How Does an Elliptical and StairMaster Machine Differ? - FitnessStep1

How Does an Elliptical and StairMaster Machine Differ?

Experts suggest that an average healthy adult must perform at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise each day to stay fit. This helps in warding off heart troubles, obesity and other lifestyle problems. If you workout 5 days a week, you need at least 30 minutes of exercise each day to stay healthy. This isn’t much, considering that today’s lifestyle drags us to make unhealthy food choices and spend the day sitting on a chair.

Elliptical-vs.-Stairmaster-vs.-Treadmill

How to stay fit?

If you are overweight or diabetic, you may need to put in more efforts to keep your body healthy. An average adult will have to make positive food choices like buying fresh produce, eating home cooked meals, and avoiding junk. It will also include exercising regularly to ensure that your muscles stay in top shape. People choose to walk or jog everyday to stay healthy. However, if losing weight or getting fitter quicker is a priority for you, then you must hit the gym.

Beginner friendly gym equipment

Most beginners like to work out on treadmills. They are very easy to use and allow you to move your muscles without putting too much strain on the knees. Treadmills allow resistance and elevation manipulation which helps beginners in improving the quality of their workout consistently.

Beginner friendly gym equipment is the stationary bike. It is very easy to use and helps you in working your hamstrings, thighs and the lower body. People who are bottom heavy, find this to be an extremely convenient way to burn calories and tone their legs.

Ellipticals and stair steppers/StairMaster machines are two other low impact machines that offer great beginner friendly workouts. Though all this equipment can be used by regular gym visitors too, they are especially favored by the beginners. As they are low equipment, they don’t put strain on your joints. Even though you sweat, you won’t faint because of the anaerobic workouts like in HIITs. If you have used treadmills and stationary bikes already and now want to move on to more complex, but low impact machines, focus on the elliptical and the StairMaster.

Let’s understand these two workout machines and compare their benefits.

Elliptical machine

The elliptical machine is probably the most popular gym equipment after treadmill. Some experts believe that it is highly effective for overall fitness while some others consider it an easy (even lazy) workout. However, regardless of these views, people line up at the elliptical. Let us first know what an elliptical is and what the reason behind its popularity is.

The elliptical machine is designed to stimulate hiking or stair climbing situation. It comes with foot rests and hand rails where you can easily workout to burn as many as 400 calories in 30 minutes. If you are heavier built, you will burn even more calories, thanks to full body workout you get here. This machine allows you to move your feet like you are climbing or moving up a mountain while your hands move up and down simultaneously on the hand rail. This gives you the ultimate full body workout.

An important thing to note about the elliptical is that it a very low impact workout. Therefore, people who are overweight or have weaker joints don’t feel too tired or exhausted. Though you may sweat profusely at the end of the workout, you will still have enough strength. This is also the reason why you could spend anywhere between 20 to 30 minutes on the elliptical with ease. If you only have 30 minutes to work out each day, you could do it easily on the elliptical and go back home refreshed.

Ellipticals offer you great cardio. As it is an aerobic exercise machine, it helps you in melting fat and sweating throughout the workout. You can work out at 60 to 70 percent of your heart rate on this machine with ease. Once you get used to the motion of the machine, working out will be much easier and you will have no problems in working out for more than 30 minutes at a time. If you manipulate the machine’s resistance setting and keep monitoring your heart rate, you can even do interval training on this machine.

The benefits of using Ellipticals include quick weight loss, low impact cardiovascular training, and a strengthened core. Apart from toning your legs and giving you a sound upper body workout, an elliptical also works on your core, helping it become stronger and even getting rid of stubborn belly fat. You can even use this if you have back pain problems, simply because of the weight training benefits with low impact.

StairMaster machine

This one is another low impact workout machine that will tone your lower body and make your muscles stronger. If you are looking for a leaner muscle profile, the StairMaster is the ultimate workout machine for you. It is designed to make you replicate the action of climbing stairs. The same can be achieved with the help of an elliptical as well. However, in that case, you will have to work more on machine manipulation. In the case of the StairMaster, you actually get to work on stairs. Therefore, the stimulation is much better and you get a much better workout.

Many athletes like to climb stairs to maintain their cardiovascular health and get toned lower bodies. The StairMaster does exactly the same for you, without making you run outdoors. The moving step of stairs in this machine can be used for 15 to 20 minutes (or higher) or at least 5 days a week to maintain excellent cardiovascular health. You also get better aerobic conditioning with this equipment.

However, the most important benefit of the equipment is that it trains your quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves extensively. As a result of this, your legs become stronger than ever. If you are training for sports that demand endurance and stamina, like cycling or triathlons, you should certainly use this machine. With the unique design of this machine, building up strength and endurance becomes easier. Moreover, it is a very low impact machine. Even if you are overweight, you will be pulling up your body weight for extensive training without straining your joints.

Unlike the elliptical, you lose close to 200 or 300 calories while working out on the StairMaster for 30 minutes. This may seem too low, compared to a 400-calorie average on the elliptical. However, you must note that the elliptical doesn’t help you train your lower body muscles as effectively as the StairMaster does. Therefore, even with a 100 to 200 calorie deficit, you are getting equally great results with this machine.

The benefits of using a StairMaster include decreased body weight, more defined lower body, lean muscle buildup and low intensity cardiovascular training. You also get to build more lower body strength with this machine. If you carry most of your weight on the thighs, this machine could easily become your favorite workout equipment. Athletes, professional or amateur, also find this an effective way to build stamina and endurance for training long distances.

Elliptical vs StairMaster- a comparison

While both are excellent equipment for cardiovascular training and appear somewhat similar mechanically, their effects are markedly different. Comparing these two machines provides a clearer picture and helps us understand their functioning better. We will compare them on different verticals, helping you choose the best equipment for getting the desired results.

Impact

Both elliptical and StairMaster are low impact cardio machines. However, the elliptical has slightly lesser impact on the joints, as compared to the StairMaster. This is because your feet never leave the paddle while working on an elliptical. You need extra strength to move your feet up continuously on these moving stairs, which is low impact but demands more strength, especially from the calves and back thighs.

Perceived exertion

The perceived level of exertion is higher in the case of Ellipticals. Note that the perceived exertion level is considered as the relative fatigue or exertion upon doing the same work on two different machines. The reason behind this is the type of movement you make on both machines. Climbing stairs isn’t an activity that is new to the human form. It is like walking uphill and doesn’t seem more exerting than working on an elliptical.

You need better coordination to work on the elliptical machine. Moreover, you will also have to work your hands while moving your feet. You feel the impact on your lower as well as upper body on this machine. Though it doesn’t change the amount of work you do, it certainly feels more exhausting.

Control

You have more control over your movement in the elliptical as it is fueled solely by your own effort. You are using your body weight and controlled movements for resistance on this machine, which provides you more control. On a StairMaster, the stairs move at a certain speed and resistance, like in a treadmill. Hence, there is lesser control on your movement. You have to catch up with the speed and resistance of the machine to get a good workout.

Effect

The Ellipticals works on your upper and lower body. Therefore, you are able to get a full body workout. Your shoulders, arms, thighs, back, and chest, all get to work in unison and get equal effect on this machine. However, you should not expect too much muscular definition. This can be promised with the StairMaster only. Since you are continuously moving in a vertical motion, your lower body muscles get heighted muscular definition. If you are looking to work up your buttock, the StairMaster could be your answer.

The elliptical works on the front thighs but the back thighs, the calves, the hamstring and the glutes do not get a rigorous exercise. The StairMaster helps in improving the focus on these areas. As you continuously use this machine, fat reserves are burned and you get to build leaner muscle. If your focus is on the lower body, this machine comes with exceptional benefits. However, if a full body workout is what you demand, you could be disappointed with a stair stepper machine. You will have to work on other machines to build an equally good looking upper body.

Aerobic and cardiovascular fitness

Both machines do an excellent job when it comes to cardiovascular and aerobic fitness. Your oxygen intake increases with continuous use of the equipment. Moreover, you get to burn more calories and get a firmer, toned physique as well. The calorie burn rate is slightly higher in the elliptical but the cardiovascular effects are nearly the same in both machines. Therefore, you can choose either.

Suitability

Both the elliptical and StairMaster are good for everyone. However, the elliptical is usually favored by people in the middle of their weight loss journey or older people who are looking for low knee impact. Moreover, it could be used by people who want a less complex full body workout to maintain their physique.

With the StairMaster, the story is somewhat different. As it helps in building endurance and defining lower body muscles, many athletes swear by this equipment. However, it can be used by almost everyone. People who are morbidly obese, should lose some weight and get used to exercising regularly before using this machine. Though there are no harms in using it right away, an increased amount of stress on the knees due to its vertical motion could become a problem for a few people.

Summary

We suggest that you use both elliptical and StairMaster as a second step in your fitness journey, especially if you are trying to lose weight. Treadmills, stretching and stationary biking could be the beginning steps for you. Once you have gotten used to low impact training and can easily workout on these machines without any pain, you should move to the second step.

Both machines provide you a good cardiovascular exercise. If you light weights, do targeted upper body workouts, train for an endurance sporting event or simply want more defined lower body (people with triangle shaped bodies i.e. more weight on the lower half of the body), then a StairMaster should be your first choice. However, if you intend to get a simple but effective full body workout that helps you burn more calories (one hour on the elliptical helps burn 700 calories), then an elliptical should be your choice.

You can also use both these machines on alternate days.

Have you decided which machine is better for you and how to include them in your exercise schedule? Let us know in the comments below or share your questions, thoughts, and comments.

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