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Several years ago I had wanted to buy a cardio device to help me on my fitness goal and had pursued research on both treadmills and ellipticals. I did wind up buying an elliptical that was a factory refurbished and returned one for a good price, and I used it often at first.
The thing was extremely large and bulky for my office, I had no other space in the house for it and it started squeaking and didn’t provide enough impact for my intention which was to build muscle. However, I do believe that ellipticals are better as you can adjust the setting to get a much greater impact for your leg muscles than you can with just a treadmill. The smooth motion doesn’t cause the knee problems that can be associated with a stair machine, which does the greatest muscle impact, but can be hard on your knee’s if you bend them at too much of an angle.
In the end I donated my elliptical and traded it for a weight bench that can do both arms, chest and 2 types of leg curls. Now I just run up and down the stairs holding weights in my hands for my aerobic exercise. For my house there just wasn’t enough space in my office for both a weight bench and an elliptical and I found a weight bench was better suited toward what I was looking to achieve (upper body strength increase and muscle growth).
For women I imagine that ellipticals are probably much more likely to be used than a weight bench and would think it is a good choice for women looking to work out. Choose one of the newer ones that have stair like movements. The one I had previously was one where the sides would circle and the elliptical would extend the poles out in front and behind as you used it. The ones that look more like stair machines are better in my opinion and are closer to stair machines for growing your leg muscles.
Remember the key to losing weight, the more muscle you gain the faster you lose weight and firm up. Cardio is great for building fitness and endurance, but if you are looking to tone and drop pounds fast, building muscle is more efficient and will give you faster results.