Questions to Ask Before Buying (or trying) an Elliptical Machine

  • Today's local newspaper has classified ads for two practically brand new elliptical machines. Someone's Christmas present must not be working out very well. What was once a hope for shapelier hips and firmer buns became an unwanted heap of metal that might have done more harm than good. Those elliptical machines are not for every body.


    Although, the low impact nature of this machine is an alternative to pounding on a treadmill. Because the pedals glide and land softly, some people do really well with an elliptical machine. With less impact to the feet, ankles, knees, hips and spine, these popular exercise devices are often the most popular and hard to snag items at the gym. All the while, the lowly stationary bicycle which also offers a low impact ride sits dusty and unwanted in the corner.

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    But before you go out and purchase an elliptical machine to call your own, you need to try one for at least a week at a local gym because it may not be right for your body. Here are some questions you need to ask yourself before trying or purchasing an elliptical machine.


    First, can you stand on one leg? If your answer is no, then go to the corner and use the stationary bicycle. The movement of an elliptical machine is very dynamic, even more dynamic than a treadmill that has a solid base of support. If you are unable to stand on one leg with good stability, then chances are you will have trouble walking on a treadmill or on an elliptical machine because standing on one leg is a prerequisite for walking. You'll be better off with a stationary bicycle at least until you become stronger and can stand like a flamingo.


    Second, do you have back pain? If your answer is yes, then go to the corner and use the stationary bicycle. Again, the elliptical machine forces a lot of movement in the hips. And unless you have really good core strength, that movement will affect you low back. All the extra motion can make your low back pain worse. At least by sitting on a stationary bicycle, you are able to completely isolate the hip motion from the low back motion. And you can also decompress your spine while you ride. That's why I prefer a stationary bike for my cranky back and I never have to wait for an available machine at the gym. Bonus.


    Another question along the lines of your pain is: do you have knee, hip or ankle pain? If you do, consult with your physical therapist about what piece of exercise equipment would be best for your condition. The Mayo Clinic believes that some types of knee injuries do best on... you guessed it... the lowly stationary bicycle in the corner of the gym, sitting vacant and dusty.


    The last question you need to ask yourself is: Have you tired an elliptical machine? If your answer is no, then you need to go to your local gym and try some equipment before you commit with a purchase. Better yet, travel to your favorite hotel destination that has all the latest equipment and make a vacation out of your exercise exploration.


    The moral of this story: before you purchase an elliptical machine only to see it end up on Craigslist, explore whether or not this new but not necessarily better device is best for you.


Published On: April 19, 2012