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Elliptical machine tests reveal bargains

January 26, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
One of the best ways to get aerobically fit is to exercise with an elliptical machine. But you don't have to break the bank to buy a good one. Consumer Reports has identified the elliptical that will help you stay fit and still save you money.Lots of people at the gym enjoy the advantages of working out on an elliptical machine.

"It's weight-bearing but non-impact," explained personal trainer Declan Foley. "So it saves their joints, their knees feel good, their hips feel good, it's easier on the back, and it also provides an upper-body workout as well as a lower-body workout."

Consumer Reports just tested more than a dozen elliptical machines designed for home use, ranging in price from $600 to $3,700. Testers utilized a device that measures how hard you have to pedal at various resistance levels. Some machines require a lot more force than others.

Other differences, according to Consumer Reports' Peter Anzalone, are that the more expensive machines usually come with a sturdier framework and some additional features.

"Although we did find some bargains," said Anzalone.

Important features when choosing an elliptical machine are a clear display and easy-to-use controls, as well as a heart-rate monitor. Testers say chest-strap monitors are best, because the strap sends information to the machine wirelessly.

One thing you need to realize is that elliptical machines can take up a lot of space. With the Stamina Avari, you need more than eight feet.

If you're looking to splurge on a top-of-the-line machine, the Diamondback was top-rated and costs $2,600. For a lot less, the NordicTrack AudioStrider 990 is a best buy at $900. It's not compatible with a chest-strap heart-rate monitor, but it has other nice features like an incline you can adjust electronically.

"Whichever machine you buy, you want to feel comfortable on it," explained Anzalone. "You want to make sure your knees don't bump into the moving handgrips or the framework, and you want to make sure that you're not forced into a forward- or rearward-leaning position."