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Product Review & Information

Best Folding Compact Ellipticals For Small Spaces

These compact brands are great for a smaller area in the home.

by

Product Review & Information

Best Folding Compact Ellipticals For Small Spaces

These compact brands are great for a smaller area in the home.

by PITeam

by PITeam

If you've ever worked out in a gym, you'll be familiar with the elliptical cardio machine. So, you're aware that they're generally rather bulky and not fit for at-home usage, especially in small spaces. Luckily, there are some great compact and folding elliptical machines on the market to solve this weighty issue.

A folding elliptical is simply an elliptical machine which has been designed for small spaces and home use. They are generally lightweight, compact and can be transported and stored easily. Despite their small size, they don’t skimp on effectiveness or versatility. You can get a full stride, knee-friendly, hard workout from many folding compact elliptical machine models.

Keep on reading for an in-depth review of the best folding compact elliptical machines for small spaces. We've found the best of the best and will assess each one so you can find the winner for your needs.

How do Ellipticals Help Keep People Fit?

The elliptical machine keeps you fit by making your heart and lungs work hard to keep up with the movement. Your muscles also get a workout, especially in the lower body but also in the upper body and core.


Types of Ellipticals For Home Use

Folding

Folding elliptical machines collapse into a smaller unit when they’re not in use. They give you the full elliptical walk/run experience, complete with swinging arms and a decent stride length (with exceptions, some have shorter stride lengths).

Great for small spaces, storage and transporting. Some have resistance, preset programs, and comprehensive screens, while others have resistance and a very basic screen to show time, distance, etc.

Under Desk

A tiny machine consisting only of foot pedals. It slips under your desk so you can work your lower body and core as you sit and work. Most have resistance levels so you can go light and small, or heavy and intense.

It's a seated machine as opposed to upright and only requires the feet and legs to operate. Best suited to office workers and those who are sitting for the majority of the day. A great option for super compact spaces and areas where discreteness is essential (i.e., workplaces).

Air Walker/Glider

Air walkers/air gliders are similar to elliptical machines, but they are less dense (just a frame with no flywheel). Some have resistance options while others don’t offer resistance. The legs are straighter and move back and forth as opposed to curving up, down and around in an oval shape like on the elliptical.

Air walkers generally have much longer stride limits than ellipticals. Some air walkers/gliders have pedals which can move side to side, allowing you to do side leg raises and other strength-building lower body exercises.

Stand Up/Stand Alone

These are similar to under-desk ellipticals in the sense that they consist only of pedals, and are very small. However, they can be operated both while sitting down and standing up. They work the legs but don’t have a frame or arm pedals. Great for very, very small spaces with barely any room for storage.


5 Benefits of Compact Elliptical trainers

  1. 1
    Can be done at home: 
    This is great for very packed schedules, new parents, tricky climates or simply for people who prefer not to work out at a gym.
  2. 2
    Easy to store and transport: 
    Compact, folding elliptical trainers can be stored in smaller spaces and can be easily transported when need be. They can be tucked into closets and against walls
  3. 3
    Low intensity: 
    Elliptical trainers are low-intensity machines which provide a good cardio workout without jarring and slamming the knee joints. This is great for people with "dodgy" knees
  4. 4
    Full body workout: 
    If you engage your muscles and use the swinging handles, you can work out the major muscle groups in your body which will help to lose extra fat and tone the muscles.
  5. 5
    Can be done daily: 
    You’re not tearing your muscles (as with weight training), so you don't need to rest them between elliptical workouts. Great for getting the recommended 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic exercise.

Choosing the Right Compact Elliptical Trainer

Type

If you want a strenuous, full-body cardio workout and you have the space, an elliptical machine is best. If you simply want to keep the legs moving while seated or at work, go for an under-desk model. If your budget is really small and you need a really light option, an air glider/walker could be ideal. Figure out your storage limitations and workout intensity/style expectations to pick the best.

Size When Using

It’s ultra-important to measure the space in which you intend to use your compact folding elliptical. You need enough room to get on and off the machine, and move your arms and legs with a full, comfortable range of motion. Note: sometimes a smaller machine means a shorter stride length, which isn't ideal for everyone (i.e., tall people).

Size When Storing

Figure out where you intend to store the machine and measure that space. Be clear on the dimensions of the device when it is folded, so you know you've got storage space for it before you bring it home. 

Weight (of Unit)

If the unit is going to be moved from place to place often, be sure of the weight you’re going to be lifting. If you’re going to be moving the machine on your own, find one with either a lightweight construction or wheels.

User Weight Limitation

Compact elliptical machines have a weight limit, so be sure of that before you make the purchase. The weight limit generally sits around the 220-300lb mark, so find one which accommodates you.

Performance

  • Resistance:
    Want the option for a tough, muscle-burning workout? Find a model with high resistance levels, and gentle, low levels for warm-up and cool-down. Some have reasonably high resistance even on the lowest level, so check out user reviews to gauge this.
  • Pedal directions: 
    Some air gliders have pedals which move outward so you can do side leg raises etc. for conditioning.
  • Stride length: 
    A sufficient stride length is essential for getting that full range of motion. If you're super tall and have a considerable stride length (check below the reviews for a tip on how to figure out your stride length), you'll need a generous stride length of at least 18 inches.
  • Frame: 
    Ask and answer these questions when browsing: what is the construction of the frame like? Are the materials and proportions sturdy? How many handles does it have (i.e., two long mobile and two short fixed)? What kind of padding do the handles have? What are the fittings like on the bottom of the frame (i.e., does it have grip pads?). Does it look like something you want to have in your home? What do user reviews say about maintenance and durability?
  • Incline: 
    Some compact ellipticals (especially the high-end ones) have an incline setting. This adjusts the pedals so that your legs are moving in an uphill fashion, making the movement harder on the muscles and cardio system.
  • Flywheel effectiveness: 
    The flywheel is the most significant component which usually sits at the front of your compact elliptical, to which all of the pedals and handles are attached. It's responsible for the movement of the machine. The heavier and sturdier the flywheel, the smoother and more discreet (sound-wise) your workout will be. Some brands specify flywheel weight.

Safety

  • Slip-resistant pedals:
    Look for pedals which have a slip-resistant, textured surface and a decent size to accommodate a shoe-clad foot.
  • Stabilizing handles: 
    If you’re a little shaky with balance (inner ear issues etc.) you should look for a compact elliptical with fixed (not moving) handles which you can hold as you mount the machine.

Noise Levels

Some machines are louder than others, depending on the quality and weight of the flywheel. If you're in a small apartment, you have a newborn or would prefer not to invite a noisy machine into your home, read reviews to grasp an idea of the noise level. 

Warranty

Many compact ellipticals have different warranties for different parts. Because it's an active, moving machine, a warranty is essential as there's naturally a higher risk of faults or issues. Be sure of the warranty periods and conditions before you hand over any cash.

Extra Features

  • Heart rate monitor: 
    Many compact folding ellipticals have heart rate monitors on the handles. Tracking your heart rate can help to improve your fitness and endurance if you use it strategically. This is a great resource to learn more about heart rate tracking.
  • Console display: 
    Ask and answer these questions as you browse: do you want a high-tech console which displays different program images plus your fitness stats? Or are you happy to save cash and go for a simple, bare minimum display? Do you have a preference for buttons or digital touch-screen consoles?
  • Workout programs: 
    These vary the workout options, offering different routes, resistance levels, HIIT programs, etc. instead of only using the manual function to adjust resistance and (sometimes) incline. They can make the workout more challenging, randomized (to keep the muscles guessing) and more fun, especially if there are cool visuals to follow along with.
  • Fitness tracker: 
    Some ellipticals have a fitness tracker which logs your distances, times, calories burnt, heart rate stats, etc. Others are Bluetooth enabled and can be hooked up to a fitness tracking app on your phone
  • Wheels: 
    Wheels help with rolling the unit back and forth from storage to workout area without heavy lifting 

8 Best Ellipticals for Small Spaces Reviewed

1. Schwinn 411

Top of the Range

Type

Elliptical

Elliptical Stride Length

18 inches

Size of Unit

53.8 x 24 x 62.5 inches

Weight Capacity

300 lbs

No. Of Workout Programs

27 routes

(on RunSocial app)

Warranty

~

This is a top of the range option for people who want all the bells and whistles, as well as the convenience of a compact design. However, it doesn’t fold up, so it’s not the best for transporting or for super small spaces.

It has a comprehensive console showing time, distance, calories and whichever program you have chosen. There are 13 programs, which is great for getting a varied workout. To give you an idea of the programs, some are: "Stream Crossing," "Rolling Hills," and "Ride in the Park."

There are also interval and manual buttons too, for even more variation. The handles have heart rate monitors, which is great for specific fitness and health goals. The console can connect with your other apps through Bluetooth connection.

If you want to vary your workout and make it a little more fun, you could get the RunSocial app which connects to the Schwinn 411 and has a bunch of real-life routes from different places around the world (use your tablet or phone and set it on the provided device holder).

There are 16 resistance levels. On that subject, there are quite a few reviews saying that the lowest resistance is rather high, and gets higher from there. Take that into consideration if you need a super light resistance or don’t mind a challenge from the get-go.

This reviewer summed up the durability and effectiveness of the Schwinn 411 perfectly: “The machine is rock solid and sturdy - provides a true workout."


2. Sunny Health & Fitness SF-E902

Best Fold-Up Elliptical Machine

Type

Air Walker/Glider

Elliptical Stride Length

30 inches

Size of Unit

57 x 28 x 17 inches

Weight Capacity

220 lbs

No. Of Workout Programs

~

Warranty

Frame: 1 year,
other parts: 180 days

Here we have a super affordable air glider, and as you can see, it’s far more slight in frame and size than the model above! (Remember the air glider design means that the legs go back and forth as opposed to a closed oval shape like the elliptical).

This machine has an abdominal pad which gives you a little extra support, but you can leave it off if you want to work the stabilizer muscles a little more. There are no resistance levels or programs, but one user has explained that they add bands/cords to add resistance.

This model really does deliver on the compact, fold-up promise. It folds up like an ironing board so you can lean it against the wall in a garage or large closet. The construction is pretty decent, just keep an eye on all the joining bolts and screws for extra stability. When it’s in action mode, it’s still small and not bulky at all.

If you are over or close to 220 pounds, I would find a different machine, as the weight tolerance on this one isn't as high as others. In terms of exercise level, this is more for general activity and getting the blood flowing as opposed to a hardcore workout. For that reason, it would suit people who are just getting into fitness, the elderly, or anyone who needs something to keep them moving during TV sessions and to keep the lower body and core engaged.

It has a small screen which lets you know calories burnt (don't take this as gospel, calories are precise to the person), time and distance. The footplates are nice and large, with non-slip coverings, which is great for safety.

This comprehensive user review gives a great idea of what to expect and who the machine is best suited to "...Love this machine! I’m a 46 year old man with multiple orthopedic problems the low impact aerobic exercise is perfect. My heart pumps and my body sweats...”.


3. NordicTrack Spacesaver SE7i

Best Folding Elliptical + Cross Trainer

Type

Elliptical + x Trainer

Elliptical Stride Length

18 inches

Size of Unit

78.7 x 31.9 x 67.0 inches

Weight Capacity

325 lbs

No. Of Workout Programs

24

Warranty

Frame: lifetime,
parts: 2 years,
Labor: 1 year

Next up is a much pricier option with a much larger footprint. The NordicTrack is “compact” for large spaces, as it still does take up a pretty large chunk of room when it’s in working mode. It does fold up, so it can be tucked into the corner of a garage or home gym, but it’s not indiscreet or lightweight by any means.

This is a machine to invest in if you're serious about your at-home exercise and want every feature you can find, all in one. It has speakers, fan, tablet holder, heart rate monitor, 8 incline levels, 5-inch backlit screen, 22 resistance levels, and a drink bottle holder. 

You can sign up to the NordicTrack iFit app to access thousands of scenic workout routes and class-style workouts with a trainer. Set your tablet on the tablet holder and choose what route/workout you want. This is a cool feature for anyone wishing to use this regularly and change things up with some pretty impressive visuals. The workout possibilities are great as you can go light and low or really ramp the incline and resistance and work the body hard.

If you’ve got enough space to accommodate this machine in both user and storage modes, and you’re strong enough to move it, then it could be great. Also, if your budget can stretch to the price, and you’re keen to work out hard, then put this on your shortlist.

They do also note that it’s rather large, so absolutely measure your space first!

Users find that the NordicTrack SE7i Elliptical is gentle on the joints but provides a great workout. For example, this review: “Wonderful workout! I use it daily and actually look forward to my workouts. Very smooth and easy on my joints”.


4. EFITMENT

Top Mid-Priced Option

Type

Elliptical

Elliptical Stride Length

11 inches

Size of Unit

41 x 26 x 59.5 inches

Weight Capacity

220 lbs

No. Of Workout Programs

~

Warranty

3 years

The Efitment Compact Magnetic Elliptical Machine Trainer is an affordable option with a compact construction. However, the compact frame does mean that the stride is a very short 11 inches. This means that your range of motion is limited, especially if you're tall.

One user described the motion as more of a "stair climber" feel as opposed to a realistic run stride. The wheels make for easy moving as you can tilt and roll the unit back and forth from storage and workout space.

Do note that this machine has a weight limit of 220 pounds, a good deal less than the standard 300 pounds. It would be best for people on the lighter, shorter side of life!

There are no programs, but there are 8 resistance levels, which means you can customize your routine manually. The digital display screen shows you: calories burned, distance, time, speed, heart rate (there are heart rate monitors on the fixed short handles). A manual dial adjusts the resistance.

The quietness and smooth motion is something many users have praised. This is due to the belt-driven flywheel, which keeps the movement controlled and quiet. If you live in a small apartment with roommates, quietness (and compact size!) is especially important.

This is an excellent choice for you if you are on the shorter side or have a small budget. It's also great if you don't require program functions, but need resistance for a harder workout.


5. Sunny Health & Fitness - SF-E905

Best Budget Option

Type

Elliptical

Elliptical Stride Length

11 inches

Size of Unit

28 x 17 x 57 inches

Weight Capacity

220 lbs

No. Of Workout Programs

~

Warranty

Frame: 3 years,
parts: 180 days

This model is pretty similar to the model above, in terms of price, stride (both 11 inches) and features. It has 8 resistance levels, heart rate monitors on the fixed handles, wheels for transporting, and a 220 lb weight limit.

The small screen displays the time, speed, distance, and heart rate, and the resistance is adjusted with a manual dial. The foot platforms are textured for non-slip safety and have high sides to keep your feet where they should be.

This model is great if you want to get a sweat up with various resistance levels, but you're not fussed about programs or fancy screens.

 It would suit someone who lives in a small space and needs a low-profile, quiet machine. If you’re tall, rethink this one as the stride length is only 11 inches. It’s affordable, so it could be ideal for a college student in a dorm who wants to keep up their fitness without paying for a gym membership, or braving the elements outside.

This review/comment provides a photo and a reassurance that the unit is great for tiny spaces!


6. EFITMENT Air Walker - E020

Best for Very Small Spaces

Type

Air Walker/Glider

Elliptical Stride Length

24 inches

Size of Unit

35 x 22 x 54.5 inches

Weight Capacity

220 lbs

No. Of Workout Programs

~

Warranty

1 year

The Efitment Air Walker is a prime example of an affordable glider which folds away for discreet storage. This particular model is a little more versatile than others in the sense that the foot pedals move side to side and in a 180-degree circle as well as back and forth. This is great if you want to tone and strengthen the lower body (especially the glutes, inner thighs, quads, etc.).

It's a glider, so it doesn't have programs or resistance, (but you can ramp your workout up by going faster and engaging the muscles more). Use the swinging arm handles for whole-body movement, or grip the fixed, short handles to focus on the lower body.

It's lightweight (only 39.5 pounds), and it has wheels, so it's effortless to move, and you won't need to get the help of someone else to shift it from storage to workout space. The small screen shows the time, distance, and calories burned.

This would be great for you if you: have a small budget, need a super compact machine, want toning and strengthening options, don’t require resistance or programs, have a long stride, and don’t exceed 220 lbs in weight. It could be perfect for apartment dwellers and students.

This user, Patricia, provides a good insight into how this machine works for particular heights and fitness levels, “This is just the right size. I'm 5'7," and the only thing I changed was to raise the handles up one hole. That does only leave it screwed into one hole but seems very sturdy. As I get more used to it, I may try adding bungee cords for more resistance".


7. Cubii Pro Under Desk

Best Compact Under Desk Elliptical

Type

Under Desk

Elliptical Stride Length

~

Size of Unit

23 x 11 x 9 inches

Weight Capacity

~

No. Of Workout Programs

~

Warranty

1 year

Now for something different. The Cubii is the best compact under-desk elliptical, but it's not exactly cheap. This tiny unit sits under your desk (or at your feet as you watch TV) as you pedal away.  It's marketed as being designed to keep the core, hip flexors, glutes, hamstrings, quads and calves in action as you sit. This is entirely possible if you engage the muscles and make use of the 8 resistance levels.

You can link the Cubii up to your phone (or other gadgets such as FitBit) and keep a record of distance covered, calories burned and steps taken. This is great for reaching a particular step or calorie-based goal as you work. Due to the office-centric intention of the design, it’s really quiet.

If your budget can reach the price point, and your job/lifestyle is making it hard to clock up enough activity, this could be a worthy investment for you. My opinion is that a chunk of money spent on fitness now will pay off in the long run. Because it's so small, it can be moved from work to home pretty quickly, and won’t clog up your storage space.

This user gives a great insight into how the Cubii can fit into the daily work life of an office worker, and also how it helps specific health issues: “...I sit at a desk all day so I am pretty much completely sedentary during work hours.

I will use this to keep moving throughout the day and keep my metabolism up. I have a thyroid issue and I've found that I see much better results with shorter more frequent workouts so this is perfect...It was very easy to put together and it is whisper quiet...Very very sturdy and well constructed. Yes it's a little pricey but it's worth it”.


8. Stamina In-Motion

Most Affordable Under Desk Elliptical

Type

Under Desk

Elliptical Stride Length

~

Size of Unit

24.5 x 17 x 11.38 inches

Weight Capacity

250 lbs

No. Of Workout Programs

~

Warranty

Frame: 1 year,
parts: 90 days

Lastly, we have a versatile little compact under-desk elliptical which can be used while both sitting and standing. You can use this machine as you sit (gaming, working, TV watching, reading) and get the blood flowing to the lower body and tone the muscles over time. Or, use it standing up for a workout more similar to a traditional elliptical, but without the arms.

The standing feature is great, as it does require the core to be engaged for proper stability. There is a dial for adjusting the resistance so you can really push the muscles, or simply keep them moving with a lighter load. Some people have commented that they use this when they are working at a stand-up desk.

We like that the pedals can move in reverse, so you can change up the movement to keep the muscles guessing. It’s only 24 pounds so you can easily carry it from room to room, from work to home, or from cupboard to floor.

This is a great option for anyone with very restrictive space, a sedentary job or hobbies, and a goal to strengthen and tone the lower body. Plus, it’s pretty affordable for the benefits you will reap.

Check out this review to get an idea of how the Stamina In-Motion Elliptical Trainer can be used to improve fitness and stability over time.


Price Range of Ellipticals

The price range is vast, from below a hundred to a couple of hundred dollars to over a thousand.

Naturally, you have to pay much more for high-tech features such as comprehensive control screens, fitness programs, and adjustable incline. The larger, sturdier machines with higher weight restrictions are generally costlier (such as the NordicTrack Space Saver).

If you want to spend a small amount (in the low hundreds), you’re looking at a simple machine with a smaller frame and the basic features (such as the Efitment). Air gliders/walkers are cheaper as they have a simpler tech (such as the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-E902). 

Weigh up the costs according to how often you will use the elliptical and if it will replace a gym membership. If you bought a high-quality elliptical machine and a few weights you could create a full-body fitness and toning schedule at home (with the help of YouTube fitness tutorials). Over a year, the savings on a gym membership would exceed the price of the at-home equipment.


Treadmill Vs. Ellipticals

Treadmills are great for runners as they can help keep up endurance and proper form when running outside is a no-go. However, they're bulky and heavy and not great for small spaces, storage, or transport.

Treadmills are far higher impact machines than ellipticals because the feet lift then pound onto the belt. Whereas, ellipticals keep the feet in contact with the pedal surface the whole time. Treadmills can tend to be loud,  while ellipticals are often very quiet.

Which one is better?

It depends! For at-home workouts in small spaces with limited storage? The elliptical is the best. For runners who need their running/sprinting fix during difficult weather? A treadmill. For people with knee and hip issues? The elliptical is the best. Cost, weight, and size-wise, the elliptical is the more economical option.


Frequently Asked Questions

What part of the body does an elliptical target?

Technically, it works the entire body because you are using your upper, lower, and middle sections to operate the machine. However, the lower body is targeted the most, especially the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves. Your arms and back do get a gentle workout too, as you're pushing and pulling the handles. You can work your core on an elliptical machine also. If you maintain an upright, strong posture and concentrate on bracing the core muscles as you move, you'll definitely feel it. 

Are ellipticals safe to use every day?

We recommend asking your doctor for personalized advice, especially if you have health issues.

However, on a general basis, yes, ellipticals are safe for everyday usage. You can get your heart rate up and achieve cardio exercise to the level that you're comfortable with, whether it's an intense, sweat-inducing workout or a gentle session to get the blood pumping. The elliptical doesn't break down or tear the muscles, so you don't need to rest and repair your muscles between sessions (like with weight training, for example).

What do I need to think about when maintaining these machines?
  • Cleaning:
    Wipe down your machine after your workout, if you’ve worked up a sweat. This will help to keep the machine fresh and dry. Plus, sweat can be corrosive after many uses, so protect your elliptical from rusting by keeping it dry and sweat-free.
  • Keeping everything screwed in tight:
    If you have a cheaper or simpler model or a basic air walker/glider, it's essential to keep the parts screwed in tight. It's merely a matter of tightening things up if you notice loose or unstable nuts and bolts.
  • Lubricating when necessary:
    Every year or so, your compact elliptical machine might need a little lubrication here and there. If you notice squeaking, odd noises or difficulty moving the parts, consider adding a small dose of lubricant. Regular usage does help to keep things running smoothly.
Do I need to consult a doctor before using an elliptical?

If you are in good health and you don't have any heart conditions or injuries, then it's safe to go ahead. An elliptical is a low-risk machine, and it can be done with high intensity or gentle intensity to suit your needs. However, if you have any health conditions which could be affected by cardiovascular exercise machines, definitely chat with your doctor. Better to be safe than sorry.

Should pregnant women use these to workout?

First of all, ask your doctor about exercising during pregnancy (especially during the later stages). Chances are, they’ll tell you to go ahead and use the elliptical machine as often as you like.

The elliptical is easy on the joints, it doesn’t involve jarring movements, jumping or heavy lifting, so it’s gentle on the body. It’s great for keeping your fitness up and keeping your muscles (especially the lower body) toned, and the blood flowing during pregnancy. This can help to ease sore muscles and cramps. Just be careful not to overdo it and take a break if you start to feel a little woozy. Be careful when getting on and off the machine!

How do I measure and determine my stride length?

Measure out a short distance then count how many steps it takes for you to get from one end to the other. Divide the distance by how many steps, and you'll have an idea of your stride. It's a good idea to walk a good 10 or so steps in the lead-up so that you get into your natural stride.

Are smaller ellipticals worth investing in?

If you want to expand your exercise routine to include at-home cardio workouts, then yes! A folding compact elliptical machine is a smart choice as it allows you to get a great cardio workout while gently toning the whole body.

A fold-away elliptical is ideal if you are time-poor and cannot get to a gym, or your climate makes outside workouts difficult or impossible. Also, if you have knee troubles and need to reduce the impact on your joints, the elliptical is the best cardio option.


Conclusion

Our top pick is the Schwinn 411 because it has great tech features and the option for plenty of different routes and programs. However, you must find the best for your particular needs. First, decide on your requirements in terms of space, storage, safety, noise, stride, weight restriction, and overall fitness goals. Use that information to narrow down on the most fitting model for you.

Good luck and enjoy your at-home workouts and the benefits they’ll bring.


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