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Workout Showdown: Steppers vs. Ellipticals

Workout Showdown: Steppers vs. Ellipticals

Working out on an elliptical

Cardio. It's rarely anyone's favorite part of the workout but it's a great way to get your heart rate up and increase your fitness. While steppers and ellipticals both provide effective cardiovascular workouts, both have specific uses that target different fitness needs. Let's take a closer look at both so you can find out the best way to get your sweat on.



Type of Workout

CardiovascularCardiovascular and light resistance

Targeted Muscles

Calves, thighs and glutes Calves, thighs, glutes, arms, back and core

Calories Burned


Impact on Joints

Low to moderateExtremely low


Advantages of Steppers

  • Requires less coordination - Since the upper half of your body stays relatively stationary throughout each motion (assuming proper posture), exercising on a stepper requires less coordination and balance. This can help you to remain focused on completing your workout properly.

  • Smaller footprint - Their small size make these machines perfect for people with minimal space or need to move workout gear out of the way once they're done with their session.
Work out on a stepper trainer

Limitations of Steppers

  • Doesn't engage all muscles - While your leg and thigh muscles do all the work, most of the muscles in your arms, shoulders, chest and upper back remain largely still. While this is an extremely effective workout for your legs, you’re largely neglecting the rest of your muscles.

  • Can be hard on the knees - Although the low-impact nature of steppers can provide more comfortable workouts for people with joint pain, enhanced pressure on the knees while completing each motion may cause soreness or discomfort, especially for those who experience chronic pain in their knees.

Shop all steppers


Exercising on an elliptical

Advantages of Ellipticals

  • Burns more calories - By keeping the majority of your body moving throughout your workout, you'll exercise your heart more effectively and burn more calories overall.

  • Extremely low impact - The machine is designed to allow you to move all of your limbs and joints in a smooth gliding motion without feeling forceful impacts against hard surfaces.

  • Engages more muscles - An elliptical provides a well-rounded workout for a variety of areas. Additionally, pedaling in reverse helps to exercise these muscles differently for an even more effective workout when combined with forward pedaling.

Limitations of Ellipticals

  • Mind your stride - Some models may be difficult to use for people with particularly small or large strides. Make sure your elliptical provides a comfortable stride length for your height or that it's adjustable to accommodate multiple users.

  • Requires more coordination - Since nearly your entire body is moving in different directions throughout each motion, this workout requires you to be more coordinated with a greater sense of balance.

Shop all ellipticals