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When you shop for a treadmill or elliptical exerciser, focus on exactly why you’re buying it: to stay active or to lose weight. That way, you can avoid paying for unnecessary features that might sound great but won’t help you meet your fitness goals—and might increase the price.
Our tests of 34 treadmills and 31 ellipticals found that you can get top-notch machines for as much as $4,000. But it’s also possible to get high-performing models for a fraction of that price.
“You don’t need all of that to train correctly,” Jessica Matthews, M.S., an exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise, says of the optional features.
For example, all of the treadmills and ellipticals we evaluated let you adjust the intensity level of your workouts, which can help you lose weight faster since you’ll burn more calories when working harder. You can also do interval training, a type of cardiovascular workout in which you alternate intense exercise with slower-paced work. That can make your training more efficient because your overall intensity will be greater than normal, so you can cut the length of your workout by about 20 percent while maintaining or even increasing the benefits, according to research.
The phrase “proper training” isn’t marketing gold, but it’s a reminder to focus on what’s important. Internet connectivity, LCD displays, video simulators, iPod docks, and other features are appealing and can lead you to exercise more, but they should be user-friendly and geared to your goals. If not, what’s the benefit?
We evaluated ellipiticals and treadmills on their ease of use, ergonomics, construction, exercise range, and safety. For treadmills, we found 16 models to recommend, including four CR Best Buys. And we recommend 12 ellipticals, including three CR Best Buys.