They give you a lower impact workout than other machines. They can also be lighter and more compact than other machines.
Plus, because you use both arms and legs they give you a lower rate of perceived exertion. (This means you actually worked harder than you felt like you did - which can add up to more calories burned).
But there are so many brands and models on the market. How do you choose the best elliptical machine for you?
This article reveals 6 key features to consider before buying. So you can choose the best machine for you.
1) Stride Length.
This is one of the most important features when buying an elliptical. Stride length is the farthest distance between the pedals during the elliptical motion. Stride lengths vary from 12 - 21 inches.
Stride length is important as a longer stride length works your leg muscles more fully, giving you a more effective workout and helping to burn more calories. Plus a long stride gives you a smoother, more fluid feel.
Cheaper ellipticals usually offer a 12 - 14 inch stride. For the average height person an 18-20 inch stride is good.
Taller people or those who really like to pick up the pace may prefer a 20 inch or even a 21 inch stride.
2) User Weight Capacity.
Along with unit weight and quality of construction, user weight capacity is a great indicator of the stability of the elliptical. You don't want a machine that shakes or wobbles when you pick up the pace.
User weight capacities usually run from 200 lbs up to 400 lbs. Cheaper ellipticals run around 200-250 lbs and might be alright for 1 user under 200 lbs.
The higher you go - other things being equal - the more stable a machine you get. A great user weight capacity, especially for heavier users or more than 1 person is 300 - 350 lbs.
Resistance is basically how hard your legs have to push during the elliptical motion. Resistance gives you more of a challenge while you work out.
Increasing resistance can help you burn more calories, push to the next level or build intervals into your workout to boost metabolism.
Most elliptical trainers offer a range of resistance levels. Look for a trainer that makes resistance changes easy (i.e. one-touch resistance adjustment) vs a dial that you turn to increase resistance.
Incline (also called Ramp) is not the same as resistance. Until a few years ago incline was only found on $4000 commercial models. However it's starting to make it's way into the home elliptical market.
Incline allows you to automatically increase your workout slope so you work different muscle groups. This optimizes your workout and burns maximum amount of calories.
Some ellipticals offer automatic incline (where you press a button to increase incline). And some offer manual incline (where you have to get off the machine to set it). Although incline isn't necessary to have, many people really like it.
5) Footprint / Folding.
The footprint is the width and length of your elliptical. While ellipticals in general are smaller than treadmills, they can still take up a lot of space. If space is limited in your home, make sure to consider the elliptical's footprint before you buy.
Another option to save space is to buy a folding elliptical. Some manufacturers are starting to make elliptical machines that fold up and this can save space if workout area is limited.
Elliptical consoles come in many different shapes, colors and sizes. Many give you standard feedback like speed, time, distance, calories burned and heart rate.
One thing that many of the best elliptical machines have is a back-lit console. This makes the display bright and easier to read.
Consoles that are not backlit (usually found on cheaper models) can be very hard to read. This is especially true if you have poor lighting in your workout area.
So those are 6 of the top key features to consider when choosing the best elliptical machine for you. Other popular features include upper body arm bars, personal trainer workout programs and built-in speakers for your iPod or Mp3 player.
Finally, when buying your elliptical trainer, remember to consider everyone who will be using it. Consider their weight capacity, height (for stride length), workout preferences and fitness goals. Do this and you're practically guaranteed to find the best elliptical machine for you.