Stair Stepper Buyers Guide :: How to Choose the Best Stepper For Your Budget

If you’re just starting out with home fitness, I would bet you are just a tiny bit confused right now. The choices for stair steppers and elliptical trainers is endless. Some have great reviews, at the same time they have really bad ones too! Who are you to believe?

This is the reason we have written this unbiased buyers guide. To take the guess work out of the whole experience for you, making it a lot easier to choose the right model for your needs, and one that fits your budget.

Now more than ever, it is important to focus on your health, your weight and your level of exercise.

There is a global epidemic of obesity in the western world, and it is only getting worse! Obesity has been dubbed by scientific researchers, the ‘silent killer’ because it is causing an endless list of chronic and killer diseases like cardiovascular (heart) disease, type II diabetes, (increased risk of) strokes, high blood pressure, liver disease and many more.

Many times, these are preventable conditions. And all it takes is a little change in the way you eat and your lifestyle habits. ANYONE can (usually) prevent these diseases from occurring.

By making these small, but fundamental modifications to the way you live, you can really make radical improvements to how you feel, how you look and how other people perceive you. And there is no better, safer and fun way to boost your level of fitness and lose weight at home, than by working out regularly on a step machine or elliptical trainer, that you can often fold up and file away out of site.

Why Not Just Do Stair Stepping on Your Stair Case at Home?

  • Stair stepping on your stairs is high impact V’s stair stepper machines are low impact on your knee and ankle joints
  • stair walkingIf you live in a busy household, you need to move out of the way to let other people pass you on the stairs (ok, this is not a highly valid reason, but still holds true)
  • If you prefer your privacy while exercising, which many people do (men and women), you don’t get that on your home/work stair case (a more valid reason, yes?)
  • Stair case stepping can damage your wooden steps (over the course of weeks or months of using your stairs, you increase the use by over 1000% or more)
  • Stair stepping can get boring, particularly if you are not a fitness fanatic, but you can place a step machine in front of your television and watch your favorite show
  • A stepper machine will not wear out your carpet!

Whilst there are many effective ways you can exercise at home, to lose weight and get in shape, the step machine offers many benefits compared to most other types of fitness machines and body weight workouts.

Not only is a workout on a stepper a lot of fun and a great way to burn calories and fat, but the advantage of exercising on one of these is that you will tone every muscle in your lower torso, from your buttocks right down to your calf muscles.

What is a Stair Stepper and What Does it Do?

A stair stepper is a unique fitness machine that you find in all good membership gyms (commercial models) and home gyms (or front rooms, kitchens and bedrooms), that mimic walking up a flight of stairs. We’ve already compared stair walking to stepping on an ergonomically designed home fitness machine, but to emphasize again – the advantage of using a step machine is that they use a resistance piston system which eliminates the harshness to your joints that is caused when your foot hits the bottom of the step. These are smooth on a stepper, but on a staircase, your knees take all the shock.

Top Ten Benefits of Using an Exercise Stepper Machine?

  1. Improved Fitness and Endurance
  2. Burns Calories and Weight Loss
  3. Improved Cardiovascular Health
  4. Muscle Toning
  5. Low Impact Workouts
  6. You Can Exercise at Home (or Work)
  7. Inexpensive to Buy
  8. Do Not Require Much Space
  9. Improved Balance and Stability
  10. Increase Your Longevity

sunny twister stepper There are several types of fitness machines which offer similar benefits of using a stair stepper, but none of them offer the same versatility. And what I mean by that is that you can’t lug a treadmill or stationary bike around with you, if you wanted to exercise in your lunch time at work. Nor do those types offer you the option of adding upper body resistance to your workouts. The same goes for a rowing machine; you’d look pretty silly dragging a rowing machine around with you, if you wanted a lunch time cardio session!

“You mentioned upper body workouts. How do you do that on a step machine?”

You may have seen them, but not realized what they are for. But when you add a set of rubber resistance bands to a stepper workout, you are able to ‘hit’ every muscle group in your body. This adds to your calorie burning and muscle toning efforts. In fact, it probably gives you double the benefits of just stepping!

Depending on your goals of using a stepper, you can lose a ton of weight by maximizing fat loss exercises, you can improve muscle tone and you can really improve how your cardio system functions. By improving your cardiovascular health through exercise, you will be able to live (depending on other factors like diet and genetics) free of health concerns.

From doing minimal exercise to taking regular step workouts, you will feel and see improvements in all those areas in no time at all. All you need to do is have the dedication to follow through with your goals, until you reach your targets.

developing core musclesFrequent workouts on a stepper will also help to improve your core stability and your balance. This will improve your posture and your gait (the way you walk and stand). In fact, it was for the purpose of rehabilitation that StairMaster Steppers were originally designed. They do this by improving your core/trunk muscles. This again can be enhanced by adding rubber resistance bands to your workout, for a more intense set of exercises.

Mind you, when we talk about ‘more’ or ‘higher’ intensity workouts, this does not mean that you are going to exert yourself to the point of danger. Whatever exercise plan or machine follow or use, you should always work to your own limits to avoid injury and stress on your body. When, and if the time comes for you to ‘up your game’, you will know.

Stair Steppers and Your Budget – Finding the Right Stepper for You

finding the right stepperWhen you are buying a stair stepper you have to consider the quality of a stepper and also your available finances to buy one.

Remember: A step machine is an investment in your fitness and in your health. It is something that you will hopefully use for many years to come, and one that can be used by other members of your family and household.

So it’s better to buy a high quality stepper that is going to cost a little bit more, rather than buy a cheaper stepper of much lower quality. There could be nothing more disappointing and frustrating than returning to the place you bought your shiny new fitness machine after only a few months or a year, looking for a replacement machine because the last one failed or just wore out!

Many consumers waste lots of money replacing low quality steppers every year, because theirs keeps breaking and cannot be used for purpose.

The following list is a general price range for the most popular types of stair stepper (don’t worry if you don’t know the difference between each type of stepper – we will cover that below):

precor AMT Top 3 Stair Steppers: $110 – $3,699

Top 3 Mini Steppers: $55 – $81

You don’t have to choose the most expensive stepper, but you certainly don’t want to buy an inferior or the cheapest one. Quality and durability is what you will be looking for and you won’t get that with the cheapest models. Buying a quality stair stepper will help you to avoid frustration and more expense at a later date.

We will help you make the right decision. Once you know what type of stair stepper you want, we will direct you to our recommended stepper webpage that shows the top three steppers of that version. Included in that, we will cover the various budget ranges so you choose the best stair stepper for your money.

What is the Difference Between a Stair Stepper, Mini Stepper, a StairMaster Stepper and an Elliptical Trainer?

So let’s look at each type of stepper and emphasize the good points and the bad points.

[1] Stair Steppers

difference between steppersThese machines (excluding Stairmaster) are generally bigger machines, that you will normally find in memberships gyms. They are also a huge favorite among home gym owners, and are in the medium-high price range ($110 – $1,400.00).

Although they tend to be heavier and more stable than say a mini stepper or mini elliptical trainer (see below), they also boast a higher level of quality. They have hand rails for safety and some models are connected to an electricity supply (Some are motorized, while others are manual).

Motorized steppers offer you regulated movement of stepping, which means that while you press one step down, the other is returned with the help of the motorization. With a manual stepper, you do all the work; while you push one step down, the other step is returned to the start position.

What’s good about them?

  • Solid, sturdy and offers a lot of stability
  • Durable – This type of stepper will give you many years of cardio
  • Manual versions are generally quieter
  • Perfect for any home gym, but generally require more space (particularly motorized models)
  • More suitable for the ‘heavier’ person, compared to a mini stepper which have maximum user weight guidelines

What’s bad about them?

  • Price tag – higher quality means more money
  • Motorized steppers require more space (manual versions do not)
  • Too heavy to take traveling
  • Motorized steppers are noisier

Check out our Top 3 Recommended Stair Steppers

[2] Mini Steppers

A mini stepper is what it’s name suggests – a ‘mini’ version of its big brother, the stair stepper. They are lightweight and portable, most of which do not have side rails (some do), and many of them offer a more varied workout than the larger versions.

Some can be used with resistance tubes, which are made of elasticated rubber and are great for adding in a whole range of upper body exercises. Some mini steppers offer twisting actions or side stepping actions, which would give you a totally different feeling in your leg and buttock muscles.

What’s good about them?

  • Lightweight and portable
  • Price tag – more affordable
  • You can add resistance bands for upper body workouts
  • Compact, which means they are easy to take traveling

What’s bad about them?

  • Depending on the model, they are not usually made of high quality
  • Some break quite easily and are unreliable
  • Not as sturdy
  • Some models are ‘too’ lightweight and move during your workout
  • Not suitable for heavier people
  • Not very durable if you are using it every day

Check out our Top 3 Recommended Mini Steppers

[3] StairMaster Steppers

StairMaster undoubtedly make the highest quality of ‘step mills’ and climbers. They are the ‘kings’ of all stepping machines. Stairmaster have been around for thirty years, and have been time tested as the best on the market – if you can afford the price tag. Some operate on a moving stairway, like the Stepmill, while others are similar to a normal step machine and have two foot plates that move independently.

Choosing between the escalator type and the independently stepping Stairmaster model is a matter of personal choice. The Stepmill offers a more realistic stepping action, because you are actually walking up steps, but this type of machine is a lot larger, requiring more floor and ceiling space.

stairmaster stepper reviewsWhat’s good about them?

  • Highest quality of all stepping fitness machines
  • Probably the best workout you will get from one fitness machine
  • Users say Stairmasters are ‘addictive’, so you will want to be using them in your weight control plan

What’s bad about them?

  • Huge price tag makes them un-affordable to many people
  • Risk of injury if you fall backwards (but that is unlikely, as you have hand rails to hold)
  • Requires a lot of floor space and head room
  • You must be alert while exercising – to know when the next step is coming

[4] Elliptical Trainers

elliptical trainer reviewsElliptical Cross Trainers are a version of a stair stepper, but offer a back and forth ski action. Just imagine being on a pair of cross-country ski’s – it is the same action. The higher quality ellipticals have ski handles as well, which work in the opposite direction of each foot as you step/ski. The benefit of these is that they offer a permanent upper body resistance workout, which means you burn more calories.

But the greatest thing about them is that they are even more kind to your knees, than all the other types of stepper because there is not really a step at the bottom – it is a kind of circular motion.

What’s good about them?

  • High calorie burning and a more challenging workout
  • Low impact which means they won’t stress your joints
  • Smooth action, means you don’t get the feeling of ‘bouncing’ like you do with some steppers
  • Offers an alternative movement to stepping, which is great if you are not a fan of stair walking

What’s bad about them?

  • Smaller units are less stable – balance may be an issue
  • Larger machines require bigger floor space
  • If you are taller or heavier, you should really invest in a high price tag elliptical as some do not suit your build

Some Things to Consider Before Your Purchase

How much floor and ceiling space do you have?

If you are buying a mini stepper, then all you really need to consider is the available storage space, because you can use them pretty much anywhere. But if you are buying a larger machine, a larger elliptical or a Stairmaster, then you should measure your available floor space and ceiling height, because because some machines have a big base and are tall. That means you need to add your height to the top step, and if you have less height then that type of machine is not for you.

How easy is it to move your fitness machine?

Does it come with wheels on one end (so you can tip it up and push it around)? Do you require more than one person to re-locate your machine because it is heavy? This is important if you live alone. If you need to move it in it’s assembled state, you may need to consider weight.

Do you really want a stair stepper?

Think about your lifestyle and what you may be doing in six months. Do you think you will get bored working out on stepper because it’s actions are quite limited? Does a stepper really suit your fitness and cardio goals?

If you have other methods of achieving your fitness goals, then a stepper will fit in just fine, but if it is to be your sole way of losing weight and toning muscles, then you may want to consider the elliptical version or at least a high quality mini stepper which comes with resistance tubes as these are more resilient and reliable.

How easy will it be to assemble your new machine?

This is especially important if you live alone or are perhaps a female who is not very strong, as some of the parts can be quite heavy. If you’re a versed with lifting heavy things, then this should not deter you – actually, can you come and help me construct my elliptical trainer please?!

A Motorized or Manual Stepper?

A motorized stepper is more fluent than a manual one. They are similar to the steppers you see in fitness centers. And they are lower impact than manual steppers.

A manual stepper is cheaper than a motorized one. They are also quieter than motorized steppers.

Computerization – What do you need to see?

Whichever type of stepper or elliptical trainer you decide upon, there are a few fundamentals that you will want the computer or LCD screen to display. They are:

  1. Steps climbed
  2. Calories burned
  3. Time
  4. Heart rate (do you want one that connects to a heart monitor?)
  5. Distance
  6. Programs – Generally found on more expensive steppers

Stair Stepper Warranties

It’s always good to have ‘piece of mind’ and know that your new fitness machine is covered by the manufacturer’s warranty. Many of steppers (and elliptical trainers) come with a five year warranty, some even with a ten or twenty year warranty.

Before you go ahead with your purchase, it’s always best to double check if and what type of warranty you will be covered by. One of the best places to discover this is in the product reviews, where you will learn of other people’s experiences.

Stair Stepper Reviews – What Do Other People Say?

It’s good to know that many other people have purchased the same item before you. So you will get ‘real’ opinions, good and bad, before you click the ‘buy button’ and part with any money!

You will learn:

  • How easy to use the stepper is
  • How easy is it to construct (if necessary)
  • Price satisfaction
  • Durability
  • Stability – does it move during exercise?
  • Does it break easily
  • If the manufacturer customer service was acceptable (in case you do have problems in the future)
  • Is the workout you get really that good, or would you be better off buying a different one
  • Did it come with training advice and guidelines?
  • Replacement product or parts

Where to Go From Here

We hope that you have found this guide useful and has helped you make a decision on which type of exercise stepper you want to buy. We have set up several web pages that show you our top 3 steppers in each of the four categories. These steppers are at the lower, middle and high price ranges. That way you can further decide what type and model of stepper will suit your needs as well as your available finances.

Click the links below to view our Top 3 Recommended Stair Steppers:

1. Top Stair Steppers

2. Top Mini Steppers

How to Get Our Daily Fitness Tips and New Product Releases Directly to Your Inbox

The StepUp4Fitness team take our health and fitness very seriously, and we want to help you do the same. So we have set up a free “Daily Fitness, Weight Loss and New Product Releases” Newsletter. Sign up here to get our daily newsletter sent directly to your inbox. We will send you tips on losing weight, how to use fitness equipment more effectively to maximize your exercise sessions and we will also send you information (as we get it) about new product releases.

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