The elliptical trainer and its smooth oval foot pattern was a hit the moment it arrived on the scene in the mid-1990s, but a good one that could stand up to regular home use without rattling apart has never come cheap. That's doubly true of some of the expensive new sub-categories that have arisen recently, such as the seated elliptical, which gives older exercisers a safer all-body workout, and the suspended elliptical, which has a free-form, variable movement that is a favorite of high-performance exercisers. Fortunately, the market has finally responded with newer, high-quality and affordable alternatives, such as the models below.
FOR THE RECORD:
Elliptical trainers: In the Feb. 21 Health section, a Gear column on home elliptical trainers listed an incorrect website for the Inspire CS2 Cardio Strider. The correct website is www.inspirefitness.net. —
LifeCore VST: Suspended "Variable Stride Trainer" that perches users on floating foot pedals that, since they're not attached to conventional rails, allow them to create their own stride pattern, from stepping to full-bore striding.
Likes: Solid feel during all ranges of movement. Although not inexpensive, it manages to mimic the Precor EFX, the sub-category pioneer, at half the price. I worked out hard for 30 minutes and didn't hear a squeak. At 4 feet, 8 inches long, it's a bit more compact than a standard elliptical. Nice features include an on-the-go automatic stride adjustment, from 18 to 26 inches, and many programs, including heart-rate control. A heart-rate chest strap is optional.
Price: $2,999. (888) 815-5559; lifecorefitness.com.
Inspire CS2 Cardio Strider: Recumbent elliptical machine that can be used by a wide range of exercisers: those who are obese, overweight or out of shape, as well as serious athletes.
FOR THE RECORD:
Elliptical trainers: In the Feb. 21 Health & Wellness section, a Gear column on home elliptical trainers listed an incorrect website for the Inspire CS2 Cardio Strider. The correct website is www.inspirefitness.net. —
Likes: Smooth, solid and quiet feel combined with a pleasant, do-it-all-day foot motion. The foot traces not a full oval but a straight-ahead path with a slight oval curve at the end, supposedly designed to be easy on the knees and back. I liked it. The easy-access step-in design accommodates even obese bodies yet has enough high-performance features to please serious workout junkies. Included is a large display and an innovative ticker-tape-style banner that guides you through exercise routines — telling you, for example, to use "just arms" or "just legs." It's far less expensive than similar seated ellipticals and steppers from sub-category pioneers Octane and Nustep, respectively, that are also targeted at older, heavy-set people.
Price: $1,495 to $1,795. (877) 738-1729; http://www.inspirefitness.com.
Solid Standard Elliptical
Sole E35: A traditional elliptical machine on which the user stands erect and the foot platforms ride on rails.
Likes: Solid, steady and feature-laden. Includes a push-button power incline ramp, which maxes out at 30 degrees; a 20-inch stride length, adequate for intense workouts; heavier-than-average 25-pound flywheel to keep pedaling smooth; a built-in iPod plug and a wireless heart-rate chest strap (considered more accurate than common hand-touch contacts); and a large LCD screen with an integrated sound system and lots of information, including a time countdown on the workout and calorie burn count.
Dislikes: The pedals unfortunately tip you forward. Although some may get used to this quickly, I found it quite irritating compared with machines with a flatter stride. Assembly is required, which takes two to four hours.
Price: $1,299. (866) 780-SOLE; http://www.Soletreadmills.com.
Techy econo elliptical
Livestrong LS10.0E: Mid-range model of a new brand that is associated with the Lance Armstrong charity and is built by Johnson Health Tech, makers of Vision, a major specialty-store brand.
Likes: Good all-round package with a few interesting techy flourishes. It has a sturdy, smooth feel, comfortable 20-inch stride length (not the choppier 17- and 18-inch strides of others at this price), a power incline button (20 levels at 5% increments) and a 23-pound flywheel (also good for the price). The pedals ride flatter and more naturally than the Sole, with no tipping-forward issues. Includes a strong fan, iPod jack and speakers, and heart-rate hand contacts. High-tech-wise, It stands out with a USB flash port on the console that lets you transfer your workout data to a PC and track your personal progress on livestrong.com, as well as download Lance Armstrong workouts.
Dislikes: Some wayward squeaks here and there (more than the Sole). No heart-rate chest strap. Assembly takes two to four hours.
Price: $999. (800) 335-4348; http://www.johnsonfit.com.
Wallack is the author of "Bike for Life" and "Run for Life."