If you're thinking about investing in a piece of home fitness equipment in order to get in shape without the hassle and expense of a gym or health club membership, then I commend you. Having a spot in the comfort of your own home makes working out a breeze! No more excuses about bad weather, heavy traffic, or you're embarrassed to have other people looking at you while you sweat away at the gym. It's then simply a matter of throwing on whatever you like and hopping on the fitness equipment and doing your own thing!
But first things first.
You've either arrived here because you have decided to go with an elliptical trainer as your home fitness equipment of choice or you're still trying to decide. Either way, EllipticalHome.com can help with your decision. The most important part of any consumer purchase is education. And that's what I'll help you with as you read on.
Why Elliptical Training?
I've personally used a wide variety of fitness equipment over the years. Everything from the now defunct Nordic Track Skier, to the earliest of elliptical trainers, treadmills, weight machines, home and universal gyms, and the latest state of the art elliptical trainers. In that time, I've come to the conclusion that the two best pieces of cardio fitness equipment are the treadmill and the elliptical trainer. Yes, that does narrow things down a bit, but how to decide which direction is the right one for you?
Elliptical vs. Treadmill
Ah, the age old battle between the elliptical trainer and the venerable (but oft hated) treadmill. Personally, I now alternate my cardio training sessions between both the treadmill and the elliptical trainer, however, I have the luxury of still having reasonably pain-free joints and a gym membership. Since we're talking about home fitness equipment I'll assume that you can only afford to go with one or the other due to financial and space constraints. Why don't we take a quick look at the Pros and Cons of both pieces of fitness equipment:
Elliptical Trainer Pros
- Easy to learn how to use
- Low impact - easy on lower body joints
- Lower perceived exertion
- Quality machine between $1k-$2k
- Low maintenance
Elliptical Trainer Cons
- Easy to let momentum do the work
- Foot numbness on some models
- Can be tricky to assemble
- Moderately easy to learn to use
- Incline models add more resistance
- Good cardio workout
- Easy to setup
- Low maintenance
- Quality machine between $1k-$2k
- High impact - puts stress on lower body joints
- Must use caution when using - falling is dangerous
- Can be boring
So what does it all mean? Well in terms of price (for a quality machine), ease of use, and maintenance it's all pretty much even. Where things begin to separate themselves is with the actual workout. This is where you need to be honest with yourself? How are your knees and lower back? If you experience stiffness or inflammation in these joints then a treadmill is probably going to aggravate things due to the high impact nature of the exercise. If running isn't your cup of tea then most likely a treadmill won't be either. Even if you're an avid runner, then you're probably aware from your own experience that a treadmill is an inferior substitute for running outdoors.
An elliptical trainer on the other hand is about as gentle as you can get in terms of impact forces on your lower body joints when it comes to a full-body exercise machine. Unlike an exercise bike or rowing machine, an elliptical trainer is a weight-bearing exercise. This means that you are supporting your full body weight with your legs, hips, and back during the exercise movement. However, unlike running on a treadmill, the impact and shock forces exerted on your lower body are at a minimum. This is not only of benefit to those with sore knees, but also those recovering from lower body injuries or surgery. Also, the weight-bearing nature of elliptical training is a good preventative against osteoporosis (ladies take special note).
Commercial Ellipticals vs. Home Ellipticals
So, if you're still with me and you're leaning towards an elliptical trainer as your home fitness machine of choice, then let's break things down even further. If you currently belong to a fitness club or have ever been to one, then you've undoubtedly seen the vast array of cardio equipment stacked up side by side there. Most clubs dedicate a large area of their floor space just to cardio exercise equipment. This after all is the most popular type of equipment in most clubs and gyms.
The are two basic grades of elliptical trainers and other cardio equipment such as treadmills for that matter. The kind of equipment found at most health clubs is what is referred to as "commercial-grade" fitness equipment. The top brands for commercial elliptical trainers are Life Fitness and Precor. These machines are truly heavy duty and are designed to really take a beating. They are in almost constant use and must also bear even the heaviest of users.
These machines also have a wealth of "bells and whistles" such as top of the line consoles with a wide array of program options. They are also some of the smoothest ellipticals to be found anywhere. As a result, they come with both a large footprint (take up a lot of floor space) and also a hefty price tag. Most clubs also have technicians on regular maintenance calls to repair and maintain these machines since they are in constant use and are so vital to any club.
So should you ever consider a commercial elliptical for use in your home? I would say most definitely if you have the space and the budget for one. You really won't find better machines at any price than the top of the line Precors.
Best Home Ellipticals
If you're set on going with a residential grade elliptical trainer for your home fitness area, then there are still a few more things you need to know as well as a warning: do not be tempted to go with a cheap elliptical trainer! Yes, I know it's extremely tempting. The shiny elliptical trainers at Sears or your local big box retailer look almost like the ones at the gym and even feel pretty good when you take them for a test drive, but don't be fooled!
Cheap elliptical trainers are cheap for a very good reason: manufacturers can sell them so cheaply because they skimp on the components and construction. Even simple things like bolts and welds are skimped on to save a few cents here and there. The real test is to have a look at the warranty on these elliptical trainers. Some of them are only in force for a mere 90 days! If a fitness equipment manufacturer is unwilling to back their product for more than 90 days then that should speak volumes for the quality of the equipment.
Also consider the safety risk with opting for a cheap elliptical trainer. I shudder to think what would happen if an inferior quality bolt or sloppy frame weld were to break while I'm going full out on one of these cheaply made machines. It's really not something that I wish to think too hard about since it probably wouldn't result in a very pleasant outcome!
The worst offender in this regard is the manufacturer of the popular home elliptical brands such as Weslo, Health Rider, Weider, Pro Form, and Nordic Track. Yep, the very same brands you see all lined up over at your local Sears store. If I can give you no other piece of advice, it would be to stay out of Sears when shopping for a home elliptical and as far away from these models of elliptical trainers as humanly possible! You'll thank me in the long run.
So what brands of residential elliptical trainers do I personally recommend? At the moment there are only two manufacturers that I fully endorse: Smooth Fitness and Sole Fitness. You can spend less and you can also spend more, but these two brands consistently rise to the top when it comes to home ellipticals. The reasons are pretty simple: quality and value. Both Smooth Fitness and Sole ellipticals are very well-designed and well-built elliptical trainers for the residentail market. Sure, you'll spend a little bit more than for one of those "economy" ellipticals from Sears, but for under $2000 on average, you'll get a high quality elliptical trainer that will provide you with years of trouble-free use and will be your path forward to optimal fitness.