The features to look for when shopping for an elliptical are:
• Stride length – Look for a stride length of about 21 inches. Less expensive models will offer 14 to 16 inches, a stride length too short for most people.
• Adjustable incline – Like a treadmill, your elliptical should adjust in the range of 0% to 10%.
• Smooth motion – The machine should have an even, stable motion through all parts of the ellipse.
• Silent operation – No clanking, banging, or loud noise of any kind. This is important if you plan to watch TV or listen to music during the workout; or if you work out while others are sleeping.
• Upper body motion – Even if you don’t plan to use arm levers right away, choose a machine that has them. The handrails and arm levers should provide stability and aid in balance but not get in the way.
• Adjustable resistance – An absolute must have if you want your elliptical trainer to keep pace as you get stronger and fitter. Resistance adjustment that is motorized is best, so you can change the settings on the fly.
• Warm up and cool down – To minimize the risk of injury and stress on the muscles and joints, the machine should have built-in warm up and cool down.
• Console and computer – The console should be easy to read and at least show time, distance and calories burned. If you can afford a machine with pre-programmed workouts, be sure there is a fairly wide and challenging range -- from easy to hard -- so you won’t outgrow the programs or get bored.
• Heart rate monitor – Available on better ellipticals, this is an interactive tool that displays your heart rate so you can be sure you’re exercising in the right zone for maximum cardio and muscle-working benefits. Some machines tie the heart rate monitor into the computer, so the trainer can adjust as needed to keep you in your target heart rate zone. This makes for a very efficient workout.
• Warranty – An indicator of initial quality and of the confidence the manufacturer has in their product, the warranty is often overlooked. Don’t settle for anything less than 1 year for labor and 1-3 years for parts. Be sure you can have the machine serviced locally if something goes wrong.
Other tips and suggestions
Measure the space where you plan to put your elliptical trainer. Allow at least 25 square feet. Check the Internet for backgound information and user reviews on various brands of ellipticals. Visit a retailer that specializes in fitness equipment and “test drive” several modes. Don’t just hop on and hop off – spend a few minutes on each machine to make sure it is comfortable, smooth and easy to use. Finally, don’t cheap out – instead of buying a bargain brand that won’t last, save up the money if you have to and buy a better model that will give you years of reliable service.
About the Author:
Rita Liotta is a successful freelance writer offering guidance and suggestions for consumers regarding fitness equipment, home gyms, treadmills and exercise bikes. Her many articles give information and tips to help people save money and make smarter decisions.