Sales of exercise equipment peak this time of year, but ellipticals and treadmills cost thousands of dollars, so you want to be sure to get a good machine.
Consumer Reports has been busy testing more than a dozen new treadmill and elliptical machines. Technicians check to see how easy they are to use, including ergonomics testing to see how well they fit the average user. For ellipticals, they analyze the pedaling motion. And for treadmills, they do a durability test to see how well the machines are constructed.
Consumer Reports also tested a newer type of cardio equipment called an alternative motion machine. It allows you to vary your stride like on a treadmill while keeping your feet in contact with the pedals and reducing your impact, similar to an elliptical.
The alternative motion machines take some getting used to and can be pricey. The crowd-pleaser among Consumer Reports’ panelists was the Precor Adaptive Motion Trainer. It’s a commercial machine that sells for almost $9,000.
As for treadmills, your first decision should be whether you want a folding or nonfolding one. If you’re interested in running and have the space, a nonfolding treadmill is a good option. Nonfolding treadmills are usually a bit more expensive but they usually have a longer deck, which is well-suited for running. Consumer Reports says the $2,300 Sole TT8 is great option. The buttons are easy to read and control, even at a fast pace.
Nonrunners and space-savers can get by with a less expensive folding treadmill. The ProForm Pro 2000 is a Best Buy at around $1,200.
If you want to go easier on your joints, consider an elliptical machine. Consumer Reports says look for one with a heart-rate program. It will automatically adjust the resistance setting based on your target heart-rate setting.
The $3,000 Precor EFX 225 offers a variety of intensities, so it’s great for beginners as well as seasoned exercisers. For a less expensive elliptical, Consumer Reports named the $800 Schwinn 470 a Best Buy. Although it doesn’t offer a wide variety of exercise intensities, if you’re just starting out and want to save some money, it’s a very good option.