How to Choose a Home Elliptical Machine

Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, MS, DO on August 26, 2021
4 min read

If you want to step up your at-home fitness routine, buying an elliptical machine may be a good choice. Ellipticals provide an effective cardiovascular workout without the impact on your joints that running on a treadmill can cause. You can find models that let you use pre-programmed workouts, track your heart rate, and see your progress over time. ‌

There is a wide selection of elliptical machines suitable for home gyms. They all require a fair amount of room in your house, but they are lighter than other types of cardio equipment, such as treadmills.

Before you choose an elliptical for your home, you should consider a few things to make sure you’re getting the right machine for your needs. 

Elliptical machines are exercise machines that allow you to use the motion of walking or running while stationary. The motion isn’t like a treadmill, where a belt passes under your feet while you run in place. Instead, you place your feet on pedals that move in a circular or elliptical pattern. It’s similar to the way bike pedals move in a circle, though you remain standing on an elliptical machine.

Upper and lower body workout. Some machines have poles that you hold with your hands. The poles move in coordination with the foot pedals. Some have resistance, so they provide a workout for your upper body at the same time as your legs.‌

Low impact. Ellipticals are a great alternative to a treadmill for people who want to minimize impact to their knees and hips. Some people use them as their main form of cardio exercise. Others like to alternate between an elliptical and other exercises such as walking, running, or biking.

Variable intensity. You can adjust the resistance on the elliptical to make the workout harder or easier. Some machines come with pre-programmed workouts that can provide different fitness challenges. Some offer connectivity to apps or online communities where you can join virtual group workouts.

Your fitness goals. Talk to your doctor and your personal trainer before buying exercise equipment. They can help you assess your health and your fitness goals. Once you know that, you can decide if an elliptical is the right kind of machine for you.‌

Cost. There is a wide range of price points for elliptical machines. The most expensive models can run $2000 or more. Less sophisticated versions can cost as little as $500. You can sometimes find used ellipticals for sale at bargain prices, but be cautious. Those machines won’t come with a warranty. You should always make sure they work well and are safe before you buy.

Delivery and assembly. Exercise equipment can be heavy and tricky to put together. Some vendors offer home delivery, which is helpful if you don’t have a vehicle that can fit the elliptical or you have a lot of stairs in your home. You may also be able to arrange for assembly at an additional cost.‌

Machine size. On average, ellipticals are 6 feet long by 2.5 feet wide. Some can be even longer than that. The pedals rise up to 25 inches at the highest point in their rotation. You should also plan to leave a couple feet of space on at least one side of the machine so you can easily get on and off.‌

Weight of the machine. Ellipticals meant for home use may weigh as little as 100 pounds. The models you see at a gym can be much heavier. Consider the weight of the machine when you plan where to put it. Some apartment buildings may have rules about heavy equipment on upper floors. The weight of the machine may also affect your ability to carry it into your home or to move it if you relocate.

Features. The number of features, such as programs, connectivity to apps or online communities, and built-in heart rate monitors, can affect the price of the machine. Consider which features you will regularly use before you spend money on them.‌

Try before you buy. Whenever possible, go to a showroom to try an elliptical before you buy it. The size, shape, and motion of machines can vary. Make sure the one you buy is comfortable for you to use.

Experts warn that elliptical machines are a danger to children. Very young children can get pinched or trapped in the moving parts. Elliptical machines are designed for adults, so they are the wrong size for older children. If you have children at home, you should put the elliptical in a space they cannot access. Some machines come with safety features that you can use to prevent kids from getting hurt.