Elliptical/Cross Trainers Explained

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Made popular because of its easy movement and dramatically reduced impact, the elliptical trainer continues to find favor. Ellipticals mimic the movement of walking or running, except rather than halting like each step on a running surface, the motion continues seamlessly through an elliptical pattern. Thus the name. Ellipticals are as easy as walking, yet are much friendlier on knees and joints.

When buying an elliptical, here are some things to keep in mind:

Resistance: A good elliptical starts with a mechanism that provides a smooth forward or reverse motion. Some models feature manual resistance settings. Models with motorized resistance are preferred because they allow you to increase the intensity of your workout at any time.

Stride: Look for a machine with at least a 20" stride. Also look for oversize pedals that allow you plenty of foot room.

Incline: The incline ramps can range from a manual setting with two or three options, to an electronic adjustment with a more complete range. Electronic incline is the best choice because of the wider range and the ability to change incline without interrupting the workout.

Control Panels: Electronic feedback displays of speed, time, and distance are generally standard. Some also display calories burned, pulse and incline. Some offer preset programs. Control panels range from a simple display to fully programmable consoles with high-tech features, such as the ability to run programs from the Internet. Price is influenced by the control panel options, so purchase only what you will regularly use.

Upper-Body: Some ellipticals provide arms for an upper-body workout, an important feature for many people.

Heart Rate Monitors: Some ellipticals include a heart-rate monitor that enables the user to stay in his target heart rate without having to stop and manually take a pulse. Grip pulse sensors tend to be the best combination of convenience and accuracy. Thumb pulse and other methods are also available.

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