Crosstrainers are lesser known cousins to cycles and treadmills, but they are coming into their own as they deliver a more intense workout. Elliptical crosstrainers can burn an equivalent amount of calories to running, but without the high impact risks to the ankles, knees, and back. Because your feet never leave the pedals, you never get a jarring on your joints, and the effect is akin to running in mid-air. Rather than the round motion of a cycle, an elliptical motion better simulates the normal motion of the foot, extension of the leg, and hip rotation during walking and running. This in itself is a good workout of the lower body, but a crosstrainer also works the upper body, by pumping the vertical handlebars. With upper and lower body working out simultaneously, your heart rate will climb swiftly, getting maximum aerobic workout and weight loss benefit. 20-30 minutes is a good time to shoot for, and you'll find yourself more tired than if you'd done either upper or lower body workout alone--great if you have little time.
There are other benefits to crosstrainers. For example, on most machines you can reverse the pedal direction, which works a different set of lower body muscles. This adds variety to the workout, as well as letting you shift focus if you're getting fatigued. Elliptical training can also build bone density and may inhibit the onset of osteoporosis if done regularly. Likewise, you can of course decide not to use the handlebars and do a lower body only workout, but then you'd be taking the "cross" out of crosstraining, losing a unique benefit of this sort of training. Many older and cheaper crosstrainers have a fan in back, but for much lower noise we'd recommend a model which uses magnetic resistance--these can be very quiet indeed, and very smooth.
There are several makes and models to choose from, but we selected the Proform 450HR Elliptical as the best of the lower cost crosstrainers for fitness and weight loss. Much cheaper than this, and you really will be buying a fragile, low feature machine. In fact even this model isn't as sturdy as it could be (we'd prefer more metal and less plastic), but it should be a good fit for the average person seeking to lose weight. If you're a bit more advanced, then go for a more expensive model like the Proform 690 Elliptical for around twice the cost, £339.
The Proform 450 has 10 resistance levels (all silent magnetic resistance) and 4 quick select programmes to choose from. There is a pulse sensor grip to monitor your pulse rate--a key piece of kit on any large home exercise gear. The pedals are oversized and the handgrips are ergonomically designed. The easy to use, blue tinted console of the ProForm 450-HR displays training feedback and tracks speed, time, distance, pulse, calories burnt, and resistance level.
The maximum user weight is 253 pounds (~18 stone). The unit itself weights a hefty 40 kilos, but the wheels make it easy to transport. The Proform 450HR Elliptical Crosstrainer has dimensions of 36 x 62 x 112 cm.
Proform is a subsidiary of Icon Health and Fitness, the world's largest fitness retail company, which includes such brands as Reebok, Nordic Track, Weider, Weslo, and others.
Prices: The Proform 450HR Elliptical Crosstrainer retails for £199, but you can get it cheaper on Amazon for around £189.