Is An Elliptical For You?
Elliptical trainers were first introduced into gyms in the mid 1990s and since that time they have become more and more popular – and with good reason...
When shopping for exercise equipment, should it be an elliptical trainer or a treadmill is a common dilemma. Both can give you a good cardiovascular workout and help you burn calories. There are distinct advantages to an elliptical trainer, however, that lead many people to choose an elliptical machine for their home. We’ve taken the time to compare the features of both to help you determine which is right for you.
Elliptical – A Superior Workout
The movement of a good elliptical trainer feels quite natural – almost like running in mid air. Although both treadmills and ellipticals give you a solid cardio workout and will help you burn calories, you get more of a workout for what seems to be the same amount of exertion with an elliptical trainer. Studies have shown that you can work harder and expend more energy on an elliptical machine (especially those with arm poles) without feeling tired – you actually feel like you are doing less. You burn more calories but you think you have done less work – excellent!
Ellipticals Work the Lower & Upper Body
You also have a more complete workout with an elliptical machine. When looking at elliptical machines versus treadmills, don’t forget to look at what parts of the body are being used. With a treadmill you are working only the lower body. This is great if you want to focus strictly on the abdomen, buttocks and legs, but if you want a more complete workout, go with the elliptical machine. Most elliptical trainers give you the option of an upper body workout by including movable handlebars that work in tandem with the elliptical motion of the legs. You not only get to tone your arms and work your shoulder and back muscles, you increase the cardiovascular workout you get in a set amount of time.
One other advantage of the elliptical machine is the reverse motion. With this, you can work out a completely different area of leg muscles while gliding in reverse – something you’d never try to do on a treadmill.
Elliptical Machines – Safe and Comfortable
There are safety and design standards for all types of exercise equipment, but there is always the slim chance of becoming injured while working out. However, an elliptical machine eliminates many of the problems that people tend to run into with treadmills. One of the most common injuries people sustain on treadmills is a fall when trying to get on or off while the treadmill is still running or stumbling when they don’t successfully match their running or walking pace with the treadmill’s speed.
Elliptical Trainers Match Your Speed
Elliptical machines are designed so that they never operate without you actually providing the power – when you stop, the machine stops, so you won’t get caught on the foot pedals or stumble at any time. You will also be determining the speed – the elliptical trainer will speed up or slow down to match you, not the other way around.
Low Impact Exercises – No Jarring movements
While injuries to joints are considerably less likely to occur on a treadmill than when running out of doors, there is still significant jarring of the joints. In fact, you are putting the pressure of twice your body weight on your knees and ankles with each impact of your foot on the treadmill. When using an elliptical, your feet never lift off of the foot pedals, virtually eliminating any impact. You can work up a sweat without any pounding or grinding of the joints.
Ellipticals Need Fewer Repairs
And finally, the design of elliptical trainers vs. treadmills tends to mean fewer repairs (there’s no belt to be replaced) and a smaller footprint. This means you can put them almost anywhere in your home with ease and look forward to lots of workouts without lost time and money for repairs.
In the end only you can determine what the best exercise equipment is for you and your family, but when it comes to elliptical trainer vs. treadmill, the elliptical trainer is the favorite.
Choosing an Elliptical: What factors to look for in an Elliptical?
Budget : This will influence which brands and models you can consider. Ellipticals range in price from Rs.20000 right up to Rs.300000, but you do tend to get what you pay for in the fitness equipment market.
Space : Ellipticals are not small machines. Ellipticals may be 2 feet wide, 5 feet high and as much as 6 feet long. Think about how much space you have for your elliptical trainer and remember you will need room for getting on and off and actual space around about while you are exercising. One thing not to forget is the HEIGHT of your ceiling. Ellipticals add a few feet to your height and it may be a problem if you want to site your machine in a low-ceilinged room such as a basement or attic area.
Features : When you look at the features on offer think about what you will actually use and what is really not necessary for you. People sometimes get carried away by features and forget to look at the basics.
Who will Use the Machine : It's important to think about who will make use of the machine and to take into consideration their weight (and height as we explained earlier). Most machines have a maximum weight load and often they do not work at their best if you are close to this level. The heavier the user the better quality the machine you need.
How Often You will Use it : The more often you use your machine, the higher the quality you will need. So if the whole family will use the machine every day you probably need a sturdier machine than someone who is single and will use it only three times a week.
Your Fitness Goals : If you are into an intensive exercise program and will use the machine to its maximum resistance to build up your strength and muscles you will need a better quality machine than a light exerciser who is using it only for general fitness. If you are using a medium intensity but going hammer and tongs morning and night to
burn calories and lose weight then you need a machine which will withstand that heavy use too.
What features should you look for?
Upper Body Motion : Most ellipticals are cross trainers and they have arm poles which allow you to get a whole body work out although a number of cheap ellipticals and a few of the high quality ellipticals do not. Whether the lack of arm poles is an issue for you depends on how you want to use the machine. Serious exercisers and body builders often want to work the upper body separately using weights and prefer to drive the elliptical using their legs so that they get a more intensive workout. This is harder and therefore more tiring for a beginner. It all depends on what you are looking for. If you want to work your upper body on the elliptical and you don't have arm poles you may want to carry hand weights as you exercise although it is then a bit harder to get your balance.
Adjustable resistance : Most machines have adjustable resistance but they generally differ in a couple of ways
a) manual versus automatic adjustment : Manual adjustment is awkward and will interrupt your workout while automatic adjustment is smoother and quieter
b) number of resistance levels : The more expensive machines have a larger number of resistance levels. This allows you to train in more gradual increments which are the best way to get fitter.
Quiet Operation : Ellipticals should not make much noise in operation. In giving poor ratings on their machine, a number of people mention squeaks and noise which can be very off-putting when you work out. Generally this is a sign that a machine is of poor build quality (the parts don't fit well together and therefore make a noise).
Reverse Action : If the machine has a reverse action, it also allows you to target a different set of muscles from those used in a forward action.
Maximum Weight : In general the better quality the machine, the more weight it will bear. The heavier you are the sturdier the machine you require and machines can get quite wobbly and noisy when they are used close to their maximum declared weights. Choose an elliptical with a maximum weight load which is well over the weight of anyone who will use the machine.
Heart Rate Monitor : The main reason for using an elliptical is to get a cardio workout and a heart rate monitor is a great help in ensuring that you are training at the right level. Although you can always use a separate heart rate monitor some machines have a heart monitor either built into the handlebars or come with a chest strap which integrates with a receiver in the display panel. These machines often have integrated programs based on
your heart rate which makes exercising at the right level very easy.
The pulse grip sensor heart rate monitor in the handlebars is usually found in the lower priced models. This system uses electrical impedance and provides only rough estimate of your heart rate. Higher end models usually offer the wireless heart rate monitors used with a chest strap. These offer more accurate measurement.
Programs : The more options you have for automatic pre-set programs along with manual adjustments the less bored you are likely to get with your workouts. Although you can watch TV or listen to music to make up for it, it also makes sense to vary your workouts from a fitness point of view. Bodies quickly adapt to a non-changing workout. Best to keep your body guessing!
Flywheel Weight and Size : The larger and heavier the flywheel the smoother and steadier the whole feel of the machine. Although a heavy elliptical is difficult to move and get set up initially. You want that weight so that it doesn't move across the floor when you're actually working out!
Resistance Mechanisms : Magnetic resistance is smoother and less prone to problems than mechanical resistance so you should make sure that your chosen machine uses this method.
Always go for magnetic resistance instead. In low to mid-priced machines you often find a manual magnetic resistance system with a magnet that is positioned about a ¼" away from the flywheel. The magnet is then moved manually using a knob closer or further away from the flywheel to create varying resistance.
In that price range you will also find ellipticals with motorized (or particle) brake systems where a small motor controls the magnetic brake.
Stride Length : This is one of the most important factors in your choice of elliptical yet many people are not aware of it. An 18” stride length is fine for most people of average height although 20 or 21” would be better if you are over over 6ft. Some of the cheaper ellipticals have as little as 14” which will be fine if you are quite small or out of shape but will not offer a comfortable elliptical stride for many – you get the feeling of short choppy strides instead of a smooth elliptical movement offering maximum cardio exercise. The faster you go the longer the stride length you need – just like running. Commercial machines are at least 20” so that they can accommodate most people.
Footpads : Footpads should be non-slip with raised edges and accommodate your full foot size. If possible look for an elliptical with articulating footpads which flex with your feet. Some elliptical trainers with static footpads can cause your feet to start to go numb through lack of circulation on longer work outs. The closer the footpads are to each other the better although there will always be the width of the flywheel between them. A maximum of 6” apart is ideal.
Rear or Front Drive : The more expensive ellipticals tend to have rear drive as this gives a more natural elliptical movement and means that articulating pedals (pedals which angle with your stride) are not so necessary. If you choose front drive units look for one which does have articulating pedals as this can help give the feeling of a true elliptical movement.
Stride Shape : Stride shapes vary considerably in ellipticals – some hardly have an elliptical shape at all – yet that is the shape you need to feel natural as you move during your workout. Some of the lower priced models have footpads attached to the flywheel meaning that you will be moving almost in a circular pattern and the ride feels like moving up and down. The more expensive models have the footpads connected to the flywheel
with metal rods which allows the stride shape to be the more elongated natural oval shape you are looking for.
Display Panel : A good display console provides clear feedback during your workout to help keep you on track. An elliptical will normally display information on your speed, distance, heart rate and workout time. The clearer the display panel, the more pleasant the machine will be to use. A display control panel where you can't read the controls when you're in mid workout is pretty useless but clear visual controls on how your workout is progressing help to motivate you and keep you going to the end.
Safety Features : The main issue to check for is stability – you don't want a machine which feels wobbly when you use it or which is in danger of tipping over if you work it too hard. Check too whether the front and side rails are strong enough to support you if you need help to maintain your balance while you are working out. Most machines will just stop when you stop so there is no need to have a safety key. One thing you should make
sure is that children stay away from the machinery so that they can't get fingers or clothing trapped in the moving parts. Some models have a safety pin to prevent movement of the pedals when the machine is not in use.
How Much Should You Pay?
In general you get exactly what you pay for. If you buy a cheap elliptical it is not likely to last long or feel good during operation. But there is a difference between cheap and affordable. Just don't expect to be happy with any low cost machine. It isn't going to happen and we would not recommend that you waste your money on something like that. It will be too flimsy and poorly made to get a decent workout and that's what you are looking for after all.
Remember that you could see your machine as a replacement for gym membership and pay for it if necessary in monthly installments either through your credit card or via easy EMI Plan offered by FitnessOne Store.
But if you want to pay for your machine outright or you have a low budget you can still do reasonably well with a few machines costing less than Rs.30000. You can't expect the same build quality as something costing over Rs.200000 (the kind you might use at the gym) but you can still get a decent workout and many people are happy with their purchase at this level. Problems usually occur when you expect a machine for less than Rs.30000 to take the hammering that a gym level machine is up to. Machines at this level just don't have the same sturdiness or durability as the gym machines. They have lower quality components and construction.
If any of the following is true
● you are over 90 kgs
● you are planning to use the machine for high intensity workouts
● your machine will get used by multiple people or regularly more than 5 times a week
then you need to think about investing a bit more in your equipment. Cheap models may break with heavy use and sway from side to side if you work them too hard.
Come in and Chat – and let’s talk elliptical cross-trainers
Make your local FitnessOne’s Propel Fitness Store your personal fitness information center. Bring your questions on elliptical trainers — or any aspect of fitness and exercise. Our certified fitness specialists are walking encyclopedias of information, and you’ll have all of their attention. They’ll be glad to share their knowledge and help you make informed decisions that will get you the results you want.
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