Elliptical Machines Review
Why Buy an Elliptical Trainer?
The top performers in our review of the best elliptical machines are the NordicTrack C 9.5, the Gold Award winner; the AFG Sport 5.9AE, the Silver Award winner; and the Nautilus E616, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing an elliptical to meet your needs, along with details on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 products.
Going to the gym is hard with a busy schedule, even with several popular chains now open 24 hours. Some people feel uncomfortable working out in front of others and avoid the gym completely. Some exercise equipment is designed to allow you the freedom to exercise in the comfort of your own home.
An elliptical is an exercise machine that has a lot of health benefits. It works out your whole body at the same time and is great for cardiovascular health. The natural motions of the workout routine don’t put a lot of strain on joints, making these machines a great fit for those with knee, hip or other joint problems.
Unlike treadmills, which require you to keep up with them, elliptical machines are versatile, powered by you, so you go at your own pace and create an exercise routine that works for you regardless of if you are a beginner or a seasoned enthusiast. All of the elliptical cross-trainers we reviewed have both swinging and stationary handlebars, as well as adjustable footings so you can target specific muscle groups rather than do a full-body workout if you choose. This is a testament to just how flexible these exercise machines are. For more information on the health benefits of using them, check out our articles on elliptical machines.
What to Look for When Buying an Elliptical Machine
If you are looking to purchase an elliptical in order to lose weight, make sure to consider the weight it can accommodate. Typically, elliptical machines can hold about 300 pounds. Some, such as the Spirit XE295, hold a lot more. This particular model can hold 400 pounds at one time.
For Weight Loss
When you're trying to lose weight, it is important to have access to additional support and tools. Many ellipticals integrate with popular fitness apps, such as the Bowflex Max Trainer M7, which lets you track your progress with the MyFitnessPal app, and the NordicTrack C9.5 that integrates with iFit. You may need to purchase a subscription in order to use this feature, though. You can also find a lot of help through online diet sites. We’ve tested and ranked the best of these sites and know their value when it comes to fitness tracking.
Another great feature that not a lot of elliptical machines include is cloud-based workout tracking. This feature lets you connect wirelessly through either the console or your mobile device and keep real-time track of your workout. You can then compare this information to your previous workouts or share it with friends or workout buddies to help you keep on track with your fitness goals. In addition to the NordicTrack, the best elliptical machine in our review, the SOLE E35 has cloud-based workout tracking available.
For Fitness Training
Look for a machine that has a minimum stride of 20 inches, because shorter strides may cause discomfort as you use your elliptical, and 20 inches tends to be a comfortable stride for most people. However, some of the best elliptical machines, such as the ProForm Endurance 520 E, have adjustable stride lengths, which is good for people who need a shorter stride or for those with multiple people in the home who will use the machine and each need a different stride length.
It is also important to know the weight of the flywheel, the large wheel that the pedals are connected to. Experts suggest purchasing an elliptical with a flywheel of at least 20 pounds. This is because the heavier the flywheel, the smoother the motion of the machine. This is especially important when you're using a vigorous fitness program that requires a lot of fast movement so that using the pedals doesn’t become clunky and awkward.
All of the elliptical machines we reviewed are compatible with chest heart rate monitors. These give a more accurate heart rate than the handle grip sensors and are convenient for cross-training so you don’t have to break your stride to hold onto the stationary handlebars and get a reading. Three of the models we reviewed include chest strap monitors so you don’t have to purchase one on your own. These elliptical cross-trainers are the AFG Sport 5.9AE, the SOLE E35 and the Spirit XE295.
To make your workout more convenient and enjoyable, ellipticals typically include extra features, such as a book holder, water bottle holder or personal cooling fan. Some models include a second holder for the TV remote, while others simply enlarge the water bottle holder to accommodate both. All the elliptical exercise machines we reviewed have speakers so you can plug in your iPod, MP3 player or other music device and listen to music while you work out. Additionally, you can plug in your earbuds so you can exercise to music without interrupting others around you.
A Word About Workout Programs
Every elliptical machine comes with a number of workout program presets. These programs know the incline level, target heart rate and length of the workout you need to achieve each one's goal. Experts believe 10 workout presets is a good starting point, since the most popular programs are usually covered, including fat burning, calorie burning and cardio.
Multiple resistance levels are also a good tool to have, since these create a more challenging workout so your body doesn’t become used to a particular preset and plateau. When we reviewed elliptical machines, we gave more credit to elliptical trainers that have more than the standard 10 presets. We also gave extra consideration to machines with manual and custom programs. Manual programs let you jump on the elliptical and start your workout without having to set up a quick start or other fitness program. Custom programs let you create your own workout program if a preset doesn’t exist. Not many ellipticals have this feature, but the Schwinn 470 includes custom programming options.
Our Final Thoughts & Recommendations
If your goal is to lose weight, firm your muscles, increase your endurance, or just get fit and look good, elliptical trainers are a valuable tool. There is no need to be uncomfortable or stressed at a gym, because elliptical machines are designed to fit in your home.
The top elliptical trainer in our review, the NordicTrack C9.5, has an adjustable stride length, so more than one person can comfortably use this machine. There are 32 preset workout programs and 22 resistance levels with over hundreds of different fitness options. The flywheel weighs 25 pounds to create smooth motions while you work out. Accessories include a personal cooling fan and a tablet holder. The web-enabled console has touchscreen capabilities, and it includes both cloud-based fitness tracking and integration with fitness tracking apps such as iFit.
The AFG Sport 5.9AE lets you connect your tablet or other mobile device wirelessly to it and keep track of your fitness goals and progress without the purchase of an app. The wireless internet connectivity also allows you to connect your Bluetooth-enabled devices to the console speakers to listen to music or watch movies while you work out. As one of the best ellipticals in our review, the AFG Sport has 43 preset workouts and lets you create up to five user profiles with individual workouts saved under each. The AFG Sport includes a chest heart rate monitor so you can keep track of your heart rate without interrupting your workout to grasp the stationary handlebar where the standard monitoring strips are located.
The Nautilus E616 has a DualTrack display that lets you cover one display screen with your tablet or book and still keep track of your progress on an additional monitor. The Nautilus also has 29 workout presets, including custom programming capabilities, with 25 resistance levels. Its extra features include a personal cooling fan, Bluetooth speakers, and a large holder that is divided to hold both your water bottle and the TV remote.
Elliptical trainers are some of the most versatile exercise machines. They provide a good workout without causing added stress or pain to joints. Models with an adjustable stride are great for home with multiple users, while a lot of preset workout programs are good for those who are focused on strength or cross-training. Accessories such as personal fans, tablet holders and speakers also enhance your overall exercise routine.
Contributing Reviewer: Renee Shipley