Marissa Miller, CPT

mbg Contributing Writer

By Marissa Miller, CPT

mbg Contributing Writer

Marissa Miller is a certified personal trainer and holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition and has over 10 years of experience editing and reporting on all things health, nutrition, beauty, fitness, style and home.

profile of a woman workout out on an elliptical machine

Image by Tempura / Istock

September 11, 2022

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While you’d be hard-pressed to find a trendy elliptical studio anywhere in your hometown, there are numerous benefits to sticking with this tried-and-true method of training: It provides an optimal way to get in a heart-pounding cardiorespiratory workout without the need for impact, like running or jumping, and it’s super intuitive no matter your fitness level (simply step up to the plate—or pedals—and glide). 

As an ACE-certified personal trainer with a specialization in orthopedic exercise, many, if not at all, of my clients experience some form of pain due to injury or degenerative condition.

My recommendation? A form of cardio that’s low-impact, possesses intensity options that can easily be modified to suit the client’s current fitness level, and the capability to get in a full-body workout thanks to core, lower body, and upper body engagement.

The best ellipticals help you achieve all that and more, and we have the 10 best options for you to consider for your home gym.

The research.

Large bodies of research point to the efficacy of elliptical training. One study from the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness found that, in females, elliptical training yields the same metabolic and cardiorespiratory responses as other high-intensity activities like running and stair-climbing.

However, if you’re looking to take your workout down a notch, research from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research suggests the elliptical requires only 60 percent of effort as a treadmill, which can be great for those suffering from chronic conditions or looking for an active recovery day at the gym. 

Either way, you’ll still get an incredible workout: One study from the journal Gait Posture found that of all common low-impact cardiorespiratory activities—including stationary cycling, treadmill walking, and overground walking—elliptical training recruits the quadriceps to a much larger degree.

Under the guidance of a professional, strengthening the quads is a great way for clients with knee pain or instability to find relief, and quads are integral in everyday movement patterns, such as getting up and down from a chair or taking the stairs. 

How we picked.

We looked at features that make the elliptical suitable for home use, from transportability to safety.

We opted for ellipticals that are intuitive to use, even for beginner fitness enthusiasts. 

The ellipticals we selected are designed to fit into tight spaces into your home gym.

Each elliptical is priced relatively fairly in accordance with the specifications it offers.

mbg’s picks for the best ellipticals of 2022:


  • Statistic tracking
  • Auto-adjust controls


  • Inconvenient without iFit

The NordicTrack Commercial 14.9 is one of the best ellipticals you can buy for its 26 resistance levels, 0 to 20 percent incline control, and auto-adjusting capabilities to immerse you right into your trainer-led iFit workout. You can adjust your stride length, making its oversized cushioned pedals feel even more comfortable below your feet. It has two amplified speakers and a 14-inch screen to make your workout fly by.

Trial Period: 30 days

Warranty: The frame and drive motor are warranted for a lifetime. Parts and labor are warranted for five and two years respectively.

Customer rating: 4.9

Top review: “Great beautiful machine! I have really enjoyed my workouts on my new NordicTrack elliptical. The machine feels durable, and I like using it. It’s amazing and I love the workouts too. It’s such a fun machine.”


  • Space-friendly
  • Suitable for beginners

The best elliptical machines often don’t require nearly a room’s worth of space. The LifePro FlexStride sits virtually anywhere you’re sitting—from under your desk to right in front of you on the couch—and allows you to pedal as you go about your day. It has an LCD screen to keep track of your reps per minute, calories burned and time. Its built-in handle allows you to transport it anywhere you go, and its included padded mat and tether strap keep it in place.

Trial Period: 30 days

Warranty: Lifetime warranty

Customer rating: 4.8

Top review: “This product is very obviously well made and sleek! It is extremely helpful to keep my legs moving while working a job that requires a lot of continuous sitting.”


  • Compact
  • Adjustable stride length
  • Easy assembly


  • May emit clanking noises

The NordicTrack SpaceSaver SE7i proves you don’t need to sacrifice a ton of square-footage in your home to get in a gym-quality workout. Its 10-inch screen allows you to keep abreast of both your stats and your engaging iFit workout, and its adjustable stride length and 22 resistance levels keep your muscles guessing with each step. At 32 inches wide, it’s suitable for tight spaces.

Trial Period: 30 days

Warranty: The frame and drive motor are warranted for a lifetime. Parts and labor are warranted for five and two years respectively.

Customer rating: 4.7

Top review: “I don’t do the iFit stuff, just use the machine and….OMG I am really starting to see the results in just 30 minutes a day 5 days a week. This may not work for everyone, but for me, WOW. I cannot see my life without this elliptical now.”


  • Smooth operation
  • Many resistance levels


  • Inconsistent statistics

You’ve likely seen sleek Schwinn bikes on the bike path in your neighborhood, and now the fitness brand is extending that same luxury to your living room. Our top budget-friendly elliptical pick is the Schwinn 470 for its 29 workout programs available on the built-in LCD screen, 10-degree incline option, 25 levels of resistance, and fluid pedaling motion to simulate the body’s natural movement patterns.

Trial Period: Six weeks

Warranty: The frame is warranted for 10 years, mechanical for two years, electrical for one year, and labor for 90 days.

Customer rating: 4.6

Top review: “Easy to set up and keep track of the workouts for multiple household users. Assembly was rather simple as all the instructions were so easy to follow. I found some of the nuts and bolts were already in place so it was quite easy to assemble, taking less than two hours to complete. The display itself is terrific. It took some getting used to but after that it was easy to follow the workout. My hats are off to your engineering and marketing departments. This elliptical far exceeded our expectations.”


  • Elliptical and bike hybrid
  • HD touchscreen

The NordicTrack FS10i serves as a three-in-one elliptical, stepper and treadmill, which can help target your muscle from different angles, ultimately leading to increased energy expenditure (plus, if your machine constantly keeps you guessing, you’re less likely to get bored!). It has a 10-inch screen you can use to enjoy your iFit workouts—and the view of all your awesome stats.

Trial Period: 30 days

Warranty: The frame and drive motor are warranted for a lifetime. Parts and labor are warranted for five and two years respectively.

Customer rating: 4.8

Top review: “Excellent machine, quality materials and finish, and an efficient use of space.”


  • Oversized foot pedals
  • Fluid motion
  • 19 intensities

If you experience mobility issues, a sturdy elliptical machine, like the Sole E25, is essential for helping you spike your heart rate with as little joint impact as possible. The pedals’ slight inward slope helps mimic the natural positioning of your foot, ultimately leading to a more comfortable ride. The integrated heart rate monitor is also ideal for helping you stay within a safe working zone for your unique needs.

Trial Period: 30 days three years on parts, one year on labor.

Warranty: Lifetime warranty on frame,

Customer rating: 4.5

Top review: “I would definitely buy this machine again. I love how sturdy it is, how well it glides, the fact that you can use the arm poles or not, change incline and resistance on the fly, and it is simple to use. Highly recommend if you are looking for a smooth, sturdy machine.”


  • Ergonomic and compact
  • Portable

Seated ellipticals are great for anyone who isn’t super jazzed about fitness, because you get to sneak in movement from the comfort of your couch—without missing your favorite Netflix shows (or mandatory Zoom meetings). The Cubii JR2 takes the cake as our best seated option for its eight resistance levels, lightweight body for easy carrying, and LCD monitor that displays helpful stats like stride, mileage and calories burned.

Trial Period: 30 days

Warranty: One year warranty

Customer rating: 4.8

Top review: “Overall I’m very impressed with this under the desk elliptical! Getting the Bluetooth linked device is fantastic for monitoring my increased activity. Pedaling for a few hours a day makes a big difference in my activity level without too much stress.”


  • Customizable programs
  • Challenging workouts


  • Requires JRNY subscription

The Bowflex Max Trainer M9 keeps you challenged with 20 levels of resistance, hundreds of pre-loaded workouts on your included year of the JRNY app, and a space-friendly 31 by 76-inch footprint.

Trial Period: Six weeks

Warranty: Three years frame, three years parts, 90 days labor

Customer rating: 4.6

Top review: “I used to be a runner, but knee problems have limited my running. The Bowflex Max 9 is a perfect cardio replacement for running for me, and it takes up much less space than a treadmill or elliptical. Great gym-like equipment quality, and easy assembly thanks to the excellent Bowflex assembly equipment. I’m very happy with this system and will get many years of use from it.”


  • Low step height
  • Adjustable pedals


  • Heavy
  • Rusts under sweat

Don’t let a low ceiling get in the way of your home gym dreams. With its 14-inch step height and total height of 58 inches, most folks will still have plenty of clearance to move and groove (and take advantage of incline!) on the fan-favorite Sole E35. It has 20 resistance levels, a 7.5-inch LCD display, grippy handles, and forward and backward pedal motion capabilities.

Trial Period: 30 days

Warranty: Lifetime frame and motor, five years parts, five years electrical, two years


Customer rating: 4.4

Top review: “After doing a bit of research on quality elliptical machines, I settled on Sole and chose this model roughly 2 years ago. After weekly use on a carpeted area and now about two weeks into a new location, the machine runs like it’s out-of-the-box new. It has quiet and fluid motion, all features function as intended, and all the exterior parts have held up perfectly.” 

Best for bad knees: Teeter FreeStep Recumbent Cross Trainer and Elliptical

Teeter FreeStep Recumbent Cross Trainer and Elliptical

VIEW ON Amazon | $1050


  • Seated option reduces joint pressure
  • Durable grip

If knee pain has long gotten in the way of comfortable movement, The Teeter FreeStep, our favorite recumbent elliptical option is your best bet. By shifting your center of gravity away from your knees and onto the chair, you’re free to pedal with less force, discomfort and overall pain. The padded backrest also supports the back in an upright position, which can ultimately help isolate your quads and shoulders for an unforgettable full-body workout. 

Trial Period: 30 days

Warranty: Two years

Customer rating: 4.6

Top review: “Thank you Teeter for stepping outside the box and doing what no one else has done for people like me: provide a quality exercise device that is useful to those of us who can’t exercise with anything but a device like this and doing it with such quality and such a low affordable price.”

What to look for.


Look at the controls you might wish to take advantage of. If you’re just getting acclimated to the activity, look for adjustable step lengths, a wide range of intensity levels, and poles with extra grip for support.

Look for an integrated water bottle holder to stay hydrated and a media compartment to safely store your phone or tablet. If a cooling fan is essential to your comfort and performance, look for that.

If you prefer to get lost in your favorite playlist, be sure to look for enhanced sound controls or Bluetooth capabilities. For those with balance issues, a seated or recumbent option is a safe bet. 


An elliptical won’t do you any good if you can’t fit it in your home. Be sure to take specific measurements of the area you’re looking to furnish with a machine, ideally looking for a few feet of clearance from each side.


There’s no need to go into debt over an elliptical machine. Opt for a model that’s within your budget, or that can be paid off over the course of low-interest or interest-free installments.


What muscles do ellipticals work?

Elliptical machines target virtually every muscle group: your quadriceps get a major burn as you push down on the pedals, your posterior chain, including your gluteus maximus and hamstrings, are engaged when you extend your legs behind you during the gait cycle; your chest, shoulders, back, biceps and triceps are engaged as you push and pull on the gears; and you use your core to stabilize yourself in an upright position. A secondary, yet no less important benefit, is that clutching onto the arms of the elliptical can help strengthen your finger flexors or grip, which can ultimately help facilitate carrying or gripping onto heavy objects during everyday living. 

Are home ellipticals safe?

Home ellipticals are safe as long as you adhere to certain safety measures. If you’re working with a heart rate monitor, determine your maximum heart rate (220 minus your age), and be sure to stay below the 80 to 90 percent range of that number so as not to overtrain or injure yourself. 

Start slow with low resistance, and incrementally adjust your speed and intensity as you get stronger week by week. Be sure to grip firmly onto the handlebars so as to maintain balance. 

When setting up your elliptical, be sure to place it around 20 inches away from any furniture, walls or objects to account for the moving footpads. Keep a towel nearby to prevent any slippage due to sweat.

What are the benefits of using an elliptical machine?

The main benefit of an elliptical machine is that it’ll encourage you to get in some heart-healthy cardiorespiratory exercise without exacerbating any potential lingering joint issues on your knees or ankles, which are prone to injury during high-impact exercises like running, jumping and jogging.

When creating a balanced workout program, you also want to incorporate all of the five major movement patterns, including both push and pull movements.

Pushing and pulling are common everyday tasks involved in the likes of pushing open a door or picking up heavy groceries. The elliptical can help you get acquainted with both of these crucial movement patterns.

The takeaway.

Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or looking to dip your toes into a new (yet tried and true!) form of cardio, an elliptical machine is a great place to start. You’ll get an energy-torching workout that simultaneously strengthens your muscles through resistance, and you can easily customize your elliptical workout to suit your unique needs and fitness level.