At first it is easy to confuse elliptical machines and stair steppers. The pedals and positioning on the two cardio workout machines are similar. However, the striding motion on them is quite different. So, which is best? In this elliptical vs stepper comparison, we will compare the two types of machines.
Both the stair stepper and elliptical provide a good lower body workout routine. You will get a very good cardiovascular workout on both elliptical machines and stair steppers. They will both also do an effective job of burning calories. Beyond that, each has its pros and cons. Elliptical machines are better for a full body workout, while the stair stepper will give a more lower body-focused workout to strengthen the quads and calves.
Read on for a complete comparison between the elliptical and the stair stepper.
Table Of Contents
Comparing Elliptical Vs Stepper: Benefits And Disadvantages
- Elliptical machines provide you with a full body workout to exercise the muscle groups of both the upper and lower body muscles. An elliptical will work your back, shoulders, arms, core and legs.
- It provides a very low-impact workout that is easy on the ankle, knee and hip joints.
- Ellipticals have built-in programmable workouts to make it easier for you to reach your workout goals.
- Because the elliptical provides both a lower and an upper body workout, it will burn more calories than a stepper machine.
- Ellipticals have quite a large footprint, which may not make them suitable for confined spaces. They are also quite bulky.
- It can be quite easy to maintain a low, steady elliptical workout exercise rhythm that does not provide enough intensity to get the results you want.
- The stair stepper provides a more intense lower body workout.
- The stair stepper can more effectively build and tone the leg muscles.
- You can get a very intense cardiovascular workout.
- Varieties like the Jacob’s Ladder provide an intense full body workout.
- Stair steppers are generally more expensive than an elliptical trainer.
- The intensity of the workout is determined by the amount of effort that you put into it.
- Not very joint-friendly, especially to the knees and ankles.
- Has a large footprint making it challenging to locate it in a confined space.
Elliptical Vs Stepper: Key Differences
Which Is Best For …
Upper Body Workout
Strength & Endurance
Best For Knees
Upper Body Workout And Muscles Worked
The elliptical machine works both the lower body and the upper body, making it rather unique as a cardio training device. That is because you are engaging the movable stride arms as you push and pull with your arms. That works the back muscles, as well as the shoulders, biceps and triceps. At the same time, you will be giving your quads, glutes, hamstrings and calves an effective workout. You will also get a good core workout.
Stair steppers do not work the upper body. Your arms remain on static handlebars when you do this exercise. The total focus with a stair stepper is on the lower body.
Elliptical machines do a far better job of working the upper body than the stair stepper. As a result, you will get a better full body workout on an elliptical.
Lower Body Workout And Muscles Worked
While the elliptical does allow you to get a full range of motion with your legs, it does challenge the muscles against resistance the same way that the stair stepper does. On this machine your legs move in an elliptical motion which is biomechanically enhanced.
The stair stepper, which allows you to move your legs in a wave-like motion, provides a very effective lower body workout. You are able to push down against a progressive resistance to work the quads, glutes, hamstrings and calves.
The stair stepper does a far better job than an elliptical at working the lower body muscles.
Elliptical machines provide a great cardio workout due to the fact that you are working more of the body’s muscles, which forces blood to be pumped all over the body. On an elliptical, you can do low-intensity steady state as well as high intensity interval training (HIIT), which you cannot do on the stair stepper.
The stair stepper provides an effective cardio workout, as it challenges your muscles and forces your heart to work harder to supply the oxygen and nutrients your muscles need.
Elliptical machines provide you with a more effective cardio workout.
Calories Burned And Weight Loss
The Harvard Research also indicated that you can burn, again depending on how much you weigh, between 270 and 378 calories, if you are exercising at the same intensity as on a stair stepper.
Research by Harvard Health Publishing indicates that a medium-intensity workout on a stair stepper will, depending on how much you weigh, burn between 180 and 252 calories in 30 minutes. By speeding up, you will be able to burn more calories.
Mainly because it involves the muscles of the entire body, you will be burning more calories when you exercise on an elliptical compared to a stair stepper machine.
Strength And Endurance
Elliptical machines will help to improve your muscular endurance but nowhere to the extent that a stair stepper will. That is because they do not generate the same level of resistance that is focused on the lower body.
The stair stepper does a great job of building strength and endurance in the lower body. That’s because you’re pushing down against a resistance on every step. The repeated pushing down will build muscular strength and endurance in the quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves.
The stair stepper wins out over the elliptical when it comes to strength and endurance.
Elliptical Vs Stepper For Knees
The elliptical is a closed chain exercise. That is because you do not have to lift your foot off the foot platform to complete the exercise. As a result, there is very little impact on your joints, including your knees.
The stair stepper requires you to lift your foot off the platform step and then place it on the next step with every foot movement. Over time that puts a lot of impact stress on your knees.
The elliptical does a better job of protecting your knees than the stair stepper.
Check our review of the best mini-stepper for confined spaces.
Key Things To Remember For Weight Loss
Burn More, Eat Less
Reduce your calorie consumption so that you are eating fewer calories than you are burning each day. This will force the body to turn to stored body fat for its energy needs.
Eat Plenty of Protein
Protein is the most satiating of the three macronutrients. It is also the most thermic, meaning that it takes more calories to digest protein than it does carbs and fats. In addition, protein is what builds muscle. The more muscle you have on your body, the faster your metabolism will be and the more fat you will burn at rest. As a result of all this, you should aim to eat 1.5 grams (0.05 oz) of protein for every pound of body weight.
Eat More Fiber
Fiber helps you to lose weight. It takes up bulk in the stomach to help fill you up. Fiber is also an excellent digestive aid. Nuts and cruciferous vegetables are good sources of fiber.
Cut Back On Sugary Carbs
Sugary carb foods will make your insulin level skyrocket, which will in turn, lead to food binging. Remove as many sugary carb foods as you can. This should include soft drinks, pies and pastries. Replace these foods with cruciferous and starchy vegetables, along with fruit.
Drink a half gallon (1.8 l) of water daily. Sip water while you are exercising. Drink a glass of water before your meals.
Rest is very important to exercise success. Aim to get 7 – 9 hours of sleep each night. Go to bed and get up at the same time each day. Keep all technology out of the bedroom.
Focus On Good Form
Be sure to get a full range of motion, striding completely. Maintain an upright posture throughout your entire exercise session.
Pay Attention To Resistance
The more resistance you use, the more you will be burning calories and the more you will be making your muscles stronger. By gradually increasing the resistance of your workout, you will avoid hitting a plateau and continue to make progress.
Elliptical Vs Stepper: Which Is Better For Runners?
There is no objective answer to the question of which is better for runners. It really comes down to which one you personally prefer. After all, that is the one that you will do most often. As we have seen, both the elliptical and the stair stepper will provide a very good workout, so go with the one that you find the most enjoyable.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Elliptical Burn More Calories Than Stair Stepper?
Yes, the elliptical does burn more calories than the stair stepper. According to research done by Harvard Health Research, a 30-minute stair stepper workout will burn between 180 and 252 calories. This compares to between 270 and 378 calories for the elliptical, depending on how much you weigh. The main reason for the difference is that the elliptical works more of the muscles of the body.
Is A Stepper Good For Losing Weight?
Yes, a stepper is good for losing weight. In a 30-minute medium-intensity exercise session on a stair stepper, you can burn between 180 and 252 calories, depending on how much you weigh. To benefit from this exercise, you should also cut back on your food intake so that you maintain a daily caloric deficit.
Which Is Better: A Mini Stepper Or A Mini Elliptical?
A mini elliptical is better than a mini stepper. That is because an elliptical trainer will do a better job of burning calories, as well as working the muscle of both your upper and lower body. The elliptical trainer is also better for your knee, hips and ankle joints. However, the stair stepper will give you a better lower body workout and will improve your stamina and endurance levels.
Both stair steppers and elliptical machines provide you with a very good cardiovascular workout. They both burn calories effectively and work the muscles of your body. In this elliptical vs stepper comparison, we have seen that the elliptical trainer is better for working all of the muscles of your body, losing weight and burning calories. However, stair steppers are the better option for lower body development.
Click here to see the review of the best elliptical machines on the market right now.