Ellipticals are popular cardio machines that can safely increase your endurance, burn calories, and provide a near full-body workout without placing excess pressure on your joints.
Elliptical machines are also great for active injury recovery and reducing lower body stress.
1. Sunny Health & Fitness SF-E905 Elliptical Machine Cross Trainer
This Sunny Health & Fitness elliptical trainer easily adjusts your workout intensity with a simple twist of its precise micro-controller equipped with 8 levels of magnetic resistance. It’s built in state of the art tracking system monitors and displays your speed, calories, heart rate, distance and time. Both the handlebars and foot pads are built with anti-slip technology, making it one of the safest elliptical machines on the market.
What sets this elliptical apart is the onboard stabilizers designed to level the elliptical bike and provide a smooth ride. It’s also one of the more compact ellipticals on the market, allowing people with limited space to take advantage. For these reasons, it’s our #1 pick.
2. MaxKare Magnetic Elliptical Machine Trainer
The MaxKare elliptical machine is another eight-level magnetic elliptical device. With a steel frame and a weight limit of 330 pounds, this elliptical is suitable for even the most intense elliptical training sessions.
The front flywheel design of this elliptical magnetic machine makes pedaling more stable, helping minimize the pressure on your ankles and knees. Additionally, this machine includes a dual-direction feature that helps tone and tighten both the front and back of your legs.
3. Doufit Elliptical Machine
This Doufit elliptical machine contains all the qualities of the basic elliptical including a digital monitor that accurately tracks all your important data. Additionally, this device comes with eight different resistance settings, making it great for both beginners and advanced trainers.
The Doufit elliptical machine is also made of a heavy duty steel frame that is both lightweight and sturdy.
4. Ncient Elliptical Machine Elliptical Trainer
The Ncient elliptical machine is a magnetic elliptical trainer that provides an impressive eight levels of adjustable resistance, while remaining whisper quiet.
With the inclusion of 13-inch non-slip pedals, you can be sure that you’ll fit comfortably on the device without risking any sort of fall injury.
5. ATIVAFIT Under Desk Elliptical Bike
The ATIVAFIT elliptical isn’t like most of the ellipticals on our list because it can actually be used underneath a desk. The device only includes the foot pedals characteristic of the elliptical, but it’s capable of providing similar results.
Because it can be used beneath a desk, this machine is extremely compact and portable. It’s also rather quiet when in use, meaning you can use it throughout the workday at work or in your home office when you’re working.
6. Teeter FreeStep Recumbent Cross Trainer and Elliptical
The Teeter recumbent elliptical is the most unique elliptical on our list because it allows you to sit while you use it. That makes this elliptical an even better option for those that require a limited impact on the lower body joints.
Perhaps the greatest features of this device are how little space it takes up and how portable it is, making it a great fit in any home gym or even your living room.
7. MaxKare Magnetic Elliptical Machine
With the addition of a front flywheel, your feet will remain closer together and you’ll experience a greater sense of stability while exercising on the MaxKare magnetic elliptical machine.
With eight levels of resistance, you can personalize each elliptical training session and tailor it to your fitness and health goals. You can also monitor your heart rate with the included pulse pads and keep an eye on your time, distance, and speed on the LCD monitor.
8. Sole E35 Elliptical Trainer System
The Sole E35 elliptical is one of the more high-end ellipticals on the market, including plenty of bonus features such as 20 levels of resistance.
It’s 7.5-inch LCD display allows you to monitor every piece of data related to your session with Bluetooth compatibility that syncs with your smartphone or tablet.
9. Stamina Peddler InMotion E1000 Elliptical Trainer
This Inmotion elliptical trainer is another example of a quality below-desk elliptical device, that can also be used upright as a portable elliptical machine.
If you’re simply looking for an easy way to boost workout, this is a great device to consider.
10. EFITMENT Magnetic Elliptical Machine Trainer
The EFITMENT magnetic elliptical is a compact and lightweight elliptical machine that can be easily added to any home gym or office.
It’s built in monitor is capable of recording important data including your heart rate, elapsed time, distance traveled, and calories burned, to ensure you are track to hitting all your workout goals.
How We Ranked
Elliptical machines fit into three main designs: stand up, sit down, and under the desk. We included only one sitting elliptical, the Teeter recumbent elliptical, for its high-quality design and joint supporting design. In general, though, we preferred the other types of ellipticals. Under the desk, ellipticals like Stamina and Ativafit, are great for getting a workout in at the office and improving blood flow when you are sitting all day.
Stand up ellipticals are our top choice, which is why the majority of the machines on our list fall into this category. The EFITMENT Magnetic Trainer was of simple design, providing all the basics, which is why it ranked near the bottom of our list. Making the top 5, the Ncient elliptical machine included 13-inch non-slip pedals, for maximum safety and comfort. MaxKare took second place for its front flywheel design that made peddling more stable, helping to minimize joint pressure.
The Sunny Health & Fitness SF-E905 elliptical trainer was our top pick for a few reasons. For starters, it included a precise micro controller for easy resistance switching. Additionally, it included anti-slip technology in both the handlebars and foot pads to minimize injury. With its onboard stabilizers and state of the art tracking, its no surprise that the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-E905 elliptical trainer took first place.
Ellipticals can build balance and endurance. Ellipticals can improve both your balance and endurance since all four limbs are connected to the device during exercise.
In a study conducted in 2010, researchers analyzed the improvements that elliptical use caused in those with a history of strokes. Over the course of 8 weeks, participants engaged in elliptical training twice a week for 20 minutes. After the study, researchers were able to determine that consistent elliptical training can boost scores for the 6-minute walk test and improve ratings on the Berg Balance Scale (1).
Elliptical machines allow for easier reading during a workout. On a treadmill, it can be very difficult to read since you’re constantly bouncing up and down. Elliptical machines provide a smooth and stable training session allowing for you to read during your workouts with ease.
Ellipticals can help reduce fatigue and boost the quality of life. Though ellipticals are considered an aerobic activity, they can be used to reduce fatigue and increase the overall quality of life in those with health conditions.
A study released in 2011 focused specifically on patients with multiple sclerosis. Throughout the study, participants became engaged in elliptical training sessions to determine whether such participation would improve the symptoms of their pre-existing condition. By the end of the study, researchers were able to conclude that patients suffering from MS that participated in 15 elliptical-based exercise sessions reduced levels of fatigue and caused an increased quality of life (2).
Elliptical machines provide a challenge for even the fittest athletes. Unlike a lot of treadmills that max out and a certain speed an height for elite althletes, ellipticals never max out at speed since it will go as fast as you push the machine.
This allows for the most physically fit individuals to always be improving their abilities and endurance.
Elliptical machines work both your upper and lower body in a single session. Most cardio workouts only target your lower body, which can leave your upper body fairly undertrained. Elliptical machines, on the other hand, activate your arms, core and back muscles, providing a true full-body workout (3).
Elliptical machines are great for active recovery. One of the best things you can do on a rest day is to perform active recovery. Active recovery is essentially low impact activity to boost blood flow that promotes faster recovery. Elliptical machines are the perfect vehicle for active recovery since they are both low impact and aerobic.
Elliptical machines can strengthen your heart. It’s well known that cardiovascular exercise can strengthen your heart msucle. Elliptical machines provide this heart-strengthening training without the stress on your joints. Studies show that a healthier heart improves blood flow and reduces the risk of mortality (4).
Ellipticals can provide the same benefits as treadmills. Perhaps the most significant advantage of ellipticals is that they can be used as an effective alternative to treadmills and other aerobic machines.
In a 2004 study, scientists actively compared the ratings of perceived exertion and heart rates in study participants engaged in both treadmill and elliptical training sessions. After analyzing results from both aerobic machines, researchers discovered that there was no significant difference in heart rate between the two machines. The only difference in experiences was that participants using the elliptical viewed the exercise as more difficult (5).
Another study in 2010 produced somewhat similar results. Though this study ultimately determined that ellipticals yielded a higher active heart rate in study participants, the amount of energy and effort expended during the elliptical training sessions was essentially the same as using a treadmill (4).
Ellipticals can be used as a rehabilitation method for lower-body injuries. In a brief study released in 2008, scientists analyzed participants with prior anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries. The results of the study revealed that using pivotal exercise machines like an elliptical could improve muscular control in the injured leg (5).
Another study, this one conducted in 2015, sought to determine whether elliptical devices could be useful in reducing patellofemoral pain in study participants. After 18 off-axis elliptical training sessions over six weeks, researchers concluded that using ellipticals could reduce patellofemoral pain and increase mobility in the lower body (6).
Elliptical machines can increase your life. Performing regular cardio not only strengthens your heart and mind but also seems to keep chronic diseases at bay. Studies show that only 5-10 minutes of moderate cardio per day is needed to achieve this benefit (7). Given this fact, spending 10 minutes per day on an elliptical is a sure-fire way to increase your longevity and quality of life as you age.
Elliptical machines can help prevent bone loss and weakening. Weight-bearing exercise has been shown to improve bone density, reducing the chances of developing age-related osteoporosis (8).
Since elliptical machines combine both cardio and weight-bearing exercise, they allow you to benefit both your heart and bones, prevent age-related osteoporosis. Furthermore, since elliptical machines are very low-impact, they allow people with weaker bones to workout without being worrying about injuring themselves.
Ellipticals can help burn extra calories. Like most other aerobic devices, ellipticals are incredibly effective at burning calories. In a 2013 study, participants were required to engage in elliptical training sessions while participating in normally sedentary activities like watching television.
On average, study participants burned about 179 calories an hour, which is about 88 more calories than the participants would have burned by merely engaging in their sedentary tasks (9).
Studies have also shown that elliptical machines are more effective at activating complete leg muscles, helping to further increase the number of calorie burned in a given training session (10).
Elliptical machines make it easy to integrate HIIT into your workouts, which has been shown as one of the best and fastest ways to lose weight by dramatically ramping up calorie burning (11).
Ellipticals can improve overall health markers. One 2015 study had participants engage in a 12-week high-intensity interval training elliptical routine. The researchers determined that high-intensity interval training on an elliptical machine could improve blood glucose levels, reduce waist circumference, improve heart rate, reduce blood pressure, and burn more calories.
There also seems to be some evidence that using ellipticals can reduce the risk of developing conditions like type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome (12).
Ellipticals can be hard on the knees. The greatest concern when it comes to using ellipticals is the pressure this type of machine places on the knees and lower body region.
In a 2007 study, researchers compared the effects of elliptical training and walking on the lower extremities. Researchers determined that ellipticals cause greater pressure on the hip flexors and knee extensors, indicating that those with prior knee and hip conditions should err on the side of caution when using ellipticals (13).
Elliptical machines may worsen a heart condition. Since ellipticals stress your heart, they can cause issues for persons with pre-existing heart conditions. If you suffer from a heart condition, it’s imperative that you speak to your doctor before using an elliptical machine.
Elliptical can cause injuries. Like any piece of exercise equipment, there is a chance of injury when using an elliptical machine for aerobic activities.
A 2013 study showed that the greatest risk of injury when it came to using an elliptical was in the lower half of the body, including knees, hip flexors, and ankles. Specifically, ellipticals tended to cause sprains and lacerations. There were also several cases involving injuries to the head and neck while using the elliptical, though these occurred less frequently (14).
Elliptical machines may cause dehydration. Since elliptical machines tend to cause sweating during a workout, it’s possible that too much water and electrolyte loss can occur, which can cause dehydration. As such, it’s important to stay properly hydrated before, during, and especially after any workout.
According to the American Heart Association, each week, Americans should be getting about 150 minutes of moderate to intense aerobic activity. Given these guidelines, you could reasonably use the elliptical up to five times per week at an intensity that allows you to meet or exceed 50% of your maximum heart rate.
If you appreciate more of a variety in your routine, you could replace a few elliptical training days with other modes of aerobic activity (treadmill, running, stationary bike, swimming, etc.).
Anybody can use an elliptical, but there are a few populations that could benefit from this type of machine more. Ellipticals are great tools for those with previous lower-body injuries, those with conditions that result in weakness or fatigue, and those who are beginners when it comes to aerobic exercise.
How long should you workout on the elliptical? The amount of time you spend on the elliptical depends on what your health and fitness goals are. If you’re looking to improve your cardiovascular endurance, you can achieve such results by using the elliptical for 30 minutes or more. Keep in mind that 30 minutes on the elliptical at the slowest possible speed will not cause the same results as 30 minutes on the elliptical at the fastest speed. The actual amount of effort you’re putting in is much more important than the amount of time you spend on the elliptical. If you’re looking to burn more calories, you might want to spend a bit more time on the elliptical at as lightly slower speed.
What is the elliptical good for? The greatest benefit of using an elliptical machine is that it provides a full-body aerobic workout. Another advantage of elliptical machines is that there’s minimal impact on your knees since your feet are planted on the device’s foot pedals. Due to the limited impact on the lower body, you might find that you’re able to use the elliptical for much longer than a treadmill or other aerobic machine. This can help improve weight loss efforts.
Is an elliptical better than a treadmill? An elliptical is an excellent alternative to treadmills. Not only do they provide less impact than the treadmill, but they’re also able to burn just as many calories. You can expect to burn 200 calories an hour or more depending on the speed and intensity.
Is an elliptical bad for the knees? An elliptical can be bad for the knees, but this won’t be much of an issue if you’re careful about how you use the machine. However, when compared to running, the limited impact of the elliptical is better for your knees. With less pressure and impact placed on the knee joints, the elliptical can be used as a rehabilitation method for those with pre-existing knee conditions.
Are elliptical machines bad for your hip flexors? There is a possibility that elliptical machines can place excess pressure on your hip flexors and knee extensors.
Is an elliptical safer than walking on a treadmill? The elliptical machine provides a similar experience to the treadmill in terms of heart rate and calories burned. In terms of impact on the knees and other lower body joints, muscles, bones, the elliptical causes significantly less impact than walking or running.
What is the main difference between using an elliptical machine and walking? The major difference between using an elliptical and walking is the rating of perceived exertion. Most elliptical users view the elliptical as more difficult than walking or running on the treadmill since the elliptical is a full-body exercise.
How does an elliptical work? The elliptical is a full-body aerobic exercise machine that requires all limbs to be moving at the same time, providing a more full-body workout. When you’re on the machine, pushing the left foot pedal forward will cause the left handgrip to travel backward. At the same time, the right side of your body will be performing the same task in the opposite order. By continuing this motion, both your hands and your feet will be engaged in a consistent forward-backward movement pattern.
How is the speed level determined and maintained on an elliptical machine? The speed at which you use your elliptical depends on your motions. Unlike a treadmill where you select a speed level and forced to maintain said speed, the elliptical will go as fast or as slow as you use it.
Do ellipticals cause injury? Ellipticals do not cause injury, but they may be a cause of it. When it comes to ellipticals, the most common injuries are strains, sprains, and lacerations. These injuries can easily be avoided by using the machine at your own pace, not over-exerting yourself, and performing a proper warm-up and cool-down routine. If you have pre-existing injuries to your knees, you might want to be a bit more careful when using an elliptical.
Do elliptical machines benefit athletes? If you’re a serious athlete, using an elliptical can improve your cardiovascular endurance. Still, it might hold you back when it comes to your actual performance since it often fails to mimic athletic motions like sprinting or skating. If your goal is to improve your endurance, an elliptical is a great choice. If you’re leaning more toward improving a specific exercise or aerobic activity, you should be practicing that specific type of activity.
Are ellipticals good for weight loss? Ellipticals can be useful for burning calories and helping with weight loss when used strategically. You can’t expect to spend five minutes on an elliptical at a slow speed and expect to lose any significant amount of weight. The best way to use ellipticals to burn calories is by increasing your heart rate to about 50% or more of the maximum heart rate for your age group. The best way to guarantee weight loss from using an elliptical is by consistently using it for at least 30 minutes a day at intense speeds. Ideally, you would do this or combine it with other types of aerobic activity at least five times per week.
Is an elliptical machine better than running on a treadmill or outdoors? In terms of reducing the amount of impact on your lower body joints, muscles, and bones, the elliptical is significantly better than running. In regards to how many calories you can burn and how much your cardiovascular endurance improves, it all depends on how much effort you put into each activity and the heart rate level you’re achieving. If you’re reaching a similar heart rate for each, the effects should be pretty similar between the two exercises.
Running is better in the sense that it requires more activation of the lower body. When you’re running, you’re more likely to build strength, endurance, and speed in lower body joints and muscles. If you’re looking to improve full-body fitness, the elliptical would be the best choice because it involves the entire body.
Can you use the elliptical every day? You can use the elliptical every day if it fits into your lifestyle and fitness routine. The essential factor to consider is how much effort you’re exerting per session. Consistent high-intensity training on the elliptical daily can cause unnecessary strain on your bones, muscles, and joints of the lower body. It’s better to have intense and recovery days so that you avoid injury and burnout.
Do elliptical machines increase the range of motion in your hips? Yes, elliptical machines can increase the range of motion in your hips by gently stretching them out during exercise.
Are elliptical machines good for injury recovery? Yes, elliptical machines are often used during the recovery period after injuries, as they put significantly less stress on joints in the legs.
Are elliptical machines more compact than a treadmill? In general, elliptical machines are more compact and quieter than a standard treadmill, making them a better at-home gym option – especially in condos. Under the desk ellipticals can even fit under your workspace, providing a quick workout whenever you need it.
Do elliptical machines work out the calf muscles? Yes, elliptical machines provide a total body workout, including training the calf muscles. They are especially beneficial for calves since the machine can go backward, allowing for a very challenging posterior leg session.
Are elliptical machines affordable? In general, elliptical machines are more affordable than treadmills. Furthermore, they won’t jack up your electricity bill since they are often power-generated by rotation.
Can elliptical machines rip clothing? Yes, elliptical machines can latch onto loose clothing and rip it, potentially causing injury. It’s imperative to avoid loose clothing while using an elliptical. You should also keep aware of headphone wires as they have the possibility of getting caught as well.
Are elliptical machines safe for persons with a heart condition? Elliptical machines may not be safe for people with a heart condition, and it’s important you speak to your doctor about it.
Do elliptical machines cause dehydration? Elliptical machines can cause dehydration if your workout is intense, and you sweat a lot. To avoid dehydration issues, you should be drinking water and consuming electrolyte-rich foods before and after your workouts. If you feel dizzy during your workout session from dehydration, stop immediately.
Can elliptical machines cause muscle strains? Like any cardio or exercise machine, ellipticals can cause muscle strains. However, the likelihood is a lot less since ellipticals are dictated by the amount of force you use, not but a speed level like other machines.
Can ellipticals improve posture? Yes, ellipticals can improve posture by strengthening your back and abd muscles.
Do elliptical machines help reduce the strain on joints? Elliptical machines follow the natural flow of your hips, knees, and ankles, ultimately reducing the strain on them while you exercise.
Why are elliptical machines designed with multiple levels of resistance? Elliptical machines are designed with multiple levels of resistance to accommodate different fitness levels and exercise regimens. They also allow people to perform active recovery days and intense sessions based on how they are feeling and their specific training program.
Can elliptical machines improve energy levels and breathing? Better posture has been shown to improve breathing and energy levels. Elliptical machines help to improve posture by strengthening back muscles, thus improving energy levels and breathing.
Can ellipticals prevent age-related osteoporosis? Yes, ellipticals can help to prevent osteoporosis by providing weight-bearing exercise that is low impact to older individuals. Studies have repeatedly shown that weight-bearing exercise can improve bone density reducing the chances of developing age-related osteoporosis (15).
Do elliptical machines promote recovery? Elliptical machines can promote recovery by providing the ability to increase blood flow during a low intensity, low impact active recovery workout session. This allows you to supplement running for more effective training.
Are elliptical machines better at burning calories than treadmills? Yes, elliptical machines are better at burning more calories than most other cardio machines because they incorporate a full-body workout. During an elliptical workout, your arms, core, back, and leg muscles are all activated, leading to great calorie expenditure.
Do elliptical machines allow for HIIT? Yes, elliptical machines allow for HIIT training since you to dictate the speed at which the machine moves. Research has shown that high-intensity interval training is one of the most effective forms of exercise for calorie expenditure. Elliptical machines excel with HIIT training because you can quickly lower the resistance during sprints while cranking it up during those long recovery periods.
Do elliptical machines lower your risk of heart disease? If used frequently, elliptical training can lower your risk of heart disease by strengthening the heart, improving lung capacity, and lowering blood pressure levels.
Are elliptical machines tiring? Compared to other cardio machines, ellipticals tend to burn the same amount of calories without tiring you out as much. This actually allows people to exercise longer, leading to more calories burned without increasing the risk of injury.
Can you read on an elliptical while you workout? Yes, it’s easy to read on an elliptical during your workout. When you are running on a treadmill, the constant up and down motion makes it almost impossible to read. Ellipticals keep you level and stable, allowing you to read during even intense sprints.
If you’re looking to improve your cardiovascular endurance while also limiting excess pressure on your lower body joints, ellipticals are perhaps the best cardio machine to use. Elliptical machines help burn calories, reduce the risk of developing diabetes, improve health markers, and are a viable alternative to boring and joint damaging treadmill workouts.
The benefits of using ellipticals far outweigh the potential risks, but you should remember to use an elliptical appropriately without stressing the machine or yourself in order to avoid accidental injuries.
For FitBug’s #1 elliptical machine recommendation, click here.