You may have a mat for at-home exercise, but how do you get a quality, full-body cardio workout without leaving the house?
If the idea of a treadmill for cardio bores you, or if your joints require low-impact activity, an elliptical machine might be what you’re looking for.
A home elliptical trainer gives you the chance to get an aerobic workout at any intensity you choose, and there’s no running involved.
In this article, we’re going to review the best ellipticals on the market and help you choose the best one to meet your needs.
How Does an Elliptical Work?
Found at virtually any gym, the elliptical provides resistance against your legs and arms as you “climb” in a forwards or backwards motion, putting one foot in front of the other.
The handlebars also provide resistance while you push and pull them, activating your chest, core, shoulder and arm muscles.
The forward motion activates your quads and tibialis anterior (the muscles alongside either shinbone), and the backwards motion recruits mostly your calves, hamstrings and glutes.
Owning a home elliptical lets you burn lots of calories in a short time, combining muscle training with cardio.
It puts minimal stress on your joints, so your knees and feet don’t have to recover from the wear and tear of high-impact activity.
Let’s examine the features that separate a good home elliptical machine from a great one.
How to Find the Right Home Elliptical
When shopping for an elliptical, here’s what you should be on the lookout for:
A Fair Price
Home ellipticals cost somewhere between $600 and $2,000.
Some models pack several great features in one device for a decent price. High-end ellipticals typically have features like Bluetooth connectivity with apps.
They tend to also offer more versatility, such as a wider range of resistance options.
If you’re paying more for an elliptical, keep in mind the price should be justified by longer warranty coverage and a quality, long-lasting build.
Safety depends on solid construction, which is why it’s important to buy an elliptical that already has a good reputation.
Look for how much weight the elliptical holds, as it points to how stable the machine is built.
For example, a home elliptical with a weight limit of 400 lbs is going to be more stable and potentially safer compared to one with a 275-lb limit.
Measure the floor space you have for an elliptical machine.
If you have a room with space against a wall, an elliptical with a longer, narrower build could fit.
Others machines are designed to be more compact, to fit in a corner or open space.
Elliptical machines offer weighted resistance against your arms and legs to challenge your muscles.
The most lightweight home ellipticals you can fold up and move around typically have little or no options when it comes to setting your resistance level.
However, the more advanced home ellipticals have as many as 20 or more different resistance levels to choose from, so you can do different intensity intervals no matter your fitness level.
The part of the machine that provides the resistance is typically the part of the machine that makes noise.
Many home ellipticals are designed in a way that reduces noise, such as with link-free magnetic resistance systems.
This makes a big difference, because too much noise disturbance can affect the media you’re streaming at home or annoy the people you live with.
Home gym equipment is rarely easy to assemble, but some brands make it easier than others.
Ellipticals that come with clear, descriptive instructions and all the required tools included are easier to set up.
The high-tech features that make a good home elliptical a great one are bluetooth connectivity, audio speakers.
Having speakers right in the device makes it easier to compete with any noise the device makes, as opposed to listening to music or video sound that’s coming from across the room.
Some ellipticals can sync with fitness apps and have the capacity to hold data for several different user profiles.
Some of the simpler features you might want to have are a built-in cooling fan and a cup holder for staying hydrated during your workout.
The Best Elliptical Machines for Your Home
Here’s our balanced roundup of the 10 best home ellipticals with different features and price points:
The Schwinn compact elliptical is a high-tech, digitally connected trainer with an LCD display for 29 different workout programs.
Something it has that not all ellipticals feature is the option to climb up to a 10° incline instead of flat.
At the flat level, the stride is designed to mimic actual running at a shorter, 20-inch stride length–slightly shorter than most.
The machine syncs with a social app you can open on a mobile device or smart T.V. to display a choice of 19 locations and 27 running routes.
Other users in real-time are displayed alongside your avatar. The elliptical measures your heart rate and has a built-in adjustable fan.
The elliptical weighs 190 pounds, and customers have reported the assembly process is simple and only takes one person.
Keep in mind, the latest and greatest Schwinn model, known as the Schwinn 470, is a high-tech improvement upon the base model, known as the Schwinn 430.
You get the same 10° incline but it’s adjusted manually instead of motorized.
The same great workout is possible with the base model for a lower price, but you won’t get the Bluetooth connectivity to the Schwinn app or any other app for tracking your workouts, such as MyFitnessPal.
While the 10° incline sounds like a good idea, some users were disappointed because the foot pedals don’t tilt when they incline.
This may prevent climbing in a way that feels natural to you.
Other users found this elliptical to be intense even at its lowest setting, and there are a whopping 25 resistance levels to choose from.
That said, if you want to ensure you can challenge yourself to your maximum at home, this might be the right tool for you.
Related: Schwinn 470 Elliptical Review
Related: Schwinn 430 Elliptical Review
- Connects with a social app for running different routes with other users
- Offers 25 resistance levels and up to a 10° incline
- 20-inch foot stride mimics running without the impact
- Foot pedals aren’t ergonomically designed for using the incline
- Lacks easier resistance levels compared to other ellipticals
The Sunny Health & Fitness Air Walk elliptical has a different build compared to the Schwinn elliptical, as it weighs just 37 pounds and takes up a lot less space.
The non-slip foot pedals are a lot smaller, but you still get a 30-inch stride length (wider than the Schwinn), and there’s an LCD display.
The entire elliptical folds up for storage when you remove the locking pin, which is a feature many home ellipticals don’t have.
Some customers reported the outer layer of paint wearing off with use, and that it starts squeaking, which makes spraying WD-40 necessary at times.
Overall, most customers have been pleased with the machine considering its low price and space-saving design, and have reported on it having the intensity level they needed.
Keep in mind, however, there’s no way to change the one resistance level it comes with.
This trainer is a great solution for people who want to exercise in a small space.
It’s not designed with the programs, inclination or different resistance levels that you find on more advanced models that often take up more space.
- Small and foldable for use in a small space
- Easy to assemble and move around
- As it only weighs 37 pounds
- Subject to easy wear and tear and may squeak over time
- There’s only 1 resistance level
- So you can only alter your intensity with your speed
The Nautilus E616 has a 20-inch foot stride and measures your heart rate either through the telemetry handlebars or the chest strap that’s included.
If you measure the amount of floor space this elliptical takes up, it’s about 5 ½ by 3 ½ feet, making it less compact compared to some home ellipticals.
However, its base contains a high speed, high inertia system with weighted flywheels, which means it can start up quickly and give you a smooth feel.
It’s programmed with 29 workouts and gives you a choice of 25 different resistance levels.
Like the Schwinn elliptical, the Nautilus E616 gives you the option to go at an incline instead of flat, to challenge different muscle groups.
Customers who love this elliptical like the wide, cushioned footplates that make it more ergonomic, and that the machine is consistent and durable with long-term use.
The console has an LCD display for settings and tracking your progress.
It also has a holder for your phone or tablet you can use to watch your favorite show while using the machine.
Your workouts can be synced to your MyFitnessPal account to help you better track your goals and progress.
- Provides a high-intensity workout with 25 different resistance levels and an incline option
- Syncs with MyFitnessPal
- Some machines end up faulty on delivery
- Takes up a lot of space
Like the Nautilus elliptical, the Sole Fitness E35 takes up a lot of space. While it takes up a longer length of space, it’s a lot narrower than the Nautilus, measuring 7 by 2 ¼ feet. This makes it easier to fit alongside a wall.
Whereas many home ellipticals have a weight limit of around 230 to 280 pounds, the Sole Fitness E35 can handle up to 375 pounds.
It has adjustable footbeds in the foot pedals to ensure an ergonomic fit. You can even adjust the stride length, too, between 20 and 22 inches.
Like the Nautilus, the weighted flywheels in the Sole Fitness elliptical make it quiet and smooth.
The LCD console has a 7.5-inch colour display, and you can choose from 20 resistance levels.
It has cooling fans and audio speakers. The arm handles have sensors for measuring heart rate, or you can use the chest strap it comes with.
While the Sole Fitness E35 will cost you over $1,000, users who love it say what separates it is its stability and durability.
It comes with a lifetime warranty for the frame and a 5-year warranty for electronics and parts.
While it’s an investment, customers have been happy putting their money behind this brand given the reliability of the product.
- You can place your arms at 3 different widths to target different upper body muscle groups
- Adjustable footbeds allow you to adapt the tilt of your feet for the most ergonomic feel
- Adjustable stride length
- 375 lb weight limit
- Takes up a lot of space
The Bowflex Max Trainer series is pricey, but succeeds at providing intensity in a compact form, whereas many brands seem to compromise one for the other.
With 20 resistance levels, a good workout is guaranteed. Be aware, however, this elliptical is designed differently from most.
Instead of longer strides that mimic running, it has very short strides more akin to stair climbing.
With the handlebars, it’s designed to work your entire body in an intense way. Many users even found the first resistance level challenging.
You can create a workout program based on a goal like calorie burn, fat burn or heart rate. Like Schwinn, Bowflex has a social app that lets you follow a route and see other fitness enthusiasts on the same route with you.
Various customers have had issues with the machine starting to make a loud noise when in use.
It comes with a 2-year warranty, and numerous customers reported having issues fixed within that time.
Bowflex currently has its base model, the M5, and its newest model, the M8, to choose from.
The M8 model, which costs almost twice the amount of the base model, has virtually all the same specs, but features smart technology to create the right workouts for you automatically.
When you subscribe to the JRNY app, you get a personalized virtual “coach” helping you create workouts, monitor your performance and track goals.
Related: Bowflex Max Trainer Review
- Compact size
- Provides a high intensity
- Strides much shorter than on traditional ellipticals
The Teeter FreeStep gives you the same traditional forward and backward stepping motions of an elliptical, with a seat.
The seat is cushioned and adjustable for height, and the back of the seat is also adjustable so you can sit straight or at a recline level you choose.
The Teeter FreeStep is made for people who want the benefits of walking and climbing without the weight on their feet.
The patented stride is designed in a way that recruits all muscles and burns the most calories with the least amount of stress and impact on your knees, hips and back.
Because you’re in a seated position, it’s comparable to a recumbent bike.
However, a third-party test found that the Teeter FreeStep leads to 17% more calories burned in the same amount of time when compared side by side with stationary bicycles.
The resistance is adjustable with a dial you can easily turn while using the machine, and because the resistance is magnetic instead of weighted, there’s no friction and operation is less noisy.
The digital console displays your progress and there’s also a stand for placing your media device.
The FreeStep only takes up 4 ½ by 3 feet of floor space, and it has wheels for moving it easily.
It’s under $1,000, and most customers who reviewed it found it was a great value for their money.
The big advantage is being able to workout even if you have arthritis or another condition affecting your joints, thanks to the design which takes the weight off your legs.
Some users say the back of the seat isn’t comfortable, and that adding a pillow is necessary to avoid fatigue or pain.
Related: Teeter FreeStep Review
- Quieter operation due to magnetic resistance
- Compact size
- Removes not only the impact but even the weight off your ankles
- Knees and hips
- The seat may feel uncomfortable or cause fatigue after more than 25 minutes
The EX-59 from Horizon Fitness is a durable, quality-made home elliptical under $1,000.
Users say it’s sturdy, weighing at 200 pounds, without being loud.
Like the Teeter FreeStep, it has magnetic resistance so there’s no friction and operation is surprisingly quiet.
While customers love this elliptical for its value and reliability, it doesn’t have all the basic features you’d find on a traditional elliptical at the gym.
There’s no incline feature, heart rate monitoring or LCD display.
The console does, however, show you the numbers for metrics like minutes, calories and miles.
Customers across the board remarked the assembly process is easy and quick, with instructions written in clear steps.
The console has a holder for your media device and a USB port for charging it during your workout.
At the touch of a button, you can switch between 10 different resistance levels.
There are built-in speakers that connect through Bluetooth so you can stream audio from any device.
While there’s a lifetime warranty on the frame, Horizon Fitness only puts a 1-year warranty on parts and labour.
- Easy to assemble
- Great value for the price
- Built-in speakers with bluetooth connectivity
- Magnetic resistance makes it quieter than many ellipticals
- Short-term warranty on labour and parts
- No LCD display,
- No heart rate monitoring
The Sole elliptical packs customizable intensity into a quiet machine that can hold up to 400 lbs.
The assembly booklet is somewhat vague, and many customers reported it’s best to pay for the assembly.
However, the company includes all the tools you need.
Nonetheless, this model has received amazing reviews from people saying it’s smooth, sturdy and reliable.
It’s not designed to fold up for or easily move around, however, and you’re paying more for all the bells and whistles.
It’s ergonomically comfortable, with adjustable foot pedals. You can also adjust the stride length between 20 and 22 inches.
There’s an incline feature with 10 levels and 20 options for resistance intensity.
The sensors on the arm handle monitor your heart rate, and the machine can sync with fitness apps via bluetooth.
The built-in speaker also has bluetooth connectivity.
There’s a USB port and media shelf for your device, and cooling fans built into the console. It comes with a 5-year warranty on parts and labour, and a lifetime warranty on the frame.
While their E35 model will cost you a little less, it has 15 instead of 20 intensity levels, and some unhappy customers said it was too weak at the highest intensity.
The interface on the LCD display had some problems for users, which the company fixed with its updated LCD display on the E95 model.
Related: Sole E95 Elliptical review
- Workouts are highly customizable with incline and 20 resistance levels
- Bluetooth connectivity
- Built-in speaker for audio
- 400 lb weight capacity
- Good warranty
The Bowflex E116 is a high-tech home elliptical featuring 9 pre-programmed workouts and 25 resistance levels.
Its Switch Select™ adjustable pedal angle system enables you to change the tilt of the foot pedals to activate different muscles or create ergonomic alignment.
The unit is stable and many customers have reported the electronics and mechanics are reliable.
Others have reported malfunctions and requiring repairs, though there’s a 5-year warranty on parts and 2-year warranty on labour included.
The space this model takes up is about 6 ½ by 2 ½ feet, which is narrow enough to save space up against a wall.
It has Bluetooth 4.0 compatibility, so you can sync your workouts with apps, including the Free Results Series app from Bowflex, which is designed for use with the machine.
Like Schwinn, there’s the option to sync the elliptical up with the Explore the World mobile app, which gives you an avatar and shows other users on your chosen route.
The stride length of this elliptical is 22 inches, and there’s an incline option with 10 levels.
The handlebar sensors monitor your heart rate, or you can use the chest strap included.
Bowflex has an updated E216 model, which features all the same specs but with 2 additional workout programs and a larger LCD display.
While the E216 costs less, it weighs a lot more and is less compact compared to the E116.
- Adjustable foot beds for achieving the right feel
- Narrow build for space-saving
- Good warranty
- Stride not adjustable
- Doesn’t fold or move easily
The ProForm Cardio HIIT elliptical is a spin on the traditional elliptical, with its motion that mimics stair-climbing more than running.
It’s a 10-inch vertical climb that maximizes calories burned in the time you put in.
It’s low-impact but designed for people seeking a high-intensity level at home.
The machine can sync with iFit for live trainer-led workouts and on-demand classes you can stream on your device.
The 7-inch LCD display on the console shows you all your metrics, but there’s no Bluetooth for connecting with apps.
Users who love this machine appreciate the quiet magnetic resistance system and oversized cushioned petals that make the footing comfortable.
The short stride length of just 5 inches allows the device to take up half the floor space of an elliptical.
The pedals aren’t adjustable for changing your footing, and you can’t change the stride length or height, either.
A couple of customers reported the foot pedals became squeaky over time.
Overall, people looking for a high-intensity workout without the gym found this elliptical effective and easy enough to assemble.
Related: Proform HIIT Trainer Review
- Compact design for a better fit at home, high intensity for a challenge at any level
- Syncs with iFit for live training options
- Cushioned oversized foot pedals
- Stair climbing motion is more challenging for those who want an option for easier intensity
- Foot pedals may squeak after long-term use
The Best Ellipticals For Home Use: Recommendations
Our favourite elliptical we recommend for home is the Schwinn 470 model for the amount of value it packs into a product under $1,000.
It gives you 25 resistance levels and 29 workout programs, and connects with the Explore the World social app.
With bluetooth and speakers, it has virtually all the high-tech features expensive models offer.
If you’re looking for the most lightweight equipment that’s also lighter on your pocketbook, we recommend the Sunny Health and Fitness elliptical.
You can store it away between uses, but it offers the stability you need for a safe, vigorous workout.
If you’re not sure an elliptical is the best exercise device for you, here are some other at-home cardio trainers to consider:
A mini elliptical is a small exercise device for your feet, with the same cushioned, textured foot pedals you see on an elliptical machine, with a much smaller range of motion.
If you don’t have a lot of space and want an exercise machine you can use either standing up or sitting down, this is a handy device that can still elevate your heart rate.
If the impact of running is fine for your joints, a treadmill is another at-home device you can use for cardio.
With the incline and speeds, there’s a lot of room for customization. If you enjoy running, you may get more use out of a treadmill than an elliptical.
Rowing machines mimic the motion used in watercraft rowing. They’re great for getting your heartrate up and challenging both your arms and legs with resistance at the same time.
The great part about it is you don’t put any impact on your knees.
However, you don’t get a stepping or climbing motion or as much of a challenge in your legs, as this machine largely recruits your back muscles.
Related: Best home rowing machines
Stationary bikes give you the advantage of a great cardio workout that strengthens your legs without putting stress or impact on your joints.
The problem with stationary bikes is that they can cause muscle imbalance in your legs with continual use, because they recruit specific muscle groups in the legs but not all.
Investing in home gym equipment makes it easier to get the exercise you need.
Using an elliptical trainer, you get a full-body cardio workout.
However, there’s no stress on your joints, so you avoid the aches and pains that can come with jogging.
The key is finding an elliptical that fits in your space and has the features that meet your workout needs.
The right equipment will make exercising from home convenient and easy but still intense and challenging.