Features to look for
Check that the resistance levels cover a wide range; the higher levels should be very difficult or at least make you struggle. As your fitness increases, it's important the cross trainer can grow with you. Some also allow you to change the angle of platform to work different muscle groups.
Make sure it has a number of different programs so you can add some variety to your exercise regimen. Variety can keep your training interesting and help keep you motivated. Some can be connected to the internet for online workouts, interactive programs or to follow running routes using Google Maps.
These should be easy to understand and use.
It should be comfortable to use, and your body should be well clear of any parts such as a bottle holder. The moving arms shouldn't bump into you and the display should be clear and easy to adjust.
If you're on the heavy side, check the recommended user weight — some have a limit of only 90–100kg.
Construction and design
- It should be sturdy with well-fitting parts. If it's heavy, it's probably an indication of more metal than plastic parts.
- Look for smooth motion and a smooth change between resistance levels.
- A wider footprint (i.e. bigger at the base) means it's more likely to be stable when you exercise at a higher intensity (which means there's more sideways movement of your body).
- Check the stride length when you test the machine. More expensive cross trainers tend to have a longer stride, which may give you a more effective workout.
A pulse sensor on the moving handles – or even better, pulse sensors on both the moving and fixed handles – is good for monitoring your heart rate (though a good-quality chest-strap monitor will be more reliable than most pulse sensors).
Other useful features
A water bottle holder, a phone holder and tablet mount above the display panel are potentially useful additions.
Warranty and service
Check the warranty and service agreement. Cross trainers are bulky and although they're usually not that difficult to put together, you wouldn't want to have to take one apart and transport it for a service. Check whether the supplier or manufacturer provides an at-home service. Some models can have a very short warranty period of as little as 90 days. Look for a model that has at least a year. For expensive purchases such as these, your statutory warranty rights should cover you for at least that long anyway.
They range in price from $300 to $6000. There's a big difference in features, sturdiness and quality between these price extremes.
Tips for using your cross trainer
- Don't be over ambitious – trying to work out for an hour every day is a surefire way to overtire and get bored fast.
- Try short intervals every second day or so, and build up slowly.
- Mix it up – include other elements in your exercise regimen, such as swimming, walking or cycling outdoors or taking a yoga class.
- If you're trying to lose weight, you'll need a good diet plan too.