverage, five years on parts, and two years of labor
coverage. Sole Fitness has an excellent reputation for customer service; owners
say they're prompt, efficient, and honor their warranty with no hassles.
The Sole E95 also has a plethora of useful features, including an
incline ramp that power-adjusts between 0 and 40 degrees (adjusting the stride
length between 20 and 22 inches); 10 workout programs, including two custom
workouts and two heart rate control workouts; cushioned, adjustable foot pedals
that angle slightly inward to reduce stress on your joints; a 9-inch LCD
console that tilts for easier viewing; and handgrip controls for easy
adjustments to both incline and resistance. Users say the built-in sound system
and fan are just adequate -- but we see similar feedback for those features on
almost every elliptical -- indeed, on almost every piece of home exercise
equipment we review. New for 2017, the Sole 95 is now Bluetooth-enabled, so you
can wirelessly sync your exercise stats with your smartphone and a variety of
For a few hundred dollars less, the (Est. $1,700) shares
the same excellent build quality and warranty, and almost all of the same
features -- including the 2017 Bluetooth upgrade. The LCD screen is a little
smaller (7.5 inches), the max incline is a little lower (30 degrees), and the
flywheel is a little lighter (29 pounds instead of 34). It's also got just a
bit smaller footprint and a lower upper weight limit -- 375 pounds to the E95's
400 pounds. However, the E35 gets just as good of reviews from experts and
owners for performance and features.
That's not to say that the Sole E95 and Sole E35 are perfect. The most
common complaint we found for both was occasional squeaking or clicking noises
from the foot rails. Most users say lubricating the foot rails will resolve
this, while others simply let Sole's excellent service department take care of
it. These ellipticals also require assembly -- unless you pay for assembly on
delivery. While assembly is not necessarily super difficult, it is
time-consuming and there are lots of parts to keep track of -- some of which
are rather heavy. Assembly is much easier, users say, if you get organized
first, take your time, and enlist the help of a friend.
It's a bit pricier, but experts and owners also give a lot of love to
the (Est. $2,300). At
TreadmillDoctor.com editors say, "This trainer highlights its durability,
quality, and compact design as one of the best in the market." It's also
considered a Best Buy in its price class, they note. Owners give it kudos too,
praising its smooth ride and excellent ergonomics, saying it's a comfortable,
stable ride. They also love its smaller footprint, something
TreadmillDoctor.com notes as a highlight as well. At only 42 inches long, it
should fit in smaller spaces, yet it's suitable for users up to 300 pounds.
The True Fitness M30 doesn't skimp on features either. It has a 21-inch
stride length --plenty for all but the tallest, longest-legged users -- and the
side-step technology can provide an all-over body workout or a lower body or
upper body-only workout. True's Cardio 360 heart tracking program earns a Very
Good rating from ConsumerReports.org, and users say the heart rate tracking is
simple to use, and quite effective. The LED console is reported as easy to use
and read, and the 12 preset workout programs provide enough variety to keep
users from getting bored. There's also an accessory rack to hold a tablet or
book. As we noted above, this machine is uncommonly stable and durable, and
True Fitness customer service is reported as excellent.
ellipticals don't have to be cheap
The least expensive full-sized elliptical in this category, and one of
the highest-rated home machines in spite of its low price, is the (Est. $600). Bargain-priced ellipticals tend to have short, choppy
strides, but the front-drive Schwinn's 20-inch stride length is the equal of
many high-end home ellipticals. It has 20 levels of eddy current resistance
(another great feature for the price), and users say the motion is smooth and
stable, even for larger users -- its maximum weight capacity is 300 pounds.
There are eight heart rate control programs, which may be overkill,
especially since the Schwinn 430 relies on handgrip heart rate monitors and is
not compatible with a wireless chest strap heart monitor. The two user IDs and
custom programs, however, are welcome additions; as are the built-in speakers
The Schwinn 430 also has a USB port for data export to Schwinn Connect
and MyFitnessPal.com -- online tools to help users upload and track their
workout data and fitness goals; the USB port can also be used for charging your
portable gadgets. We found a couple of comments that the 430's moving
handlebars might be set just a little too narrow if you're planning on holding
onto the stationary handlebars as you pedal, but overall, the Schwinn 430's
quiet, smooth performance, excellent stability and good durability are all
remarkable finds in this price range
The (Est. $650)
is another inexpensive home elliptical that's highly rated by experts and
owners. It receives Very Good ratings for ergonomics, exercise range, ease of
use, construction and safety in one professional test.
Users also give this elliptical machine high ratings, saying the Horizon
Fitness EX-59-02 is very easy to assemble and use, and offers a great workout.
They also note that it's smooth and quiet, with a good array of features,
including 10 manual programs, a heart rate monitor (although it's a grip
monitor, which is less accurate than a chest strap), and tracking for time,
distance, speed and calories. The EX-59-02 also has 10 levels of resistance. It
does not have quite the number of bells and whistles as the Schwinn 430, and a
slightly lower upper weight limit of 275 pounds, but reviewers say it's very
durable and they expect it to last for years.