Elliptical trainers make up the second largest cardio equipment category, and are a staple for fitness facilities. The low impact nature of the exercise, combined with the fact that they often include full body engagement and reduced relative perceived effort than other cardio machines, make them a very popular choice for a wide variety of exercisers.

In contrast to most other cardio categories, the elliptical class provides a wide diversity of machines and associated motions. While machines and movements may widely differ, they are all grouped together and referred to as “Ellipticals.” This can lead to the misconception that you should be looking for the “best” elliptical motion or set of features.  The truth is that there is no perfect solution, in fact, the best solution for both facilities and members, may very well be variety.

To understand the value of providing a variety of elliptical options, it is important to understand the many ways the machines can differ. For the most part, a treadmill is a treadmill, a bike is a bike, etc., and the functional differences between machines are usually quite small. Ellipticals on the other hand, can vary significantly across machine types. There are a huge variety of movement options, which is why in many facilities you will find two or even three different elliptical trainers on their cardio floor. So… what makes them so different?

There are many variables that are different from one machine to another and each can cause significant differences in end feel for the user. Variables include things like movement pattern, foot pads, stride length and incline adjustment. There are also options to consider like whether the elliptical has a front or rear drive, fixed or variable stride, manual or automatic adjustment, and upper body handles or no handles

For those still hoping to find the single ‘right’ elliptical for their members, the honest answer is, even with all the science behind the machines and research that has been done, it largely boils down to personal preference. For example, Core Health & Fitness offers 3 different cardio machines in the elliptical category. “We have done extensive testing with users, some of that testing focused on preference between machines,” explained Travis Vaughan, Director of products are Core Health & Fitness. “Interestingly, in multiple rounds of testing, user preferences are consistently split almost evenly across the different machines we offer, with no obvious connection to user size, gender, fitness level, etc.”

The Core Health & Fitness brand Star Trac®, had for a long time offered a traditional Cross Trainer as a singular elliptical option. They have recently expanded their elliptical offerings to add an additional two machines, each with their own distinct traits that might make them appeal to different users or clients. The Cross Trainer is a front drive elliptical that operates on a fixed path and is mounted from the rear, allowing more machines to be placed side by side. The Rear Drive option is also on a fixed path but is mounted from the side. The rear drive is available at a lower price point and the drive position gives it a different feel.

The most innovative and versatile of the 3 options is the VersaStrider™, which is a front drive variable stride elliptical. The MyStride™ technology used in this elliptical allows users to adjust their stride length and height on the fly, giving users the ability to find a stride that best suit them without any adjustments. It also includes converging movement arms for upper body engagement with built-in level control buttons.

Like the other Star Trac 8-Series cardio, the VersaStrider is available with 3 different OpenHub™ console options, providing an affordable and flexible solution for entertainment, fitness tracking, and asset management. Understanding that clubs would likely use 2 or 3 different ellipticals, Star Trac has created a consistent look and interface for their ellipticals. Regardless of which machine a person uses, they will find a familiar set of controls and identical interfaces through the OpenHub consoles. This means that should a user want to download or share their workout, select and use pre-programed workouts, or connect their personal devices for video streaming and web browsing, it would be the same process for each machine. Every elliptical has its own unique set of features that make them appeal to different consumers but with a constant user interface, users can focus on picking the machine based on the workout and not whether they must learn how to operate the console.

Aside from accommodating different tastes, when a facility expands their elliptical offerings there are surprisingly, additional impacts on the use of the entire elliptical line. Thanks to data from ECOFIT, we are now able to get a better look at the impact of offering multiple elliptical types in a facility.

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