Cardiovascular exercises (or cardio) are a great addition to your exercise routines. Like most exercises, cardio has a downside, as well. By combining it with other forms of exercises, such as high-intensity interval training and weight training, you remove as much disadvantage as possible. This allows you to get the most out of your workout.
The main benefit of doing cardio is that it trains the heart to be more efficient. Cardio is best done outside. However, there are instances that one can’t afford to jog or run outside and opt for indoor cardio exercises such as running on a treadmill.
One disadvantage of indoor cardio exercises is that it loses its appeal over time. Simply put, running on a treadmill regularly for two hours gets boring. A solution for that is to add variety.
Another useful strategy is to divide your indoor cardio exercises. For instance, you can spend an hour on a treadmill and another hour in a stepper.
What Is A Stepper
An exercise stepper is a machine that allows a person to perform a physical activity that closely resembles that of climbing stairs.
A number of clinical research reveal that walking uphill and stepping up the stairs are among the best exercises to lower blood sugar levels. People who are, for some reasons, unable to perform outdoor activities can instead benefit from walking on an inclined treadmill or a stepper.
Why Use A Stepper If You Can Just Do Stairs?
The same health benefit that a stepper provides can be acquired by walking up and down stairs. So why the need to buy one?
There are four reasons why you might opt for a stepper than real stairs.
It Is Gentler On Your Joints
Walking up and down the stairs is a high-impact activity for the joints on your knees and feet. Most stairs are built to support your weight. Thus you could expect them to be significantly sturdy. This causes a great impact on the joints, as a result.
The design of steppers minimizes the impact your legs and joints receive. That is because instead of climbing the stairs, your feet remain planted on each pedal while you push it downward.
Thus, you get the benefit of the exercise minus the downside. In addition, because of its low impact, you get to exercise for an extended period and burn more calories.
Walking up and down the stairs is both frustrating and dangerous. The cardiovascular benefits of exercising in a stair lie mostly on climbing. You waste time going down and, after a while, it becomes frustrating.
If you’re overweight or if you’ve grown weary of walking up and down the stairs after a while, the odds of an accident increase. One misstep and you’ll fall tumbling down the staircase—and there’s a chance it can end up badly.
Not only will an injury very uncomfortable, but it might also prevent you from exercising for a few months, as well. That means disaster to your weight loss goals.
A stepper gives you the same benefit while remaining in one place. You don’t need to go all the way up the stairs and then go back down to repeat the process. All you need to do is to plant your feet on the pedal and push downwards alternating with each foot.
You Get The Step Size That Is Ideal For Your Workout
You don’t get to decide the height of real stairs. If you’re going to work out with it, you’ll have to deal with what is available.
Often, the height of a stair is less than what is ideal for a person. Thus, to compensate for this, one needs to take two steps. Taking two steps, however, could prove so much.
In their book, The Lean Look, Paul Goldberg and Matthew Fitzgerald describe it well when they said that steppers are ideal because you get to adjust its step size—thus, you can make your workout challenging minus the discomfort of stepping beyond the stair height that you can.
You Can Use It After An Injury
After an injury or surgery, you might want to engage in a cardiovascular exercise to improve your fitness. With your doctor’s permission, you can use a stepper as an alternative to a real staircase.
Steppers can be customized to your comfort level. Thus you get to exercise without straining your heart or your muscles too much.
Mini-Stepper: Design And Use
A mini-stepper is a portable version of a full-size stepper. They are ideal for home gyms or for a quick workout anywhere you want. The portability and convenience of mini-steppers allow you to carry it and perform a cardio workout anywhere and anytime you want.
When it comes to exercise machines, often, size matters. This is true with mini-steppers. The reduction in its size cuts some of the features you might get from a full-size stair machine.
However, mini steppers are still capable of delivering excellent weight loss results. In the end, the result of any workout still depends on the intensity you give and the length of time you spend with it.
Unlike most stair machines which are fully automated, mini steppers are operated manually. You step on each pedal and perform a stepping motion similar to walking up the stairs. That is, you push your feet downward. You do this alternatingly with each foot.
Mini steppers come with either a resistance band or a handle. Resistance bands allow you to perform a workout with your arms while you work out with your stepper.
Some brands and versions of steppers feature a calorie counter—similar to the calorie counters of treadmills. This allows you to check how much energy you expend while you exercise.
What To Look For In A Mini Stepper
When looking for a mini stepper, you should consider the following factors:
Mini steppers are portable—that they are small compared to stair machines. However, there is no standard size for one, and you might notice that some are larger compared to others.
When selecting the right size, consider how you intend to use it. Do you intend to bring it with you? Do you plan on using it somewhere outside your home? Like, in the part or somewhere else?
If you do, you need a small stepper. Something that you can simply carry with you. Before choosing a small stepper, however, also consider your size. Can your feet fit on it? Can you step and stand on it comfortably?
Durability And Materials Used
The type of material used for the stepper significantly determines its durability. If you can’t identify the type of metal or alloy used, ask or read the product description. If you intend to use the machine for a long time, opt for something that does not rust or corrodes and can support the weight.
Most of the time, the pedals are made out of plastic. Check the type of plastic used. Look at its thickness and test its durability. Will it be able to support your weight without breaking?
Noise may or may not matter depending on your preference. Every exercise is expected to be noisy. It’s hard to keep all the movements required for a cardio exercise without making any sound.
However, some people are sensitive with how their machine produce noise. If you want a mini stepper that does not squeak when you step on it, the best way is to test it. Often, mini steppers don’t produce any sound until they’re used for a number of times.
There are a number of smaller gadgets and phone application that can serve the purpose of a tracker while you work out with your mini stepper. However, it’s a nifty addition to a mini tracker if you can check for your caloric expenditure, distance covered, time and the number of steps taken.
If you find one with a tracker along with other things listed in this section, then surely that machine is a thing to have.
As your body adjusts to the mini stepper, you’ll find that as days go on, you’ll feel less challenged by exercising on your machine. Thus, you’d want one that you can quickly adjust and increase (or decrease) the resistance.
Our Recommended Steppers for 2018
#1 Xiser Commercial Mini Stairmaster
Xiser prides themselves as the maker of the first stepping machine. They are also the manufacturer of the sole step sprint trainer available on the market.
Xier Commercial Mini Stairmaster weighs 14 lbs. and is highly portable. It is made of a very strong metal cast aircraft alloy, of which Aluminum is a primary component. It is sturdy and completely rust proof. It can carry a load just over 400 lbs.
Best for: Those who are simply looking for the best stepper, and are NOT shopping on a tight budget, this unit is expensive, but worth it.
- Very quiet. If you want a stepper that is smooth and does not produce noise, this is perfect.
- Highly portable. It is relatively small compared to other steppers in the market and is remarkably light (14 lbs.). You can carry it wherever you want and perform a cardio exercise anytime of the day.
- Very ergonomic. The machine responds to your ability and effort thus maximizing comfort. It highly minimizes the strain on the joints of the feet and legs.
- Considerably expensive. Compared to other mini steppers in the market, this one is price twice or thrice as much.
- Can’t be adjusted. You have to contend yourself with its resistance. You’ll have to use various workout techniques to benefit more from it.
- Doesn’t have a monitor. It’s just a plain mini stepper without any other function. If you want to know how much calories you burned or steps taken, you’ll have to use another gadget or phone app.
- Stepping height can’t be adjusted.
#2 Sunny Twister Stepper with Handle Bar
Sunny Twister Stepper features a handle bar that supports balance and allows other movements such as twisting and turning.
This is larger compared to Xiser Commercial Mini Stairmaster and is not ideal to be carried around. However, this mini stepper is light enough for you to move around your house. With its size and weight, this machine is perfect for home gyms.
One useful feature of this mini stepper is that it has trackers and you can access the information via an LCD monitor. You can access information such as the time (for the duration of your workout), calories expended and the number of steps taken.
Best for: Those looking for a good quality budget pick This machine is very sturdy, as well and comes pre-assembled.
- Has a tracker and LCD monitor. You can access information such as time, calories, count and scan.
- Durable. Made of heavy duty steel. You can rest assure that you can use it for long.
- Relatively cheap. Compared to other mini steppers featured in this article or other mini steppers on the market, this is among the cheapest.
- Allows balancing well. It has a handle bar that you can hold on to. Thus, it allows other movements such as turning and twisting.
- Pedals are textured and are highly slip resistant.
- Not ideal for carrying around due to its size and weight. It is still portable, though.
- You can’t adjust the resistance of the pedals.
#3 Sunny Folding Climbing Stepper
This mini stepper from Sunny makes up for what it lacks in Sunny Twister Stepper with Handle Bar—portability—by designing it to be foldable. Compared to Xiser Commercial Mini Stairmaster, Sunny Folding Climbing Stepper is nearly twice as heavy (at 29.8 lbs.), but because you can fold it, you can easily carry it wherever you want.
- Emulates mountain climbing. Most mini steppers mimic the activity of stepping into real stairs. This one emulates stepping into rocks when mountain climbing. Thus, it allows you a better workout than conventional steppers.
- Low-impact. Although it requires a lot of effort compared to standard steppers, still, it still has low impact on your legs and joints.
- Has a monitor. As with the other Sunny stepper, you can track your calories, time and steps.
- Adjustable resistance. You can increase or decrease the resistance based on your preference and your workout requirement.
- Has durability issues. Users report breaking their machine after few weeks of use.
- Not ideal for heavy people. You can easily break the machine with extreme force.
#4 Sunny Health & Fitness Twister Stepper
The design of Sunny Health & Fitness Twister Stepper is reminiscent of the Xiser Commercial Mini Stairmaster. However, this machine is heavier. Perhaps Sunny addressed the issue with portability when they had Sunny Health and Fitness Twister Stepper in mind.
This machine is small enough for you to carry around. Also, it has exercise bands so you can perform an exercise with your hands as you step on it.
The pedals are angled in a way that it allows a twisting motion rather than the conventional stair-stepping motion.
- Relatively affordable. Its size is nearly similar to that of the Xiser Commercial Mini Stairmaster with a tenth of its price.
- Adjustable. You can increase or decrease the resistance based on your level.
- Has additional exercise bands. You can work your chest, back, shoulders and arms out while you use your stepper.
- Has an inbuilt tracker. You can check your time, count, rep count and calories via LCD.
- Heavy for its size. Compared to Xiser Commercial Mini Stairmaster, it is nearly twice as heavy (21 lbs.)
- Has durability issues. Some users report that their machines broke after a few weeks or months of use.
- Weight limit is set at 250 lbs. People who weigh more than 250 lbs. will have to pass up buying this product and opt for a more expensive option.
#5 Gold's Gym Mini Stepper
If you want a cheaper and smaller alternative to Xiser Commercial Mini Stairmaster, then Gold’s Gym Mini Stepper is one of your choices.
It’s compact and light—you can carry it anywhere and perform a cardio workout anytime of the day. Surprisingly, it has a space for an LCD that allows you to monitor your steps, calories and time. Like the Sunny Health & Fitness Twister Stepper, it’s limit is set to 250 lbs., too.
- Compact and portable. You can carry it anywhere. You can also store it easily.
- Has tracker. You can check your steps, calories and time via an LCD monitor.
- Allows a low-impact workout.
- Has durability issues. Some users report breaking their machines after few times of use.
- Can’t support weight greater than 250 lbs.
- Doesn’t have a handlebar. Balancing with this stepper is difficult.
Handlebars and LCD monitors are nifty additions to a mini stepper. However, people usually plan to use their steppers for long since weight loss is a gradual and long process. Most people who want to lose weight are above 250 pounds. Thus, it is important that a stepper can support weights greater than that.
Thus, when choosing for the best stepper, we decided based on durability as well as portability. For this review, we choose the Xiser Commercial Mini Stairmaster. The lack of trackers can be dealt with using third party apps and gadgets. But they’re not that important. As long as you keep to your routine, then you’re good.
What’s important is that you can use a stepper, however heavy you are, for as long as you need, without breaking it. The Xiser Commercial Mini Stairmaster is the most durable of the steppers in this review. Not to mention that it is surprisingly lightweight.
Do you agree with our verdict? Do you have comments or suggestions? Has our article helped you in a way? Please let us know in the comment section below.