If you long for sculpted buns and thighs, you're looking at the right equipment: Both the stair stepper and the elliptical machine tone your lower body for shapelier legs and hips. They also both provide low-impact cardiovascular exercise to help burn serious calories for fat loss and help prevent nasty illnesses like Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. See your doctor before beginning a new fitness routine.
Hello, leg and buttock muscle; on the stair stepper you engage your gluteus maximus along with hamstrings, inner thighs, quadriceps and calves. This machine mimics the movement of walking up stairs, although range of motion is typically limited to an up-and-down movement with no forward step. To use the stepper, step on the pedals and grasp the rails lightly -- but don't lean on your hands. Shift your weight onto one pedal to lower it while the opposite pedal rises, then shift weight to the other pedal before the first one reaches the bottom.
Like your friend the stair stepper, the elliptical machine works the glutes, hamstrings, inner thighs and quads; it does not, however, provide the same level of calf toning. Unlike the stepper, the pedals on the elliptical machine move in a cyclical motion rather than just up and down. To use it, step onto the pedals and lightly grasp the handles or pole attachments. Push down and forward onto onto one pedal as though you're taking a step, and continue in a bicycle-like motion.
If you start yawning after 10 minutes of the same movement, the elliptical machine with its wider array of options may be best for you. Pedal backward to emphasize quads, raise the incline to hammer glutes and hamstrings, pedal faster for a cardio boost or adjust the resistance to alter intensity. If you're a simpler gal and would rather not deal with all those settings, the stepper lets you hop on, pick your resistance and workout time and get moving with little fuss.
For cardio workouts, schedule 150 to 300 minutes of moderate activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous activity per week; each session should last 10 minutes or longer. Steppers and elliptical machines may qualify as either moderate or vigorous, depending on how hard you work: At a moderate intensity, you'll be able to speak full sentences without gasping for breath, though singing will be tough. After 10 minutes, you'll start perspiring. At a vigorous intensity, full sentences will be hard and you'll sweat after just a few minutes.
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.