Stepper Vs Elliptical – Is the Stair Stepper Better Than an Elliptical?

Is the Stair Stepper Better Than an Elliptical (1)

While stair steppers and elliptical trainers may initially appear similar, they differ greatly in their foot platform usage and workout benefits. In this article, we will compare the two machines to determine which is best for your fitness goals.

Both offer excellent cardiovascular workouts, but their unique usage provides individual benefits.

To find the best stair stepper, see our roundup article. Let’s examine the differences between these machines.

Muscles Recruited

Both stair stepper and elliptical machine offer a great lower body workout, but there are differences when it comes to engaging the upper body. In this article, we will take a closer look at the muscles targeted by both machines.

Stair Stepper

The stair stepper is primarily a leg-heavy exercise machine. It works the hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps, and calves when done properly.

You may find the solution to the question “does the stair stepper make your thighs bigger” in our post. to fully understand how the lower body is involved.

The upper body is typically not involved in any way when using a stair stepper. The reason being is that most stair steppers are built with a stable handlebar for you to hold onto while stepping.


Cross trainers, often known as elliptical trainers, offer a full-body workout. In contrast, the elliptical trainer features handlebars that you may move back and forth while pedaling. Both the upper body and lower body can be worked out with this.

Your chest, shoulders, biceps, triceps, and upper back are all worked during this arm motion. The benefits to the upper body are lost if you choose to hang onto the stationary handlebars and concentrate solely on your lower body.

The leg movement on an elliptical is extremely similar to that of a stair stepper since the elliptical simulates walking or jogging while the stair stepper simulates stair climbing.

Moreover, the hamstrings, quads, glutes, and calves are worked during this motion.

Both machines offer fantastic lower-body workouts that engage all muscles in the legs.

But I have to go with the elliptical on this one as it extends the muscle recruitment benefits offering a full body, cardiovascular workout.

Cardiovascular Work

Cardio Machine

Stair Stepper

The stair stepper, as previously indicated, works the lower body’s cardiovascular system. It can only deliver a constant state sort of cardiovascular work because of this.

You could counter that you can do this for a certain amount of time at a high intensity, but the stiff motion of a stepper makes it tough to alter your workout.

Elliptical Trainer

The movement on the elliptical is much more varied and energetic. The same steady state aerobic exercise can be combined with high intensity interval training (HIIT) for a more effective workout. Compared to steady state cardio, this sort of exercise is far more effective at burning calories and losing weight.

The additional benefit of doing this is that you can shorten the overall length of your workout because you are exerting yourself vigorously during the high intensity phase. On a stepper, HIIT exercise is unfortunately not an option.

On the elliptical, pedaling backwards places extra focus on the quadriceps.

These exercise machines provide an effective cardiovascular workout regimen as long as you use them with the right amount of effort and intensity. However the elliptical is a better option for your cardiovascular demands because you can do HIIT training on it.

Steppers can help you reach your daily recommended health and fitness goals if all you’re concerned about is engaging in the minimal amount of activity.

Adults should engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of very intensive activity per week, according the physical activity recommendations. If that’s what you wanted to do, you can do this on the stepper.

Stair Stepper vs Elliptical Calories


Calories Burned

The quantity of calories you burn while working out on each equipment depends on a variety of factors. Because it will vary each time you exercise, this is not an easy question to answer.

The following is a list of elements that influence how many calories your body can burn:

  • Fitness Level
  • Your Weight
  • Workout Duration and Intensity

Fortunately for us, research has been done to determine if using an elliptical or a stair stepper burns more calories. In a 2004 study, the Harvard Medical School examined the number of calories burnt in 30 minutes for three individuals who were 125 pounds, 155 pounds, and 185 pounds.

Stair Stepper

Stair Stepper

This study proved that a 155-pound person could burn 216 calories in 30 minutes of moderate activity on a stair stepper.

Remember that this number can change depending on the exercise’s intensity and your level of fitness, but it still provides you a decent indication of how much more efficient the stair stepper is than an elliptical at burning calories and belly fat.

Elliptical Workout

The same person burnt 324 calories during a moderate 30-minute elliptical workout, which is equivalent to an additional 50% of calories burned on an elliptical machine.

You can see how much more effective the elliptical trainer is at burning calories at a moderate level by comparing this data to that of the stair stepper for the same duration and intensity.

The elliptical attracts more body muscles, as we have already demonstrated, which is the cause of this.

Calories are burned on both steppers and elliptical machines. But given the findings of the Harvard study, it goes without saying that the elliptical is more effective at calorie burning than the stair stepper.

Do keep in mind that it relies on both your degree of fitness and how tough your training is. Yet, you’ll get better results with your calorie burning even at moderate intensity for both. Whatever you choose, aim for a high intensity to burn as many calories as you can because exercise is what you make it!

Elliptical or stepper: which is better?

The elliptical or the stepper, then, is better? Although both the elliptical and stepper are regarded as low impact exercises, they both improve the knee-supporting muscles. The elliptical is seen to be a superior alternative because there is no pressure placed on the knees during motion; if you have knee problems, a stepper is more likely to make it worse than an elliptical.

But before engaging in any sort of exercise, always check with your doctor if you have a pre-existing knee ailment.


This is a challenging comparison to do because there are so many different devices, each with unique features and advantages. What fits your needs and what you are seeking for should be your first priority.

These days, a high-quality stepper costs about £400 ($550). A similar pricing range applies to elliptical trainers. The market has seen a growth in the number of fitness brands, and with that growth has come a desire for high-quality, affordably priced cardio equipment.

Similar to that, you can get subpar models for as little as $220 (£150). But if you’re going to spend money on home cardio equipment, I’d strongly advise stretching your budget to acquire something durable.

Does a Stepper Outperform an Elliptical?

I’ve analyzed the elliptical and stair stepper in great depth and broken down the key elements you should take into account with both. So, which is superior? I suppose it depends on what you’re after!

I suggest going with the stair stepper if you want a steady state, low intensity cardio training machine that only works the muscles in your lower body.

The elliptical is a good alternative if you want a full-body workout with more dynamic possibilities, such high intensity and a high calorie burn.


stepper vs elliptical

Can using a stair stepper or an elliptical machine help me lose weight?

Yes, both machines can help you burn calories and lose weight as long as you use them with the right amount of effort and intensity. However, according to a study conducted by the Harvard Medical School, the elliptical trainer burns more calories than the stair stepper for the same duration and intensity of exercise.

Do stair steppers or elliptical machines offer a low-impact workout?

Yes, both machines offer a low-impact workout that is easy on your joints. However, if you have knee problems, the elliptical may be a better option since there is less pressure placed on the knees during motion compared to the stair stepper.

Can using a stair stepper or an elliptical machine help tone my muscles?

Yes, both machines can help tone your muscles, especially in the lower body. The stair stepper primarily works the hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps, and calves, while the elliptical trainer engages the same muscles as well as the chest, shoulders, biceps, triceps, and upper back when you move the handlebars back and forth.

How much does a stair stepper or an elliptical machine cost?

The cost of a stair stepper or an elliptical machine can vary widely depending on the brand, model, and features. Typically, a high-quality machine can cost anywhere from $400 to $2,000 or more. However, there are also lower-priced models available for around $200, but these may not have as many features or be as durable.

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