How ironic that the stride length of elliptical trainers would be the one feature that most folks don’t consider when making a purchase of one of these fitness machines. Programs, resistance levels, attractiveness, and warranty are all important of course, but the ability to work your muscle groups and heart rate properly is the goal of working out on ellipticals in the first place, isn’t it?
So that you’ll understand the concept clearly, just remember that the stride length of elliptical trainers needs to be determined by the user’s height. It needs to feel comfortable (and preferably with articulating footpads to keep your feet from falling asleep!) yet many people may not realize they are working out on a machine that is too small for them.
Generally speaking, shorter people (5’3” or smaller) can comfortably use elliptical machines that have a 16” to 18” stride length, and if you are 5’7” to 6’7” your best choice will be a 20” or 21” stride length. Any time you come across a stride length of an elliptical trainer with less than 18”, it’s going to feel less comfortable to most people, resulting in short choppy strides.
The exception would be if you are out of shape, then you may be able to work out on an elliptical trainer with a shorter length without too much discomfort. Most commercial health club models have a minimum 20” stride since the machines need to accommodate multiple users of different heights.
When you workout, the longer the stride range you can achieve the better it is for you, and any up and down motion doesn’t count. Elliptical trainers are designed to work the muscles groups of the upper and lower body but especially the legs. The amount of calories burned on an elliptical machine equals that burned on a treadmill, but with a lower impact on the joints — more akin to riding a stationary bike. If you can drop your hands to your sides and not use the handles, the act of striding and balancing yourself on a trainer helps to further target the core muscle groups.
Since every individual is different, each of us will experience different comfort levels on elliptical machines as far as ergonomics is concerned: the smoothness of the flywheel, the angle of the footpads, the brake system—all of these factors come into play. Just remember that it is the stride length of elliptical trainers that provide the starting point when deciding which model to buy for your home use.
Here is your chance to rant or rave about the elliptical you use at home or at the fitness center.