Mini steppers are a small, portable version of the large stepping machines you find in the gym. The motion of the stepper mimics climbing stairs and can provide a good fat-burning cardio workout. The mini stepper can also tone the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles, the two muscles that compose your calves; the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, gluteus minimus and tensor fasciae latae muscles in your glutes; and the hamstrings and quadriceps in your thighs. Unlike the machines at the gyms, most mini steppers do not have handles to hold on to, which is a good thing -- it forces your body to engage core muscles in order to keep your balance. Some mini steppers come with resistance bands that work your arms and upper body.
According to Calorie Lab, a 150-pound person can burn 525 calories an hour working out at medium intensity on a stepper machine. To maximize your workout time, try interval training: incorporate bursts of 30-second to one-minute intervals of high intensity stepping into your workout. To know if you are working out at a high intensity, try talking. You should only be able to get out one word when you're working at a high intensity.
While the core muscles are not a primary group of muscles exercised on a mini stepper, you can work them if you have proper form. Focus on keeping your spine straight; do not hunch or round over. Engage your abdominal muscles, focusing on keeping them contracted and firm. Visualize them supporting your body and providing a strong core for balance. Take deep full breaths, exhaling by contracting your lower and then upper abdominal muscles while pushing the air out and keeping them engaged while inhaling.
Some mini steppers come with attachable cords or cables for exercising the upper body while stepping. You can exercise your biceps, triceps and pectoral muscles by doing resistance training with the cables. Curls, flies and triceps presses are among the upper-body strengtheners you can mimic with the resistance bands. If your stepper does not come with features to exercise the upper body, you can hold a small pair of dumbbells to do arm exercises while working out.
If you are in the market for a mini stepper, try out some different models before purchasing. They are not as stable as the larger variety of the machine, so you will want to test them at different intensity levels to make sure they have a stable base. Take advantage of the portability factor; take your stepper to the office and on trips and use it, even if only for 10 minutes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you can meet your optimum 150 minutes of cardio exercise per week by breaking it up into 10-minute intervals. Check with your doctor before adding a new high-intensity stepping workout to your routine, especially if you have any health issues.
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