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How to Buy an Elliptical Trainer

Part stair-climber, part treadmill, part stationary cycle, elliptical trainers are the hottest trend in cardio machines. Your legs travel in an elongated circular movement, and, on some models, you pump arm poles back and forth for an upper-body workout. On the best models, you feel like you’re doing a sort of rhythmic glide; on the worst, you feel like you’re stumbling downhill on your tiptoes.

Unfortunately, most of the home units, especially those under $500, aren’t as smooth or as comfortable as the more expensive gym-quality models. The home units tend to have a stride length that’s too short, too deep, too choppy, or a combination of all three problems. And most of them don't seem to be very durable. Many of the home elliptical trainers with arm poles are useless because they offer no resistance at all.

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The best home models for elliptical trainers fall into the major splurge category. Here are some options that are currently available:

  • The best is by Precor, the company that launched this category. But this machine will set you back nearly $3,500.

  • The Life Fitness home elliptical trainer, for $3,000, comes in a distant but acceptable second.

  • On the cheaper end, Vision Fitness has a $1,500 model that isn’t nearly as sturdy as the one from Precor, but it will withstand limited use.

  • Under $500 is an elliptical trainer from ProForm, and although it won’t stand up the way more expensive ones will, more and more reliable models are coming available in this price range.

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