Not only does the stepper sculpt your buns and thighs nicely, but the activity packs a healthy dose of cardio exercise. This is good news if you love stepping, because cardio, or aerobic, activity incinerates calories while helping to protect you from cardiovascular disease. To count as cardio, an exercise must last 10 minutes or longer, raise heart and breathing rates and involve a major muscle group. Steppers have most of this covered -- now it's just up to you to use your machine.
Steppers for Cardio
Steppers come in many forms: Some resemble moving staircases, while others consist of two independent pedals. While most steppers provide similar aerobic benefits, mini steppers may prove too awkward to use for prolonged periods, according to the American College of Sports Medicine -- and if you can't use your machine long enough, you won't reap the cardio rewards. Regardless of the machine you choose, stepping can be tough. If you get too tired on the stepper, spend some time on a treadmill or stationary bike -- or simply take a walk -- to get in a full cardio workout.
Cardio is only effective when you do it regularly, which is why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise every week, or at least 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise per week. Using a stepper at a slower pace provides moderate cardio, and you'll know you're in this zone if you can speak freely but not sing; for a vigorous workout, pick up the pace or increase resistance until you can't complete a full sentence without catching your breath.
Steppers for Intervals
Beyond traditional cardio, the stepper can offer top-notch high-intensity interval training (HIIT). This type of cardio burns calories faster than steady-state exercise, according to MayoClinic.com, and also adds some excitement to your workout. To perform HIIT on the stepper, start out with three to four minutes at a gentle or moderate rate. Then bump up the speed or resistance until you reach maximum effort, and sustain the high intensity for 30 to 60 seconds. Return to an easier pace, and repeat the cycle for five or more intervals.
Steppers can be hard on your knees and ankles, so they may not be safe if you have any joint issues. In addition, steppers are only effective if you use proper form: Avoid leaning on the handlebars, and keep your back straight and your chin up as you step. If you're new to exercise or have any medical conditions, see your doctor before starting a new workout routine.
- ShareCare.com: What is Cardiovascular Exercise?
- American College of Sports Medicine: Selecting and Effectively Using an Elliptical Trainer or Stair Climber
- MayoClinic.com: Rev up Your Workout with Interval Training
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity do Adults Need?
Nina K. is a Los Angeles-based journalist who has been published by USAToday.com, Fitday.com, Healthy Living Magazine, Organic Authority and numerous other print and web publications. She has a philosophy degree from the University of Colorado and a journalism certificate from UCLA.