But while strength-training at home can be as easy as grabbing a set of free weights (or even a set of wine bottles), it can be decidedly more challenging to get that daily dose of cardio from your living room. Sure, HIIT classes and jump rope sessions are great, but if you're looking for a lower-impact way to spike your heart-rate, investing in one of the best small-space elliptical trainers might just be the way to go—even if you've only got a few free feet of space to spare.
Ellipticals may have a reputation for giving you an"easier" cardio workout than, say, your standard treadmill or spin class, but according to trainers, that just isn't true. "Don't let the elliptical machine deceive you," says Jacey Lambros, co-founder of Jane Do, previously told Well+Good. "A total body workout, the elliptical targets your quads, hamstrings, glutes, core, and upper back, depending on the choreographic choices you make. The beauty of the elliptical is that you can dictate which muscles you want to focus on, and you can manipulate the resistance."
They're great for getting in a low-impact sweat that's easy on your knees, and come with a sort of "choose your own adventure" appeal because you can ramp up your speed, resistance, or workout time depending on what your body needs. And while you may think these benefits are limited to the gym (or at least, to people who have space for a full-blown home gym), there are plenty of space-saving options that will take up only a few extra inches in your living room.
With that, we scoured the internet for the best small-space ellipticals money can buy. Whether you're looking to get some extra steps in at your desk or yearning for a full-blown sweat session, there are options out there guaranteed to fit in even the smallest studio apartment. Keep scrolling to shop 'em for yourself.
Shop the best small-space elliptical trainers (ideal for apartments)
Best under-desk, budget elliptical
This bare-bones small-space elliptical may seem basic, but it’s got everything you need to clock 10,000 steps while you sit (or stand—it can be used in both scenarios). It’s quiet, efficient, and portable. It also comes in three colors to match any home office set-up. Plus, you can use the built-in knob to ramp up its resistance and track your progress via an LCD screen.
What reviewers say: “This product is just amazing, it’s compact, not too heavy and is super smooth and easy on the knees.”
Best under-desk, splurge elliptical
Take your desk workout to the next level with this high-tech, small-space elliptical, which allows you to set goals and track your progress via a built-in LCD monitor that logs your calories, distance, move time, and RPM. It touts itself as being “whisper quiet” (which means you can peddle while you Zoom), and you can choose between eight different levels of resistance. What’s more? You can connect the device to Cubi Studio+ for expert-led live and on-demand classes to motivate you to keep moving.
What reviewers say: “This sits below my desk where I work and I try to do 10,000 steps everyday. After years of weakening [calf] muscles and knees, my legs are now toned again and problems with cellulitis are massively reduced. I wish I had bought one years ago. It is truly changed my health and life.”
Best budget elliptical
You don’t need any sort of fancy machinery to get a good workout in, and this device is living proof. It’s about as simple as it gets—there are no bells and whistles here—but offers non-slip pedals, long-stride capabilities, ergonomic handlebars, and a digital monitor. When you’re done with your workout, it can be folded up and slid into a corner for easy storage.
What reviewers say: “This has no resistance at all if you like that challenge, but if you just want to get moving with no fancy tech and features. Then this is your absolute go-to for low impact cardio. It’s also very small so it doesn’t take up a lot of space.”
Best portable elliptical
Tout this elliptical from room to room (or from home office to regular office) so that you can get your steps in anywhere thanks to a set of front wheels that make it ultra-easy to transport. And don’t let its small size fool you: It comes with a monitor that tracks your speed, time, distance, and calories; eight levels of magnetic resistance; and a set of adjustable handlebars that can be tailored to fit users of varying heights.
What reviewers say: “It’s easy to assemble, light with two wheels to move around, the motion of your feet on the elliptical is not as wide a circle motion you have on a high quality gym elliptical, but acceptable and okay for home use during quarantine for being active and exercising.”
Best stepper elliptical
Unlike your standard small-space elliptical, this machine uses a set of resistance bands in lieu of handlebars. The result? A full-blown arm workout on top of your standard cardio-and-lower-body burn. Its load-bearing hydraulic cylinder creates solid resistance for you to work against, and non-slip foot boards protect your knees and keep you stable. Plus, it folds up to such a compact size that you can toss it in a bag and take it literally anywhere.
What reviewers say: “This was a great purchase! I can walk while working and get my steps in easily. There’s plenty of resistance and I can get an arm workout in as well. I did add lubricant as recommended otherwise there’s a big squeak. Great product.”
Best elliptical-stepper hybrid
If you want a machine that will make you feel like you’re back in the gym, this one’s it. It combines the movement of an elliptical and stair stepper to maximize your calorie burn, and it has two pre-programmed workouts—one of which will get you on and off in 14 minutes, and ensures you’ll sweat your face off—plus eight resistance levels. Reviewers love it for its smooth stride and ease of use, which could explain why it’s landed itself 4.6 stars on Amazon.
Best connected elliptical
Travel the globe while you get your steps in, which connects to an “Explore the World” app on your phone to give you a peek into exotic locales and stunning terrain while you move. Though the design is compact, you’ll still get the usual 18″ of stride space that standard ellipticals offer, and you can ramp up your workout with 16 different levels of resistance.
What reviewers say: “Features: manual workout, varying resistance, some preset workouts, a tray to hold an iPad, and water bottle holder. The only con is that it doesn’t incline but it still provides a great workout for beginners and [advanced] exercisers. If you’re looking for a compact, sturdy, and quiet machine without sacrificing quality, this is your machine.”
Best foldable elliptical
The great thing about this elliptical is that you don’t have to see it—or even think about it—when it’s not in use. It folds up into a 48″ H x 16 1/2″ W x 17″ D package that’s easily storable in a corner or under a bed so that it will fit in even the tiniest of living rooms. It uses batteries instead of the usual wall plug, so you can plop it down anywhere and get to stepping.
What reviewers say: “This is absolutely fabulous! I use it nearly every day for thirty minutes, watching TV, and the time flies by. It gives a great cardio workout with no stress on the knees, lower back, or other joints. It is so small I can just push it to the side of my bedroom. Highly recommend for those of you who find endless excuses not to go to the gym or walk outside. Excellent quality and easy to assemble…comes nearly completely assembled.”
Best hybrid, budget elliptical
Get a two-for-one workout with this elliptical-meets-spin-bike, which will give you double the amount of workouts while only taking up a single machine’s worth of space. You can stand on it for your standard stride motion, or sit down to reap its pedaling benefits, and a battery-operated LED will track your elapsed speed, time, distance, calories burned, and heart/pulse rate.
What reviewers say: “This machine is a great combo elliptical and cycle. When my legs are tired I use my arms. It took two people to assemble and about an hour total. Not bad assembly at all. This is a solid machine and works for shorter and taller people alike. Very sturdy in my opinion. Great first cycle elliptical combo especially for the price.”
Best hybrid, splurge elliptical
This machine functions as an elliptical trainer, upright stationary cycle, and recumbent bike—which means it’s got everything you need to cycle through your weekly cardio workouts without ever getting bored. It also comes with three different sets of integrated handlebar—pro cycle, dual action, and wraparound—which you can swap out as you see fit. Its lauded for its hassle-free transitions, which means it will only take a few seconds for you to get ready to go once you’ve decided which workout you want to do.
What reviewers say: “Great training equipment for both my husband and myself. He wanted something for upper body/arms while I was more interested in the recumbent bike/legs. This 3-1 trainer takes care of whole body training. Like that the computer has several built in programs for cardio, fitness, etc.”
Best splurge elliptical
If you’re the type that likes exercises classes, this NordicTrack elliptical comes with a free 30-Day iFIT Membership, and you can connect a smartphone or tablet to access live and on-demand classes where your resistance will automatically adjust to optimize your workout. It also has 22 digital resistance levels, a built-in backlit display so you can track your workout metrics, and a fan to keep you cool while you’re striding.
What reviewers say: “The upright storage mode is a room saver. It really does dominate the room it’s in when fully extended. Putting it upright helps free up a ton of floor space and makes the room a lot more navigable. The workout on this thing is great! It is by far the smoothest and most natural leg motion of any of the four I tried. The base resistance is also a little bit higher. This can be a mixed bag, as if you’re not used to an elliptical workout (or just super out of shape like me), it will kick your butt. In that case you have no recourse but to keep working out until your body has adjusted.”
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