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Elliptical machines can offer many benefits but you may want other options. What are some alternatives to elliptical machines with similar benefits?
The elliptical machine is a common cardio workout machine in gyms and at home. You can describe it as two large pedals that rotate which are connected to two handles for your upper body.
Among other benefits, you can use an elliptical machine to improve your cardiovascular health at home or in the gym, you are not dependent on the weather for your workouts, you can strengthen muscles all over your body, it offers a low-impact workout, improves balance & coordination, etc.
Whether you don’t enjoy using an elliptical machine, you want a cheaper alternative, or you want an alternative for any other reason, these elliptical machine alternatives can help you train similar areas of your health.
Keep in mind that implementing these alternatives can offer benefits but like while using any exercise equipment, there is always some risk of injury. Make sure you use these equipment options in a safe way and if needed, get guidance from an expert.
1. Stationary bike
Another very popular cardio exercise example is cycling either outside on an actual bike or at home in or in the gym on a stationary bike. Of these two options, the stationary bike is the alternative that comes closest to using an elliptical trainer. Especially if you choose a stationary bike with moving handles.
Some of the benefits where the stationary bike resembles the elliptical machine include: improving cardiovascular health indoors, training similar leg muscles, and burning a lot of calories.
In some ways, a stationary bike is even more helpful. For example, if you are dealing with balance issues, a stationary bike can be a safer alternative than an elliptical machine. A stationary bike is also generally cheaper.
One potential downside is that the stationary bike has a slightly different muscle focus. For example your glutes (butt muscles) and upper body muscles will likely have to work harder on the elliptical machine than on the stationary bike.
2. Mini stepper
Mini steppers are a device with two pedals that go down slowly if you put pressure on them. This allows you to get in a somewhat similar leg motion as an elliptical machine but with a smaller range of motion.
This makes it so the benefits of a mini stepper session are similar to using an elliptical machine but to a smaller extent.
A benefit of mini steppers is that they are a lot cheaper compared to an elliptical machine. They are also very portable and usable while doing other things like watching tv.
One downside or potential downside of mini steppers is that they can be more challenging when it comes to balance. The pedals are on the small side so you want to put your feet on them exactly right and not swing back, forth, and sideways too much.
You will also not get the same workout as the elliptical machine for your upper body muscles on the mini stepper.
3. Vertical climber
Gym machines often try to simulate some real-life activity and the vertical climber is no different. Using this machine is similar to climbing an endless ladder.
The movements and muscles you use are very similar to the elliptical machine but more vertical. In turn, this leads to benefits like strengthening similar muscles all over your body, improving cardiovascular health, improving balance and coordination, offering a low-impact workout, etc.
The vertical climber is also different than using an elliptical machine in a few ways. This machine will focus slightly less on improving cardiovascular health. A vertical climber may also be slightly harder on your knees.
Besides that, vertical climbers are also often cheaper than elliptical machines.
4. Step aerobics
Step aerobics is a type of workout where you do sequences of steps with extra movement on and off a raised platform, usually with music in the background. Many people consider this exercise as a fun way to get in some extra movement.
One of the reasons step aerobics stands out as a great alternative to using an elliptical machine is that it implements a lot of steps on a low platform. It is definitely not completely the same as an elliptical machine but in a way it is.
In any case, step aerobics offers you similar benefits like burning a lot of calories, training your leg muscles, improving balance and coordination, and improving cardiovascular health.
One potential extra benefit is that many people consider step aerobics to be a lot more fun than going through the same motion for 30 minutes on the elliptical machine.
A step aerobics fitness equipment kit is also relatively cheap compared to an elliptical machine or long-time gym subscription.
5. Rowing machine
A rowing machine is a gym machine that simulates the movement of rowing a boat. This machine is a great alternative to using the elliptical if you are interested in a bit more upper body focus while still training your cardiovascular health.
Similar to many of the other options on this list rowing can help you burn a lot of calories, strengthen your muscles, improve cardiovascular health, etc. All in the comfort of your own home or in the gym.
The main difference between the two machines is that the rowing machine focuses slightly more on your upper body muscles and slightly less on your leg muscles compared to an elliptical machine.
A rowing machine is also generally slightly cheaper although it does often require slightly more storage room.
The stairmaster is a gym machine that simulates an endless flight of stairs. That may not sound like a dream scenario but it can definitely be a great alternative to using the elliptical machine. If you have a large flight of stairs available you can definitely use that instead.
Walking stairs and using an elliptical machine can offer many similar benefits like improving cardiovascular health, strengthening muscles, improving coordination and balance, etc.
There are also a few differences between these two machines. Using an elliptical machine is generally more intense for your cardiovascular system and upper body muscles. A stairmaster can also be slightly harder on your knees. Besides these, the stairmaster can be a machine with a relatively steep price.
7. Under desk pedal exerciser
A pedal exerciser for under your desk is exactly what it sounds like. Two pedals with resistance that you can “cycle” while sitting in front of your desk or on the couch watching television.
This next option is not an alternative piece of fitness equipment in the sense that it can replace a complete elliptical machine workout. Instead, it is a way to slowly but surely improve certain aspects of your physical health throughout the day or when doing activities like watching tv.
The downside is that you improve cardiovascular health, strengthen your legs, burn calories, etc. to a lower extent compared to using an elliptical machine. You will also not engage your upper body muscles.
The upside is that you can combine this piece of equipment with your daily tasks if you sit down a lot. An under the desk pedal exerciser is also a lot cheaper compared to a standard elliptical machine.
Another very popular way to get in a good cardio workout is swimming. Especially for people who like the upper body training combined with cardiovascular training from using an elliptical machine, swimming may be a great alternative.
There are many benefits of swimming that are similar to using an elliptical machine. Swimming burns a lot of calories, works out muscles over your entire body, improves cardiovascular health.
Compared to using an elliptical machine, swimming is even easier on your knees and lower back.
A downside is that you do have to find and go to a swimming pool or other body of water to be able to do this exercise. This can require more time and more money. You will also get less bone-strengthening from swimming.
9. Fitness sled
There is a piece of gym equipment called a fitness sled that is basically a steel sled on which you can put weight. You can then push or pull this sled as a form of exercise.
To make the effects as similar to using an elliptical machine as possible you would want to load it light and push it for a relatively long distance.
Doing this will help you train your cardiovascular health, strengthen mostly your leg muscles but also a few upper body muscles, burn calories, improve coordination, etc. If you are interested in building more muscle you can load the sled heavier.
One potential downside is that using a fitness sled can be harder on your knees than the elliptical machine. Not quite to the same extent as something like running but still something to keep in mind.
The sled together with weight plates can also become pricey for such a niche exercise tool. Lastly, you also need a good amount of room and a suited surface to use a fitness sled.
A treadmill is one of the most popular gym machines there is. It simulates an endless flat surface to walk or run on. This machine is a great option if you are interested in improving your cardiovascular health as much as possible indoors.
Other treadmill benefits, especially if you use it for running, include strengthening your leg muscles, burning a lot of calories, improving lung health, and the other benefits of cardiovascular workouts. Another benefit is that treadmills are generally more budget-friendly than elliptical machines.
One potential downside of something like running on the treadmill is that it is a lot harder on your knees. In turn, this can lead to more bone strengthening as long as you don’t have to stop exercising due to injuries.
Besides that, if you are interested in strengthening upper body muscles, the treadmill is likely not what you are looking for.