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If you want to get in your cardio without eventually ruining every joint from your waist down, you need a low-impact elliptical machine. But the best ellipticals do a lot more than just save your joints. They give you a full-body workout, targeting muscle groups in your arms, chest, back and legs—all while amping up your heart rate and helping you pass the time with tech.
The Bowflex Max Trainer M9 provides full-body, low-impact exercise in a space-saving design
Some ellipticals offer the same kind of subscription-based large-screen live coaching and curated workouts as you’ll find in premium-priced treadmills and stationary bikes. Others eschew that, but include Bluetooth so you can use fitness apps on your phone. Then there are modest models that emphasize simple workouts and smaller form factors, or pack up easily when the workout is done.
No matter what kind of elliptical you’re looking for, you’ll find it here. We’ve rounded up seven of the best ellipticals you can buy today. Check out the list; your knees will thank you.
If you want an elliptical machine that’s rugged, versatile and features great ergonomics, the Nautilus E618 Elliptical Trainer is a solid choice. You get 25 levels of resistance to customize 29 different programs, and the system tracks details like time, distance and calories on the LCD display. Overheating during your workout? Nautilus also includes a three-speed fan. And it offers a comfortable workout thanks to the adjustable footplates with customized heel support.
There’s no large built-in display like you’ll find on a more expensive model like the ProForm Pro 16.9, but there is a shelf for your phone or tablet and Bluetooth connectivity. The E618 works best in conjunction with Nautilus’s Explore the World app, which lets you cycle through beautiful courses around the world (you’ll need to pay a subscription for certain features).
Bowflex’s Max Trainer series is what you get when you cross an elliptical machine with a stair stepper. The result is a machine with 20 levels of resistance that delivers full-body, low-impact exercise with an intense calorie-burning workout. Bowflex says that lets you burn more calories in less time for more efficient workouts, and the company cites a study that asserts the M9’s unique motion provides greater upper body muscle activation than traditional ellipticals. Because the M9 is vertical rather than horizontal, it also takes up less space.
The 10-inch color HD touchscreen keeps you informed about your exercise progress and is compatible with the JRNY app—that’s Bowflex’s own subscription service for personalized exercises. You get a free two month trial with your purchase—and up to four users can work out with their own profile and progress. And don’t forget the matching workout mat, a must for protecting your floors and adding stability to your workout.
While far from the least expensive elliptical machine on the market, the ProForm Pro 9.9 is an excellent value that will feel like a great investment. Built around ProForm’s own ultra-quiet, frictionless Silent Magnetic Resistance (SMR) technology, this elliptical machine is one of the quietest options out there. If you like to work out early in the morning but don’t want to wake the rest of your household, this is your solution.
With one push of a button, you can dial in any of 24 resistance levels and 0-20 degrees of incline to mimic real-life terrain. The Pro 9.9 has a 6-inch backlit display that, when combined with an iFit subscription (you get one year of family membership included with the machine) you can take advantage of on-demand workout sessions led by live trainers. Not all the sessions are inside the four walls of a gym, either—iFit stages workouts in gorgeous locations around the world. And it’s also easy to lift, roll, and store if you need to reclaim the space after your exercise.
It’s right there in the name—this NordicTrack SE9i is called the SpaceSaver, and it gets that title by folding up like a transformer vertically for storage—it can easily stand unobtrusively in a corner instead of taking up half the room.
But there’s a lot more to this elliptical than just easy storage. Thoughtful ergonomic touches include padded foot pedals that lower the impact of your workout as well as an integrated fan. You get 24 resistance levels and 10 degrees of adjustable incline. The 7-inch HD touchscreen it compatible with iFit software, so with a subscription, you can take advantage of live coaches and trainers, and jog your way through courses that take you to gorgeous real-world locations. Meanwhile, the SE9i can automatically changes incline and resistance based on your route and workout.
If price were no object, you’d probably work with a personal trainer every morning. But price often is an object. Sunny Health & Fitness offers the Magnetic Elliptical Trainer, a $500 model that shows you can get a quality exercise machine without breaking the bank. This machine is best for people with a short stride—the stride length is a15.5 inches—and the motorized magnetic resistance system has 16 levels.
There’s an on-board LCD display to track your speed, time, distance, calories and other metrics. You can also use it to choose from among 24 workout modes. And while the display doesn’t work with any kind of coaching system or streaming workout program, you can easily mount your tablet or phone above the display and watch your own workout or video.
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The Sole Fitness Sole E35 has a feature not a lot of other elliptical’s can claim: foot pedals designed in collaboration with physical therapists. The oversized pedals have adjustable foot beds and a 2-degree inward slope that reduces ankle and knee stress which is common in other ellipticals. The overall design of the E35 eliminates strain on your knee, hip and ankle joints so that turns an ordinarily low-impact workout into essentially a no-impact workout, regardless of which of the 20 resistance levels you choose.
The 7.5-inch display has built-in Bluetooth speakers for connecting your phone or tablet (which has its own handy mount), along with a USB port for powering or charging your device while you work out.
You’ve probably used Life Fitness equipment at the gym, but you might not be aware that the company makes home versions of its elliptical trainers as well. These machines are just as durable as the commercial models. Case in point: the Life Fitness Club Series Elliptical Cross-Trainer is a quiet and reliable machine that feels as solid as gym equipment. It features an especially long stride of 20 inches, oversized pedals and 25 resistance levels to keep you challenged.
This machine is admittedly a substantial investment, but it also comes with technology to make it feel worthwhile—like an enormous 21-inch HD touchscreen that works with a wide variety of apps including Netflix, Pandora and Life Fitness On Demand, a subscription service that includes live coaching and workout sessions.
Dave Johnson has been a tech journalist since the days of the Palm Pilot and Windows 95. He’s the author of about three dozen books about tech, digital photography, small