These machines can energize your workouts
without busting your budge
When you ship 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.
These machines can energize your
workouts without busting your budge
Our tests of 34
treadmills and 31 elliptical 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,” J. Matthews, M.S., an exercise physiologist for
the American Council on Exercise, says of the optional features.
For example, all of
the treadmills and elliptical 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
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?
treadmills on their ease of use, ergonomics, construction, exercise range, and
safety, and found 16 models to recommend, including four CR Best Buys. For the
fourth year, the top-rated device is also the priciest: the well-built Precor
9.31, $4,000. But that doesn’t mean that people on tighter budgets can’t find
solid choices. We also recommend the LifeSpan TR4000i, $1,700, which cost a lot
less. It’s a folding model that can be stored in an upright position although
few owners actually fold their treadmills up after each use
Most treadmills incline from 10 to 15
percent to ramp up your workout.
The ability to connect
to the Internet is an add-on or even a standard feature on some models. But the
technology can be hard to use even when you’re not exercising. The folding
NordicTrack Commercial 1750, $1,500 a CR Best Buy, has an LCD screen and iFit
Live software, providing a virtual trainer, Internet browsing, and other
interactive functions. But trying to view and navigate sites while exercising
can compromise your posture, causing you to slump or lean your body weight on
the rails for a prolonged period, which could decrease the effectiveness of the
exercise. Make sure to buy a treadmill or elliptical that allows you to mimic
your outdoor walking or running movements and posture. That’s why you should
try out models in a store or gym before buying. People who follow that advice
are more satisfied and more likely to use their machine consistently than those
who buy without trying it first.
current fitness level and charting your progress can help you stick to a
workout schedule. Although it didn’t earn recommended status, the solid-scoring
non-folding AFG 7.1 AT, $2,000, has Nike+ iPod integration, which automatically
saves all of your workout data to an iPod so that you can upload and track your
progress at nikerunning.com. Treadmills such as the folding Life-Fitness F3
Track, $3,000 and the F1 Smart, $2,500, have a USB drive to transfer data to
your computer. Those LifeFitness models also offer an energy-saving function
that the manufacturer claims will minimize electricity use when they’re turned
on and idle, although we didn’t test that feature.
Elliptical can weigh hundreds of pounds;
consider delivery options.
Set up the AFG 7.1 AT
in front of a television and its Passport Media Player can wirelessly display
video footage from a runner’s perspective on a TV, changing the treadmill’s
incline to accommodate the video’s terrain. Workout stats are displayed on the
TV, too, so you don’t’ have to look down at the consoled. Two trails are
included, one in the American Southwest and another in northern Italy, and you
can buy more.
The folding ProForm Pro 2000
The folding ProForm
Pro 2000, $1,300, can achieve a decline of up to 3 percent, according to the
manufacturer, to simulate down-hill walking or running.
Consider a budget
folding model, such as the ProForm Performance 600, $800. It has a shorter
deck, which can work for walking but might not accommodate a runner’s longer
The ProForm Performance 600
Handgrips that move
and resistance that’s adjustable allow you to turn your cardiovascular training
into a full-body workout while mimicking the motion of running without the
impact. Our test led us recommend 12 models, including three CR Best Buys.
1260Ef, $2,200, and Octan Fitness Q37ci, $3,100, were the highest rated.
Following closely are two LifeFitness and two AFG models. The AFG 18.1 AXT,
$1,700, has an iPod dock, but the compatible controls and iPod-style control
wheel were confusing and awkward to use. The AFG 3.1 AE, $1,000, performed well
and is cheaper. It lacks an iPod dock but has a control wheel.
The Diamondback 1260Ef
The Kettler Unix P,
$1,300, and Kettler Rivo, P, $700, are nicely engineered. They’re around 41/2
feet long, which is shorter than the typical 6-foot length, making the suitable
for those with limited space. The path of the Kettler pedals is shorter and
might not appeal to all users, and the foot pedals are set farther apart than
on other machines, which could be a problem. Those elements vary by machine, so
make sure you’re not forced into an uncomfortable position. The moving
handgrips shouldn’t push your hands behind your body or pull you forward; they
should allow you to stand tall with your weight centered.
The NodicTrack E15.0,
$1,500, was our lowest-scoring model. It has impressive electronics: a built-in
touch-screen tablet functions as a high-resolution display and control panel.
But its Android-powered iFit Live software is disappointing. Browsing the Web
through the tablet is difficult while exercising and can compromise your
position. Simulated video workouts fail to incorporate changes in the animation
when you adjust your pedaling speed. And the machine’s resistance or incline
doesn’t change with the terrain shown in the video. But functional issues pale
when compared with quality issues. Our first sample made a loud, scraping sound
when we used it; we deemed it defective. A second samle arrived with a
The NodicTrack E15.0
If high-tech features aren’t
user-friendly, what’s the benefit?
We divided our Ratings
for elliptical into two groups: those with heart-rate monitoring programs and,
for the first time, those with heart-rate monitoring programs and, for the
first time, those without them. (You can buy heart-rate monitors separately). Standouts
in this new category include the Octane Fitness Q35c, $2,000, and Q37c, $2,600,
as well as the Landice E7 pro Sport, $3,600, the most expensive elliptical
tested. It’s large and heavy (500 pounds), but if you want a luxury machine,
this is the one for you.
The Octane Fitness Q35c
Did you know?
Adults can add 2 to 5
hours to their life for every hour of moderate exercise they do, according to a
new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Vigorous exercise can
add 5 to 11 hours for every 60-minute training session.