Mini Elliptical vs Mini Stepper – Which is Better?

Mini Ellipticals and Mini Steppers were both designed to assist people who want to exercise from home. These kinds of machines are excellent starter machines for people who are new to cardio and are interested in weight loss. Though both types of equipment are portable, easy to store, and relatively inexpensive, they differ when it comes to the kinds of results, they can help you achieve. In this article, I will explain the differences between these two machines so you can decide which is best for you.

How do they work?

Though both machines look very similar, they are fundamentally different. When using a compact elliptical machine (the small version of the traditional elliptical trainer), you mount the footplates and move them through an arc. Your body weight is evenly spread over both feet while you make a walking motion.

When using a mini stepper, the smaller equivalent to a full-sized step machine, you mount the footplates and press on them to create an up and down climbing motion, like you're climbing stairs. Your body weight becomes focused through each leg you put pressure on, so resistance shifts from one side of your body to the next.

Low Impact Workouts - Mini Elliptical vs Mini Stepper

Compact steppers and compact ellipticals machines offer low impact exercise. What's the difference between this kind of equipment and high impact exercise? If you're engaged in an exercise that requires your feet to leave the ground, it's high impact. Over time, doing these kinds of exercises can cause stress on your bones and joints and promote injury. Using steppers and ellipticals, your joints will never be unsupported and you should avoid any kind of joint injuries.

Some might argue that the portable elliptical is less stressful on your joints than the mini stepper. Step machines require you to shift your body weight from leg to leg as you exercise. When using portable elliptical machines, your body weight is more evenly distributed. Still, the trade-off is that the exercise isn't as intense.

Aerobic Cardio Workouts

As thighs and glutes are engaged when using both of these machines, you can use either for calorie burning aerobic cardio workouts. An under-desk elliptical trainer is likely the better cardiovascular option as you are more likely to get the results you’re looking for. Using a portable stepper might result in a poor workout should you fail to use the proper technique. For example, you should bounce your steps when exercising on a stepper. You should be trying to push with your thighs to get the best results while you step.

To get an effective cardio workout, you're going to want to get your heart rate up to 60 to 80% of your maximum heart rate. In case you didn't know, your MHR is calculated by subtracting your age from the number 220.

For fitter people, higher levels of exercise intensity are required as they tend to have higher stamina in their hearts and lungs. Beginners can likely reach their maximum heart rate on mini steppers without any difficulty. While beginners are should benefit while using either a mini stepper or a mini elliptical, a mini elliptical is recommended if cardiovascular exercise is your priority. If you're more athletic, you might find these machines offer less useful features than other exercise equipment for getting the heart pumping.

mini elliptical

Do They Promote Weight Loss?

If you're looking for weight loss, you'll want to use the machine that will get you results. There are formulas that you can use to calculate the amount of exercise that you'll need to do to burn calories. Check my calorie burning calculator here. These formulas require a variety of details such as current weight, age, and so on. But heart rate is this highest priority. The exercise machine that maintains a higher heart rate will burn more calories and result in more significant weight loss.

The mini elliptical is likely to be the better choice for weight loss, considering what I’ve listed before involving aerobic cardio workouts. A mini stepper can be a little less impactful.

Mini Stepper Weight Loss

The heavier you are, the more calories you'll tend to burn when using a Mini Stepper. A 125-pound person is likely to burn 180 calories doing 30 minutes of stepping. A 185-pound person is likely to burn about 266 calories. Harvard Health Publishing has more information on all of these topics.

Building Muscle

Though both machines engage the lower torso and legs, they do not target the exact same muscle groups. The muscles are not exerted in equal measure on both machines.

Compact ellipticals engage the hamstrings, glutes, and the core muscles that you use for balance, including your abs and lats. Portable step machines put more pressure on your calves, glutes, quadriceps, hip flexors, and your core muscles.

Like walking or running, exercising on an elliptical is a momentum action. Rather than lifting the body, the muscles are used to propel the legs along. When you use a stepper, the action is weight resistance. As your weight shifts, you must press against the resistance of the next step. If your goal is to tone your legs and develop a more shapely figure, then the mini stepper will be a better choice for your needs.

In summary, the mini stepper is your prime choice is for looking to tone your legs and butt, with an emphasis on fitness and weight loss. The mini elliptical is better suited for individuals looking to concentrate on general fitness levels and weight loss. So while these two machines are similar, you can now see how they differ.

How to Use a Mini Elliptical vs Mini Stepper

  1. Set your feet on the pedals facing the monitor.

  2. Start pedaling to wake the machine.

  3. Try pedaling at an even pace, maintaining a smooth rotation.

  4. Keep your knees slightly bent

  5. Increase resistance, as is necessary.

Mini Stepper vs. Treadmill

You can burn up to 330 calories doing a 30-minute workout on a treadmill, while you will burn about 180 calories on a mini stepper in the same amount of time. Deciding which machine is best for you will depend on your goals. If you're trying to burn more calories, a treadmill is a superior choice. But if you're just looking to achieve some light cardio with limited space, you should go for a mini stepper.

Benefits of a Mini Stepper with Elastic Bands

Elastic bands are a great way of engaging the arms and upper body while using a stepper. Without them, you will only be exercising your lower body. So finding a model with elastic bands is a great idea for a more economical way of achieving a full-body workout. For a great example of this, check out my review of the Kuokel Mini Stepper.