We know that an elliptical machine allows low-impact workouts, improves cardiovascular health, and strengthens the upper and lower-body muscles. But, is there an exercise machine similar to an elliptical offering the same benefits?
There are several cardio machines available. But the best alternatives to an elliptical are a mini stepper, rowing machine, StairMaster, exercise bike and under-desk bike. These options are perfect if you are looking for a cheaper or compact option or not into elliptical workouts.
Let’s know more about these elliptical alternatives to see which one suits you best.
What can I Use in Place of an Elliptical Trainer?
The elliptical trainer falls under the cardio machine category.
What makes it different from the others is that it combines stair climbing, skiing and biking movements in one go.
As you step your feet on the pedals, your legs move in an oval pattern.
You can then complement this with a back-and-forth motion of your arms using the handles for a full-body workout.
It’s an exercise unlike anything else. Still, you can find a machine similar to an elliptical that suits your preferences better.
The movements you’ll make from these elliptical alternatives may not be the same.
But you still get to burn calories (or lose weight) and train your upper and lower body without causing joint issues.
Some options are even cheaper or more compact than a standard elliptical. Here are some of them.
1. Mini stepper
A mini stepper is a two-pedal device like an elliptical trainer.
The main difference is that instead of an elliptical motion, your legs make an up-and-down movement as if you are stair climbing.
Mini steppers are significantly cheaper than elliptical machines. Their compact size is also ideal for homes with no space for a gym.
I especially like the idea that you can take it anywhere around the house and use it while doing other things like watching TV.
Also, it’s a machine similar to an elliptical as it has variable resistance levels.
And if you get a model that includes resistance bands or cables, you can work out your upper body with every step, too.
With these, you can easily do resistance band exercises for your biceps, pecs and triceps.
But if your mini stepper doesn’t have them, using a pair of dumbbells is another option.
Balance can be challenging with mini steppers as your feet need to stay within the small pedals and not move around too much.
Compared with an elliptical, a stepper allows a smaller range of motion, which limits muscle action and development.
That means calories burned with a mini stepper are not as high as with an elliptical.
This alternative may give you weight loss progress but not as fast as other cardio machines.
2. Rowing machine
A rower is unique as it simulates the boat rowing motion.
It’s a different form of low-impact exercise. But the presence of a flywheel makes it a machine similar to an elliptical.
Like the elliptical, a rowing machine encourages a full-body workout. However, this alternative machine targets the upper body more.
It also puts a lot of muscle groups to work, allowing you to burn loads of calories. You can also adjust its damper settings for a more powerful rowing session.
I also like that there are different types of rowing machines available. Some models can even provide a realistic on-water rowing experience.
Depending on the type and brand, rowers can be expensive. These long and narrow machines take up a lot of space, too.
Also, rowers can be noisy, especially the air and water ones. Moreover, the rowing action involves repetitive movements that can be boring to some.
People with back problems may not be comfortable using this alternative machine either.
If you’re keen to try rowers, study their features and try them out first when possible. Read my rowing machine review and buying guide to learn more.
The StairMaster or step mill is a piece of fun gym equipment with an endless flight of stairs rolling continuously.
It’s a machine similar to an elliptical as you do stair-climbing movements.
This exercise machine lets you perform small lunges continuously, which is great for your glutes and leg muscles. It’s an excellent choice if you want cardio and muscle building in one workout.
Climbing the StairMaster is a type of weight-bearing exercise. That means this machine can help build up bone mass, too.
Training with this machine early in life can help avoid bone issues during old age.
If you let go of the handrail, you can pump your arms, as if running up the stairs, to work out your upper body.
It should help develop body coordination, balance and posture, too.
The StairMaster also has an adjustable speed setting.
Once you get used to this machine, you can easily pick up the pace and boost your calorie burn.
Overall, it’s a good starter for building up leg power for more intense exercises, challenging machines or sports.
This machine may not suit people with chronic back problems, knee pains and mobility issues.
It’s because, compared with an elliptical, the StairMaster can impact your joints more.
If you plan to own one at home, it’s also quite an investment and requires a spacious room.
Exercise monotony is also another disadvantage.
Pedalling on the elliptical or running on a treadmill requires significantly less skill than mastering the step mill.
So, if you’re a first-time user, you might need a considerable adaptation period before you can confidently use it.
4. Exercise bike
This one is perhaps the alternative closest to using an elliptical trainer.
Similar to an elliptical, a stationary bike is good for your heart health. Indoor cycling can quickly make you sweat, boost your heart rate and burn calories.
It is also safer to use if you have balance problems as you will be sitting during the entire workout. Also, it is easier to find a compact bike for a home gym.
Generally, there are more affordable bikes than ellipticals.
But if you can spend on high-end machines, modern bikes like the NordicTrack Commercial S22i have great calorie-burning features.
An exercise bike is also a good option for people who want to stay active while recovering from an injury.
Specifically, recumbent bikes have seats with a backrest to keep your body upright. Your legs are also in a reclined position to lessen joint stress.
There is less upper-body action while on a stationary bike. That means you’ll probably need to do other exercises for your back, chest, arms and core.
With less muscle involvement, you won’t burn calories as much on a bike either. The constant cycling motion can be repetitive and tedious, too.
And if you are training for an outdoor cycling competition, a stationary bike may be a less stellar alternative.
Cycling indoors will not prepare you for various weather elements and uneven terrains that you’ll likely encounter during the race.
If you plan to get a stationary exercise bike, its features must align with your fitness goals for optimum benefits.
5. Under-desk bike
This alternative is for you if you want a machine similar to an elliptical but more space-efficient.
These bikes are compact and light that you can take them anywhere or use them under your desk. They are more budget-friendly than standard ellipticals, too.
Under-desk bikes are similar to mini steppers. However, with this alternative, you’ll have to sit down while pedalling.
It’s perfect for people who sit long hours and want a less sedentary work life.
If you use one in the office, it’s effective in combating fatigue and boosting productivity, too.
An under-desk bike can only burn calories, improve your cardio health and strengthen your legs to a lower extent.
While it keeps you active at work, it cannot provide the benefits of a medium-intensity or full-body workout.
So, you need to perform other exercises to meet the ideal calorie deficit.
It may be a good alternative if you want to stay healthy. But for effective weight loss, you need something that will engage your muscles more.
If you’re keen on trying this machine, steer clear of budget ones, though, as they tend to be noisy and less durable.
With so many equipment options available, it should be easy to find a machine similar to an elliptical. However, it is also clear that no fitness machine is perfect.
You need to use other equipment or form of exercise for a balanced routine. Variation is also vital to keep you motivated.
After all, doing the same movements every day can lead to boredom.
So, once you find your ideal elliptical trainer or alternative machine, complement it with other physical activities. Lift weights, run outdoors or swim.
Mix things up to keep your body challenged and avoid fitness plateaus.
A good elliptical trainer costs $1000 to $1500 on average. Models within this price range have features for an effective and comfortable workout. But more expensive models are also available. The best elliptical is not the most expensive one, though. Look for the machine you’ll love using instead.
Ellipticals can last between 10 and 20 years. But several factors affect their lifespan, including machine quality, frequency of use and warranty. Ellipticals last longer than other cardio machines because of their less complex design and fewer moving parts. Still, they need regular cleaning and maintenance to keep them in tip-top condition for longer.
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