There are a huge number of elliptical machines on the market today available in a wide variety of price groupings. It can be difficult to identify the correct machine for you. Here, we are looking at mini elliptical machines or portable ellipticals. There are other machines erroneously called “compact” or “small”. These are often like the versions you see in a gym but manufactured slightly smaller to give a reduced footprint to better suit a home or apartment. The models we are talking about here are the 30 lb models you can carry any place, anywhere.
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Types of Mini Elliptical
Within this small group of ellipticals there are roughly speaking three sub-groups based on intended activity. There are those which can be used whilst stood up, those for use under a desk whilst seated and those that are adjustable for use under a desk/seated or stood. Often when you have such a choice the “jack of all trades” version is not as effective in any mode as purpose built models so understanding how you intend to use the model is critical.
What to consider when buying
As I have intimated, identifying how you use the machine will be critical to making a good choice. If you intend to carry out most exercises stood – maybe whilst working at a standing desk or just in front of the TV – consider your balance. For the sake of portability non of the widely available models come with handlebars, if you are not the most agile of persons is this going to be a problem? Are you going to be at a standing desk or near a surface you can ease you balance on if you have a wobble?
If you intend to use the machine seated are you going to be sitting behind a desk, in front of the TV or on a straight back chair? Some of the dual use models do not have adjustable footplate’s so are OK for standing or sitting from a straight back chair but maybe not so suitable with a desk. Other models will have adjustable footplate’s for a variety of sitting positions.
Do you intend to use the model primarily behind a desk? Knowing the height of your desk and the length of your leg and pedal height will be critical here. Basically you need to measure you lower leg, add on the elliptical stride height and allow a bit of room for the desk. Place you feet on the ground while seated, measure from the ground to the top of the knee for leg length, check the manufacturer specifications for the elliptical stride height and add an inch or two to avoid clashing you knees with the underside of the desk – then measure the desk to see if it all fits.
What about noise – if you are going to use these machines in front of the TV with your family or under a desk in an office you don’t want a distracting noisy machine whirring in the background.
Are monitors important to you? Do your really need mobile app integration and tracking or are you just looking to add some movement into your lifestyle?
With these matters considered here, in no particular order, are the market leading options to choose from :
Stamina in-motion elliptical
This is the grand daddy of the mini elliptical market having been the market innovator years ago. All other models are copies or attempts on improvement to the design. The stamina model is well built and is very popular with a huge number of positive reviews.
The Stamina can be used standing, sitting or under a desk. To use under a desk you need seven inches between knee and desk with your feet flat on the ground to allow for the footplate movement. If the stamina has a weak spot it is that when used in the standing position there are no handlebars – OK if your balance is good or if you are next to a desk but problematic if you are in front of the TV with no hand holds.
Tracking and electronics are basic. Tension on the footplate’s is manually adjustable rather than push button electronic and tracking is limited to calories, time, distance and strides – no blue-tooth connectivity here – but nothing that is likely to break or go wrong anytime soon.
In terms of price the stamina is at the affordable starter end of the market – a normal elliptical might cost from $700 – $1500, the stamina will be around the $100 mark.
Comes in three classy colors options, weighs in at 3lbs and does not require a power outlet. The stamina in-motion elliptical is extensively, positively reviewed and represents good build quality with good value for money.
Cubi Under Desk Mini Elliptical
The Cubi is specifically designed for use whilst sitting at a desk. Angled footplate’s make using this elliptical impossible whilst standing and unnatural in some seated positions, however behind a desk it comes into it’s own.
Beautifully designed with a modern sleek look, this will appeal to any young at heart operator who wants to use the equipment at work without embarrassment, it is almost good looking enough to be a conversation starter in its own right.
Fitted with hi-tech monitoring technology, this machine will appeal to the mobile generation. You get blue-tooth connectivity, a mobile app from the manufacturer (ios/android) and it syncs with fitbit and jawbone. If tracking is important to you then this is the machine for you.
The cubi comes with 8 preset tension levels to suit all levels of fitness. Is available in either black or chrome color scheme and weighs in at 27lbs. It can be transported with ease and with super quiet operation can be used within the office environment without distracting. With preset tension and hi-tech equipment you do need mains power near by.
Compared to the Stamina this model is relatively high cost but still cheaper than a standard home elliptical. If looks, tracking and under desk use if is your priority this is likely to be the machine for you.
J fit Under Desk And Stand Up Elliptical
The J fit is directly comparable to the Stamina. Can be used standing or seated and unlike the stamina has footplate’s that are adjustable to three positions. However, the J fit has 12 inch footplate movement so your desk need plenty of room underneath to use the J fit comfortably ( the stamina needs 7 inches). As with the stamina the jfit provides no handlebars for standing operation.
The J fit is not going to blow you away with technology. No blue-tooth here – simple monitoring of time, strides, calories and speed only. Tension is manually adjustable so no mains power required.
Available in one color, sturdy design, well built and positively reviewed by users.
Not as established as stamina model but well received the jfit fits into the same price bracket as the stamina. Slightly more complex to set up out of the box. Assembly tools included.
Fitdesk under desk elliptical
The fitdesk is the natural competition for the Cubi. Designed primarily for use under a desk with non adjustable footplate’s a pedal rise of eight inches is comparable to a stamina but angled footplate’s should prove more comfortable whilst seated.
Unlike the Cubi, the Fitdesk is not packed with hi-tech monitoring facilities but will give you the basics of time, speed, calories, and distance.
It does offer some unique touches though. The chassis has a built in foot roller for massage and the eight magnetic tension settings can be controlled by a foot lever – both well thought out additional features for users.
Weighing in at a standard 30 lbs the Fitdesk is as portable as other models on the market and like the Cubi is mains operated.
Available in one color option, the Fitdesk is not as established as the Stamina but has been around longer than the Cubi and the J fit
Coming in at a medium price bracket the Fitdesk is less expensive than the Cubi but generally slightly more expensive than the stamina (probably due to the mains powered functions).
As with all the machines reviewed noise is not an issue allowing for use in a busy office or whilst you are on the phone.
What Are Mini Ellipticals Good For?
Clearly these are not machines you would use to train for a marathon on! What they are good for is introducing some gentle activity into your day.
If you are desk bound at work all day these underdesk machines are going to be great for burning a few extra calories and as a result, aiding weight loss. Additionally the extra movement is going to be good for your circulation and reduce the risks of developing high blood pressure and the like.
If you have been doing very little exercise of late then even some gentle exercise with these machines is going to help improve your stamina and overall fitness levels.
Maybe you want to do some activity at home? You can expect to improve your stamina levels if you have not exercising regularly and these machines offer an easy and convenient way to increase your exercise levels.
Considering toning or muscle building? These machines are not suitable. You need resistance machines or equipment for muscle building. What they will do is improve neglected muscle tone by putting some exercise through under utilised muscles and via fat loss will improve general body tone.
Which Do We Think Is The Best Mini Elliptical?
It is a tough call based on how you intend to use the machine and your budget. All the machines have high levels of user satisfaction, build quality and positive reviews from buyers. From this perspective they are all good buys if you buy for the right reasons.
If you are going for an under desk model and like technology then the Cubi is a fabulous choice. If technology is not important and budget is important the Fitdesk is a great choice.
For me, i would like the flexibility of an all-rounder that can be used under a desk or in other positions. This reduces my choice to a Stamina In motion Elliptical or the JFit. On the basis of being the initial sector innovator and years of positive reviews from happy customers and with little difference between the two in cost I would opt for an recommend the Stamina.