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The Best Elliptical Machine

Last updated on March 25, 2020

We looked at the top 11 Elliptical Machines and dug through the reviews from 116 of the most popular review sites including Best Gear List, Fitness Verve, The Gym Guides, Brandon Heath, Sweat On Fitness, Home Gyms 101 and more. The result is a ranking of the best Elliptical Machines.

Best Elliptical Machine

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Our Picks For The Top Elliptical Machines

Show Contents
Our Take
  Best Overall


A40 Elliptical Machine

Overall Take

Versatile OptionThe Schwinn A40 Elliptical Machine is a versatile pick with eight levels of resistance.

  Best for Apartments

Sunny Health

Air Walk Elliptical

Overall Take

Compact ConvenienceThe Sunny Health Air Walk Elliptical is a quiet and effective elliptical machine that fits nearly anywhere.

  Upgrade Pick


Cardio HIIT Elliptical Trainer

Overall Take

For Tougher WorkoutsThe ProForm Cardio HIIT Elliptical Trainer is a high-tech and intense elliptical for advanced workout buffs.

  Best for Work


In-Motion Elliptical Trainer

Overall Take

Small Yet MightyThe Stamina In-Motion Elliptical Trainer is a portable elliptical for tough workouts at home, at work or while traveling.

Don't just take for granted what one reviewer says. Along with our own experts, Simplemost analyzes the top expert reviews of the leading products and generates a score you can actually trust.

Products Considered

We identified the majority of the elliptical machines available to purchase.

Products Analyzed

We then selected the leading and most popular products for our team to review.

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Expert Reviews Included

In addition to our expert reviews, we also incorporate feedback and analysis of some of the most respected sources.


User Opinions Analyzed

We also incorporate user reviews from the leading retailers including Amazon, Walmart, Target, Best Buy and 4 others.

The Best Overall

Schwinn A40 Elliptical Machine

Our Expert Score
Our Take

The Schwinn A40 Elliptical Machine will give you an awesome workout with its seven preset programs and eight levels of resistance. It also has a handy large LCD console so you can easily keep track of how long you've been working out, your distance, speed and calories burned.

The Best Bang For Your Buck

Sunny Health Air Walk Elliptical

Our Expert Score
Our Take

You can fit this elliptical machine into almost any size room. It's easy to assemble and folds up for quick storage. A removable abdominal pad provides extra support for beginners.

Our Findings

Schwinn A40 Elliptical Machine

Best Overall

What We Liked: The Schwinn A40 Elliptical Machine will give you an awesome workout with its seven preset programs and eight levels of resistance. It also has a handy large LCD console so you can easily keep track of how long you’ve been working out, your distance, speed and calories burned.

Sunny Health Air Walk Elliptical

Best for Apartments

What We Liked: You can fit this elliptical machine into almost any size room. It’s easy to assemble and folds up for quick storage. A removable abdominal pad provides extra support for beginners.

ProForm Cardio HIIT Elliptical Trainer

Upgrade Pick

What We Liked: This high-intensity interval training (HIIT) elliptical is perfect for fitness buffs looking for a new challenge. The challenging 10″ vertical climbing path activates your major muscle groups without irritating your joints. It offers unique workouts through the company’s subscription service.

Stamina In-Motion Elliptical Trainer

Best for Work

What We Liked: You won’t have an excuse not to exercise with this elliptical trainer. It’s small enough to fit under your desk for workouts at work, and it’s portable enough to take along on vacation. You can break a sweat sitting or standing with this machine.

Our Expert Consultant

Stephanie Mansour   
Certified Personal Trainer, Health and Wellness Expert

Stephanie Mansour, host of “Step It Up with Steph” on public broadcasting, has been coaching women for over a decade on how to lose weight and make it last. She has a Bachelor of Arts in communications with an emphasis on women’s studies and psychology from the University of Michigan. She holds certifications in life coaching, personal training, yoga and Pilates.

Our Elliptical Machine Buying Guide

You already know about the mental and physical benefits of exercise, but it’s tougher for some people to break a sweat. If you’re recovering from an injury, exercising with chronic pain or just new to working out, you’ll want a routine that’s simple to learn and easy on your joints. Elliptical machines are an accessible alternative to treadmills, stair climbers and stationary bikes.

Elliptical machines are standalone exercise machines that mimic the movements of running, stair climbing or skiing. They are very low-impact, so they won’t aggravate existing injuries to your joints, and you don’t need any special training to use one. 

“An elliptical machine is a fantastic piece of cardio equipment that is simple to use and great for burning calories,” says Stephanie Mansour, personal trainer and host of “Step It Up With Steph” on public broadcasting. “It’s great for people with knee issues, joint pain, hip issues, or anything preventing them from walking or running.”

Most ellipticals offer a full-body workout. You can push your legs, glutes and calves to the limit with the machine’s gliding pedals, then you tone your biceps, triceps and upper back with the elliptical’s ski pole-inspired handles. 

“Look for the arm handles,” says Mansour. “Do they move or are they stationary? If you’re looking for an arm workout, look for the arm handles that move.”

There are three major categories of elliptical machines. “Rear drive” ellipticals have a large flywheel behind the foot pedals. The pedals are usually in a track-and-roller configuration or they’re suspended on long arms between the drive wheel and handgrips. Some users say that rear-drive ellipticals feel more like natural walking or running than other types of ellipticals. They tend to have the longest “strides” of all ellipticals, with more lateral movement and less vertical motion. Many rear-wheel drive models also offer an incline feature to add another layer of difficulty to your workout.

“Center drive” ellipticals have drive wheels in the middle of the machine. The pedals ride on cylindrical rollers and a crankshaft. Center-drive ellipticals have a rounder, bouncier and shorter stride than rear-drive ellipticals. 

The flywheel on “front-drive” ellipticals is stationed in front of the pedals. The pedals glide forward and backward on tracks. Front-drive ellipticals have much shorter stride lengths than rear or center-drive ellipticals. This makes them very compact, and the motion feels more like a stair climber. Front-drive ellipticals are more affordable than most rear or center-drive machines. 

There are a few other types of ellipticals that fall outside of these three categories. Some ellipticals don’t have a flywheel at all. These machines rely on the momentum from your feet, hands and arms to get moving. Sometimes they’ll have a support pad for your abdominals to help you keep your spine straight and maintain your balance as you exercise. These ellipticals are very lightweight and convenient, but they don’t have any digital settings to play with.

Under-desk ellipticals are portable machines with two pedal footpads on tracks. You can use them standing in place or sneak them under your desk for a workout at the office. They have very short strides, creating a round, energetic gait. They’re incredibly popular due to their convenience and easy setup.

Now that you know your elliptical basics, stride over to the Tips & Advice section for more detailed notes.

Simplemost Fun Fact

The world’s first elliptical trainer was introduced in 1995 by Precor. The fitness company was run by industrial designers who created some of the most widely-used workout machines around, and most of their designs were a smashing success. However, Precor’s former president Paul Byrne remembers one huge failure: the StretchTrainer. 

The StretchTrainer is a smaller piece of gym equipment that improves flexibility. In just 10 minutes you could stretch all of your major muscle groups, and the StretchTrainer’s design makes it impossible to hyperextend any muscle.  

So what went wrong? Byrne went all-in with the StretchTrainer’s advertising, shooting a pricey infomercial in Florida with professional actors and physical therapists. But the flashy ads didn’t attract individual consumers, and Precor took a huge hit in the revenue department.

Today, StretchTrainers are available in thousands of fitness centers across the United States. But you’d be hard-pressed to find one in someone’s home — they’re much more likely to have an elliptical machine.

The Elliptical Machine Tips and Advice

  • Elliptical machines can be your best friend if you’ve just started exercising or if you have problems with your knees, hips and back. However, you should always ask your doctor before you start or change a workout program, especially if you have joint problems or nagging injuries.
  • Ellipticals are for everyone! “The elliptical machine is so beneficial for people looking for a good form of cardio that anyone at any age could benefit from using it to exercise,” says Mansour. “Elderly people and teenagers alike can work this easy-to-understand machine to speed up their metabolism, burn fat, build muscle, and get their heart rate up.”
  • Your elliptical machine’s stride length is one of its most important features. A too-short stride length creates tight, awkward movement. A too-long stride length can pull muscles in your legs or hyperextend your knees. Your height determines the stride length you should look for. If you’re 5’3” or shorter, shoot for an elliptical with a stride length of 18 inches or less. If you’re 5’7” or taller, look for an elliptical with a minimum stride length of 20 inches. 
  • Many elliptical machines have a screen with digital controls. You can modify the resistance and incline, time your laps, track your distance, choose from custom workout programs and more. Go for an elliptical with many different settings options if you want to track your progress and change up your routines. 
  • Measure the length, width and height of your available space before you buy. Make sure to include estimates for any extra room you’ll need to accommodate moving pedals and handles. “Keep in mind that this is not a small piece of equipment; you’ll need to find a space for it in your home, office, basement, or wherever,” Mansour says. “You cannot fold it to make it smaller. However, this does mean that it’s very sturdy and durable and will last a very long time.”
    Fear not; you can almost certainly find one for a smaller space if you opt for a front-wheel-drive model or a portable under-desk version. 
  • Many elliptical trainers have heart rate monitors built into the handgrips. This isn’t as helpful as it sounds: handgrip heart rate monitors are notoriously unreliable. If you want to track your heart rate throughout your workout, use your smartwatch (or better yet, a chest-strap monitor). 
  • You should feel challenged at the mid-range settings on your elliptical trainer. That way you have room to increase the difficulty as you get stronger, and you can drop down to lower settings when you need a break. 
  • Check out your elliptical’s weight before you order it. Full-size elliptical trainers can be well over 100 pounds. Make sure that you have another person at home to help you if you need to lift it or assemble heavy parts.
  • All ellipticals should have a weight limit listed in their specifications. Make sure that your current weight falls under that limit before you buy. If you use a machine that you’re too heavy for, you could wind up damaging the elliptical or hurting yourself.
  • Mansour recommends testing ellipticals out in person by going very fast to make sure you feel sturdy on the machine. “If the machine feels or sounds wobbly, look for a sturdier machine,” she says.
  • Try to check out the assembly instructions before you buy your elliptical. You can find many instruction manuals with a quick internet search. Do you have all of the tools you need? Will you need a second person to “spot” you? Is it too complicated to put together without professional help? Answering these questions before you buy will save you time and stress later. 
  • Wipe down your elliptical regularly with disinfectant wipes or spray cleaners. Follow any included instructions for cleaning the pedal tracks and flywheel, too. 
  • Carefully examine the warranty and return policy before you click “Complete Purchase.” Ellipticals can be heavy and expensive, and you want to make sure you understand all of the fine print before you pay.

About The Author

Abby Stassen
Abby Stassen 

Abby Stassen is a professional content writer, copywriter and journalist. You can find her work on Salon, Entrepreneur, the Huffington Post, Verywell, the Chicago Tribune, the Orlando Weekly and more. She's also an award-winning comedy writer and Second City graduate with nine years of experience under her belt. She's a proud University of Michigan graduate, a cat owner, a crossword puzzle enthusiast and a huge ABBA fan.