Elliptical machines are renowned for their ability to provide an all-over body workout. However, they can take up a significant amount of space in the home.
They are considered one of the bulkiest of cardio machines. But there is a solution.
This article brings you the best compact elliptical—ideal for saving space. It also addresses factors you should consider when purchasing.
What Is a Compact Elliptical?
A compact elliptical provides the benefits of an elliptical trainer, discussed below, but without the large size of a traditional machine.
Usually they are lightweight, have a small floor-area footprint and can easily be moved out of the way for storage. Despite being small, they still offer the striding function and have varying resistance levels.
In general, ellipticals (both compact and standard), come in three forms: rear, front and center drive.
These “drives” indicate where in relation to the feet the flywheel is located. The largest machines are rear drive, the smallest are center and front drive are usually middle-sized.
As using an elliptical trainer involves a little bit of technique, here is a video which illustrates how to use one:
What Are the Benefits of a Compact Elliptical?
Compact ellipticals provide numerous positives, including some of those associated with traditional, larger machines. Here is a brief guide:
It sounds obvious, but the space saving abilities of compact machines should not be underestimated. Traditional ellipticals, in some cases, can have twice the footprint size of their smaller cousins. This means compacts are particularly suited to people who have smaller rooms or homes.
Furthermore, their size can make them less of an eyesore. It may be that your elliptical has to remain in the living room or bedroom. A reduced size means it is not as obtrusive.
When I exercise at home, my favorite space has always been the living room. I have everything I need in there to keep me occupied: TV, stereo, windows that look out on the garden and often family. These things help to keep me motivated while training.
However, I do not wish to keep my elliptical in the living room, or rather my partner doesn’t, all the time.
Many compact ellipticals have a lightweight design which means they can be moved out of the way when not in use. Furthermore, wheels are increasingly being fitted to these models to allow them to be easily pushed out of the way. You do not need massive strength.
Offer a Similar Performance to Larger Machines
Do not assume that compromising on size means compromising on performance. It is true that the earliest compact machines were little more than basic step-machines with handles. However, with time, large progresses have been made.
Consider the computer you are reading this article on. As little as ten years ago it could have been twice the size and possess half the performance. Technological advances have produced a machine that does everything you need it to do, in one compact parcel.
Compact ellipticals are the same. They still provide great performance, just in a smaller area.
Provide a Full Workout
The full workout mentioned above, includes the following benefits:
According to Harvard Medical School, using an elliptical machine for just 30 minutes can burn between 300–400 calories. This would be a beneficial feature for people looking to use these machines as a way to lose weight. (1)
Raises Aerobic Fitness
Working out for 30 minutes on a compact elliptical machine will increase aerobic capacity. Rhythmic movements, combined with an increase in heart and breathing rates, can raise your fitness level.
For day-to-day life, this enables you to perform longer and harder without losing your breath. What’s more, studies have shown that aerobic exercise can prevent cardiovascular disease. (2)
With the smooth movements involved in using a compact elliptical, it is extremely low-impact. This could make it a good choice for people who have issues with joints, muscle tears or larger men and women.
After swimming, some people consider it the lowest impact exercise.
Works the Whole Body
Some machines, such as treadmills and exercise bikes, only work one area of the body. Compact ellipticals can push both the upper and lower body hard. This may be of benefit if you are looking for all-over exercise.
What to Look for in a Compact Elliptical
To help you find the best compact elliptical for your requirements, I have put together some key elements you should check before making your decision.
Naturally the key aspect of compact ellipticals is their reduced size. Most of them are under 50 inches in length. Always check the footprint to see it is suitable for your home and/or storage area.
As they are smaller, some compact ellipticals have lower weight capacities than larger versions. Ensure the machine is strong enough to take your weight, or that of any other person in the household who may use it.
Portability and Weight
If you are looking for a compact machine, one of the reasons could be that you wish to relocate it after use. That being the case, look for an elliptical that is either lightweight and/or has wheels for transport.
Being smaller in size, some ellipticals drop technology features that you may see in larger machines to save weight. If electronic monitoring is important to you (heart rate, calories burned etc.), look for a machine that includes these.
Many compact ellipticals allow you to increase resistance leading to harder workouts. If you want to push yourself to the limit, I would suggest the more resistance levels the machine has, the more suitable it is for you.
As using a compact elliptical involves a lot of movement, this can decrease stability. I would suggest, especially if you are a little unsteady, checking out the hand and foot grips on the machine to prevent slippage. Especially when you consider you will be working up a sweat.
This refers to the lateral movement of the feet during the elliptical movement. Longer legs require larger stride lengths. Plus, longer strides can also create a harder workout. Look for at least a 11-inch stride on your machine.
The Best Compact Ellipticals Reviewed (Our Choices)
Here is our selection of the best compact ellipticals available.
Sunny Health and Fitness Magnetic Elliptical Machine Trainer SF-E905
The Sunny Health Elliptical SF-E905 is a compact machine that does not compromise safety and strength.
Each leg has stabilizers which can be adjusted individually. Through a simple twist mechanism, each corner of the machine can be raised or lowered. I would suggest that this would suit people with uneven floors, especially those in older properties.
Not only does it have heavy textured grips for your feet, each footplate has a front and rear guard. This prevents them from slipping off either end. A nice feature if you are a little unsure of being raised off the ground.
The Sunny Health Compact Elliptical has a footprint of 28 inches by 17 inches by 57 inches. It is a machine that will not occupy a too prominent position in your home. Weighing 55 pounds and having feet rollers, it can be tipped and pushed away for storage.
A handy feature is the eight-level resistance dial. It is located within arm’s reach, meaning that you do not have to dismount the machine to adjust. Furthermore, this may prove attractive if you have back issues or do not want to bend over.
A modern-looking LCD screen is easily readable at chest height. It gives you all your vital information including heart rate which is measured through the hand grip pulse monitors.
This machine has a weight capacity of 220 pounds.
- Adjustable feet levels for additional stability.
- Front and rear foot guards to prevent slippage.
- Resistance control within simple arm’s reach.
- LCD screen is located high on the machine for easy reading.
- Some people may find the 11-inch stride capacity too small.
EFITMENT Compact Magnetic Elliptical Machine Trainer
With a footprint measuring just 41 inches by 26 inches by 59.5 inches, the Efitment Compact Magnetic Elliptical could suit people with very limited space.
Despite its very small size, the machine still has the capacity to cater for users up to 220 pounds in weight.
It includes a clear LCD display which is able to provide details on speed, distance, time and calories burned. Furthermore, sensors are built into the hand grips allowing you to constantly monitor your heart rate. This may be attractive if you are looking to concentrate on your aerobic performance.
One nice feature of this compact elliptical is its portability factor. Weighing 63 pounds and having attached wheels it is easily movable. All you need to do is tip onto the wheels and push. This could be useful if you wish to relocate your machine once used.
Resistance is controlled through magnetic tension—with nine settings of increasing resistance. If you are someone who wants to take this machine with you on your workout journey and push yourself hard, this may be for you.
The oversized foot plates are heavily textured meaning less chance of slippage. Hand grips are rubberized to enable a strong bond—even with sweaty palms.
- Small footprint making it ideal for the smaller home.
- Lightweight and wheels makes it easily transportable.
- Includes a tablet holder for people who want entertainment while exercising.
- Comprehensive on-board information through the LCD screen.
- Not suitable for people over 220 pounds.
- Stride is 11 inches—may prove insufficient for people with longer legs.
Exerpeutic Aero Air Elliptical
In total, the footprint of this compact elliptical is 46 inches by 19 inches by 33 inches. This makes it one of the shortest machines (after the Sunny Health P8300), which may be a consideration if you have low ceilings.
Like the Efitment elliptical, the Exerpeutic can hold up to 220 pounds. Just 51 pounds in weight and with a wheeled base, it is very easily movable and would suit someone in a small apartment.
The tech on this machine lacks a heart monitor, although it does provide information on speed, distance, time and calories burned. However, the LCD display is located low down on the machine. This may not be suitable if you have a visual impairment.
An easy-to-turn dial increases the magnetic resistance through eight different levels. This could suitable for someone who wants to build up their aerobic capacity. Although it does involve some bending at the hips to adjust.
The foot plates do have some ridging for security, but there are other models with a much more textured and rubberized coating.
Although smaller than the Efitment, it offers a larger stride of 12 inches. I would suggest this would make it more attractive for those with longer legs.
- Can accommodate up to a 12-inch stride.
- Very lightweight and portable.
- Low height makes it suitable for use in restricted ceiling space areas.
- Lacks a heart monitor—therefore not appealing for people monitoring their cardio activity.
- LCD display is a long distance from head height.
Sunny Health and Fitness Pink Magnetic Elliptical Trainer P8300
A compact elliptical with a little bit of a design twist. Instead of the standard black/gray/white colors of exercise machines, the Sunny Health comes with an attractive pink trim. This may make it suitable for those people who enjoy a little touch of quirkiness or style in their equipment.
The Sunny Health P8300 has the smallest footprint and height of all the machines in this review. It measures just 40.2 inches by 13 inches by 21.4 inches. If you are severely short on floor and ceiling space, this could be a good choice.
Even though it is small and light (55 pounds), it can easily accommodate a 220-pound person. Despite its apparent portability, this machine does not come with added wheels.
The foot plates are well textured, including feet guards. In addition to this safety feature, the stabilizers can be altered to ensure firm contact with the floor at all times—increasing solidity. For people who are a little ‘wobbly’ on exercise machines, this could be appealing.
The stand-out pink LCD screen offers information on time, distance and calories. It does not have a pulse monitor—possibly a downer if you like to keep track of cardio action.
There are eight levels of resistance to push your workouts harder. These are controlled by a dial just above waist height.
- Very compact.
- Novel design.
- LCD screen and resistance dial all within easy reach.
- Short height makes it ideal for places with low ceilings.
- Some people may not like the pink color.
- No heart rate monitor.
- Lack of transport wheels.
Measuring 50 inches by 23 inches by 63 inches, this elliptical is still small enough to be considered compact. But, it packs some heft to give it a little more adaptability. Be aware it is a little taller than other models, so is worth taking into consideration if you have low ceilings.
The 1000XL is the heaviest elliptical in this list, weighing 88 pounds. Because of its larger construction, it is capable of carrying a 300-pound person. For someone who is a little bigger than most, this may well appeal. In addition, a 13-inch stride capacity makes it suitable for those with longer legs too.
Despite its weight, a “tipping” function allows this machine to be wheeled away easily for storage.
The eight resistance levels are controlled by a dial on the center pole, meaning easy access. It is bulky, so would suit people with little dexterity in their hands.
This elliptical has one of the largest LCD screens, making it very useful for people with visual impairments. It also includes two AA batteries. This would be suitable for those who want to unpack it and use straight away.
The built-in computer provides information on calories, time and speed, together with a heart rate monitor.
The 1000XL has a flywheel which has been precision balanced. This is driven by a V-belt. Both of these factors contribute to low noise levels provided by this machine. This could be a good choice if you like to watch TV while exercising or when using it in the company of others.
Concentrically ribbed pedals ensure that the feet remain secure in place throughout the length of the workout.
- Heavy weight capacity means it is suitable for larger people.
- Low noise level during use.
- 13-inch stride length.
- May be a little heavy as a portable machine for less able people.
- Is quite tall, making it unsuitable for low-ceiling environments.
In my opinion, the best compact elliptical trainer is the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-E905. It combines a small footprint together with easy-to-access controls, heart-monitor and adjustable feet.
Having all these features in one just edges it ahead of the rest. However, there are some aspects of the other compact ellipticals that are worthy of note.
The hefty Exerpeutic 1000XL caters for larger people and those with longer strides. In addition, I like the inclusion of a tablet holder on the Efitment Compact, for boredom-beating media.
Always ensure that you find a machine to fit your space and with the capability for your weight. This will lead to years of enjoyable elliptical workouts.