The 6 Best Outdoor Ellipticals
This wiki has been updated 25 times since it was first published in October of 2015. Whether you use one as a fun alternative to cycling or as part of your daily workout routine, one of these outdoor ellipticals will get you where you are going while strengthening muscles and burning up to 33 percent more calories than a regular bicycle. Some even come in compact, folding designs that you can throw in your car's trunk and take with you wherever you need them. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best outdoor elliptical on Amazon.
The Elliptical: Stationary No More
If you’ve spent time in a commercial gym at any point in the past couple of decades, you’re probably familiar with the elliptical.
If you’ve spent time in a commercial gym at any point in the past couple of decades, you’re probably familiar with the elliptical. Usually situated near the treadmills, it’s the exercise machine that features two foot pedals and simulates the action of jogging or stair climbing to provide a low-impact workout that minimizes strain on your joints.
This fitness center staple is now available in an outdoor style, but with a twist — you can actually ride it, just like a normal bicycle. And, similar to its immobile counterpart, you’ll get in a joint-friendly workout that won’t leave your knees, hips, and ankles susceptible to injury.
Whereas many people find running miserable and biking somewhat uncomfortable, riding an outdoor elliptical is smooth and natural. The “stand up” position you assume reduces back and neck stress, and you won’t experience that pain and irritation that can result from sitting hunched over on a bicycle seat for an extended period of time.
They’re designed to imitate the motion of running without subjecting your feet to repeated pounding on pavement. In terms of time and intensity, the cardiovascular workout you’ll receive is similar to running, and you’ll work your core muscles more effectively than you would on a stationary model.
The positives to using an outdoor elliptical are not limited to your body — your mind and soul stand to benefit, as well. They’re eco-friendly, requiring no electricity, batteries, or gas, so you won’t have to worry about negatively impacting the environment. Plus, it’s a fun, family-friendly outdoor activity, allowing you and your loved ones to spend time together and enjoy nature at the same time.
When it comes to outdoor elliptical riding, age and ability don’t really matter. It’s equally suited to a former runner looking to build endurance while avoiding injuries as it is to a general fitness enthusiast hoping escape from the confines of a crowded gym.
Gearing Up For Your New Fitness Routine
While the market for outdoor ellipticals is not very mature, there’s already enough variation among models to necessitate a close look at your options before making a decision.
The top models require a pretty significant investment, so you’ll want to make sure you feel comfortable riding the elliptical you choose. This starts with the foot pedals and the handlebars, as they’re your main contact points with the machine.
This starts with the foot pedals and the handlebars, as they’re your main contact points with the machine.
Ideally, you’ll be able to modify both your foot position and the stride length to suit your height, weight, and riding style. The handlebars should be firm, easy to grip and height adjustable. You’ll also want to ensure that it has effective shock absorbers, particularly if you plan to take on some uneven terrain — after all, you’re riding an elliptical to avoid feeling every bump and vibration in your path.
Like a standard bicycle, an outdoor elliptical features different gears and speeds. If you anticipate riding on terrain that features frequent inclines and declines, you’ll want to consider a model with multiple gears that will help you climb those inclines comfortably. Some are built primarily for speed on flat ground — an attractive choice for those who want to operate at a fast pace.
If you live in a climate with long winters, you may feel wary about sinking money into a piece of equipment you can only use for a portion of the year. To account for this, several models are compatible with stationary bicycle trainers, allowing you to set them up indoors when snow and icy temperatures combine to make the outdoor landscape unmanageable.
Some models are highly portable, as well, an extremely useful attribute for travelers or vacationers who don’t want to leave their elliptical at home. If that’s you, look for one with a compact, foldable design — these are typically lightweight for carrying and should fit easily into the trunk of a car.
Living That Low-Impact Life
A solid portion of outdoor elliptical users initially purchase the device because it provides a low-impact workout, decreasing the likelihood of injury and protecting joints from pain and irritation. While these ellipticals are highly effective in this regard, they’re certainly not the only activity that offers a quality low-impact workout.
A close cousin to the indoor elliptical, the stair stepper machine mimics the act of climbing a staircase. Since you probably want to avoid noisily stomping up and down the stairs in your home or apartment building, this is a nice alternative that will go easy on your knees and ankles.
Yoga, an ever-popular form of low-impact exercise, allows you to build muscle, improve flexibility, and practice relaxation techniques simultaneously.
Rowing — whether you’re physically on the water or aboard the row machine at the gym — serves as an efficient and underrated workout, hitting your core, arms, legs, and back at the same time. The same goes for kayaking, which offers you the ancillary benefit of getting outside and enjoying the natural scenery.
Of course, we can’t overlook cycling. From speed biking to mountain biking, cycling is a great way to get in some quality cardio and cover a lot of ground at the same time. You can look at the bike as the reverse of the elliptical — the outdoor style is the most popular, but you can opt to ride a stationary indoor exercise bike, as well.
Yoga, an ever-popular form of low-impact exercise, allows you to build muscle, improve flexibility, and practice relaxation techniques simultaneously. Pilates is worth a try, as well, as it produces benefits similar to yoga without putting stress on your joints.
Rock climbing may not come immediately to mind when you think of low-impact exercises, but it’s actually quite effective. It requires slow, controlled movements, building strength in your muscles without wreaking havoc on your arms and legs.
If you have access to a pool, a lake, or the ocean, swimming may be the ultimate low-impact, full-body workout. As a bonus, it helps enhance lung function, improve coordination, and alleviate stress, and it’s yet another activity you can perform out in the elements if you’re tired of being cooped up indoors.
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