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While the vaccine rollout is well underway with nearly 34 million Americans fully vaccinated against Covid-19, many people haven’t quite warmed up to the idea of returning to crowded gyms. Home gyms are serving as the safest and mask-free option for those wary of public spaces, and ellipticals are usually front-and-center for a low-impact, at-home workout. Fitness experts like Brad McLam, the director of business development at exercise equipment retailer Gym Source, say that ellipticals are great for getting necessary exercise while putting less stress on your joints when compared to other workout machines.
Higher-end ellipticals can offer a variety of additional features, from different resistance levels and customizable training modes to heart rate monitors and high-tech displays. But good quality doesn’t necessarily equal a hefty price tag — affordable options can let you steadily meet your fitness goals without the bells and whistles of more expensive machines.
How to shop for an elliptical
When shopping for an elliptical, it’s important to consider the style and size that’ll fit your home. Most ellipticals will come in one of two styles depending on the location of the flywheel, which is the part that moves when applying pressure to the foot pedals — and manages resistance levels.
- Front-drive ellipticals: This type of elliptical has the flywheel located in the front and simulates a slight climbing motion. Front-drive ellipticals tend to be less expensive and smaller than other elliptical trainers, allowing them to fit in tight, power outlet-accessible spaces around your home. They are the noisier option, however, which could be a major downside for those in apartments or shared living spaces.
- Rear-drive ellipticals: These ellipticals, on the other hand, have the flywheel located in the back. They’re generally bulkier and tend to be a lot quieter and smoother than front-drive ellipticals. Because of this and a typically heavier flywheel, they’re also more expensive, making them less common for home gym users.
Best ellipticals under $500
To help you find the elliptical that’ll complement your at-home workout routine without breaking the bank, we’ve compiled seven top-rated recommendations, all under $500.
The Schwinn 411 is a space saving option for those building a home gym, with the brand claiming that the machine is a fraction of the size of other ellipticals. It offers an 18-inch stride — the distance between the pedals at their farthest distance — that can improve the comfort and smoothness of your workout. Along with 16 levels of adjustable resistance, the Schwinn 411 Compact Elliptical also has moving and fixed handlebars, which include contact grip heart rate sensors to monitor heart rate, and a console that displays time, calories, speed and distance.
If you’re hoping to track your workouts and progress while using your elliptical, this model from Decathlon may be your best option. The elliptical is compatible with the Domyos E Connected app, which tracks your individual stats and weekly goals, including calories burned, workout time and speed. It also contains adjustable pedals and ergonomic handlebars to prioritize your comfort, while the heavier weight of the flywheel allows for smoother pedal strokes.
Looking for an affordable way to stay fit while sitting at a desk all day? This elliptical by home fitness brand Stamina is compact, lightweight and quiet, making it a great option for continuous use underneath your at-home work station. With a 4.4-star average rating from nearly 10,000 reviews, the device includes an adjustable dial that controls resistance levels and a display that keeps track of exercise time, calories burned and number of strides per minute. While it doesn’t come with handles, the elliptical is sturdy enough to be used both sitting and standing up, and includes both forward and reverse stride motions to target different leg muscles.
This Body Rider elliptical, which has a 4-star average rating from over 2,000 users, gives you two staple pieces of home exercise equipment in one, doubling as both a front-drive elliptical and an exercise bike. While it’s not as durable as higher-end exercise machines — the instructions telling users to tighten bolts and screws every 30 days, for example — the device is a low-cost, low-impact option for beginners. The adjustable seat can fit different body types by moving horizontally and vertically, and the brand claims the device provides a gentle workout without putting stress on the joints, legs or hips. The wheel also includes high momentum fan blades that not only run smoothly and quietly for less disruptions, but also supply a gentle breeze on the legs while you work out.
With a 4.4-star average rating from over 3,000 reviews, the Gazelle Edge Glider is a classic when it comes to exercise equipment. It offers a complete range of motion that allows users to smoothly transition from a walking to running motion without stopping, putting less stress on the knees and joints. And it folds flat, making storage quick and easy.
For under $150, this portable option from Sunny Health & Fitness has a 4-star average rating from more than 9,000 reviews. It contains eight resistance levels to help build up to a more challenging workout routine with continuous use and pulse sensors on the handlebars to simplify monitoring target heart rate, which can help meet fitness goals and improve cardiovascular health. If you’re looking for a more high-tech display and a longer stride length, Sunny Health & Fitness also offers a higher-end option that’s still under $500.
The Body Power Exercise Machine can serve as either an elliptical, upright bike or recumbent bike for a varied cardio workout. There are three integrated handlebar options to use based on the exercise method you choose: U-shaped with a built-in heart rate monitor system, moving elliptical style and a wraparound style for a reclined seat. In order to transition to more challenging workouts, the resistance level can be adjusted using a handy dial knob without having to unmount. However, the stride of this machine is 13.5 inches according to its manufacturer, and may be uncomfortable for taller users.