Types of Stair Climbers
Basic stair climbers are small, often portable, and affordable. They can be little more than a pair of sturdy pedals on a frame. Other models may have bands to work your arms at the same time, a stationary bar to help you keep your balance, or a movable handlebar for an upper body workout. Upgraded stair steppers have features such as step tracking, speed, heart monitors or workout tracking. Reviewers say that stair steppers can give you an excellent workout despite their basic looks. They can also be easily stored in a relatively small space. Some are great for travel and can provide a portable workout.Treadclimbers
Treadclimbers offer a more versatile workout than basic stair steppers. Also called "hybrid stair steppers" or "treadmill alternatives," treadclimbers combine the movements of a stepper with those of a treadmill and/or elliptical, working more muscle groups than a basic stepper. While we use the term "treadclimber" here, note that this term actually refers to a proprietary hybrid-type machine made by Bowflex. Experts say you should consider a treadclimber if you have joint issues that might make even a traditional stair climber too tough to use. Another benefit of these hybrid steppers is that they have a much smaller footprint than either treadmills or elliptical machines, so would be a good choice if you're short on space. On the downside: they tend to be pricey, but plenty of users say that they are all you really need in a home gym.
Other equipment for your
you're still unsure whether you'd be better served by another type of
equipment, check out our reports on treadmills, elliptical trainers and exercise bikes. Want to give up your gym membership altogether? See
our report on home gyms for the best alternatives.
Finding The Best Stair Climbers
we found no reputable expert reviews of basic stair climbers, though there are
a couple of adequate expert sources for treadclimbers. Those include the
in-depth reviews at TreadmillReviews.net and FitRated.com. Owner reviews are
much more helpful when it comes to inexpensive stair steppers. Amazon.com is by
far the most useful source of reviews, with hundreds of real-world perspectives
from owners who have put their exercise equipment through the wringer of daily
use. Walmart.com and Target.com also have a smaller collection of reviews on
popular stair climbers.
The best stair climbers
array of basic steppers on the market, the Sunny Twister Stepper with Handle Bar (Est. $60) earns a high number of positive comments and ratings from users. It
gets kudos for easy assembly, which most say is straightforward and intuitive.
Once assembled, the Sunny Twister Stepper is relatively light at 28 pounds, and
owners say it's easy to move around. Its small footprint means it can be tucked
away in a corner or closet when not in use.
In spite of
its minimalist vibe, users say the Sunny Twister Stepper gives them an
excellent lower body workout. Many say they have noticeably improved their leg
strength and stamina since using it on a regular basis. One thing that puzzles
many owners is the "twist" claims: Most think the handlebars are supposed to twist.
In fact, the handlebars are stationary and are intended only to provide additional
stability; the "twisting" action is actually very subtle and refers to the
slight outward slant of the pedals when stepping on them. The company says this
motion helps tone buttocks and thighs, but users say it's barely noticeable.
agree that the Sunny Twister Stepper gives them an excellent workout; in fact,
plenty of sweaty owners say it's almost too intense and that they can't work
out for more than 10 minutes or so at a time. Resistance is adjustable via a
knob on the base, so that may help you find a workout intensity that works for
you. Handle height is also adjustable -- a handy feature for users of different
sizes. Reviewers also like that this stair stepper includes an easy-to-read LCD
display that tracks time elapsed, steps and calories. Maximum user capacity is
We did find
some durability complaints with the Sunny Twister, either that the unit was
delivered damaged or that it didn't hold up well over time, but most agree that
this basic stair stepper is a great value for the price. The Twist Stepper has
a steel-frame construction and non-slip footplates, and it comes with a 90-day
The Stamina SpaceMate Folding Stepper (Est. $100) is another basic, but
well-regarded stair climber that hits all the right notes for your home gym. It
offers adjustable resistance so you can vary the level of your workout, and
features two hydraulic cylinders for smooth stepping. There's a
battery-operated monitor that tracks number of steps per minute, number of
steps per workout, time, and calories burned -- plus slide-resistant pedals and
foam-covered handlebars, for a more stable and comfortable experience. It has a
heavy-duty steel frame that carries a one-year warranty, and there's a 90-day
warranty on other parts. It also folds easily, with the removal of a pin, so
you can store it in slim places. Like the Sunny Stepper, the SpaceMate's
maximum capacity is 250 pounds.
looking for a little more intensity without spending on a commercial-grade
piece of equipment, the MaxiClimber Vertical Climber (Est. $200) may be the stepper you need. On the MaxiClimber, you look like
you're scaling a steep ladder in a motion meant to mimic rock climbing. It
requires greater effort from the legs and engages the arms as well. Reviewers say
they sweat quickly and profusely, and some caution that beginners will be
limited to short sessions, but many say the workout feels complete. Adjustable
height means users can increase or decrease the intensity of the climb. The
machine tracks time and reps, and the steel frame folds flat for storage. It
comes with a one-year warranty and has a maximum capacity of 240 pounds.
Portable steppers offer a big
workout in a small package
smaller, more portable option, reviewers also like the Sunny Health & Fitness Mini Stepper with Resistance Bands (Est. $40). It comes with detachable
resistance bands that provide an upper-body workout, and it also features a
counter that tracks time, steps and calories. The Mini Stepper earns kudos from
those who love its compact size and low price, but they note that it's not a
good choice as a dedicated piece of exercise equipment. Rather, they say, it's
best for just moving more while watching TV, talking on the phone, or for a few
minutes while on a lunch break. Although this stair stepper is small, the
maximum user capacity is fairly generous at 220 pounds.