Buying a Home Stair Climber

Stair climbers give you an excellent cardiovascular workout that targets your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and calves and go easy on your joints at the same time. If you're looking for a home stair climber, there a few things you need to know before you buy. Arming yourself with basic knowledge about mechanics, safety and warranties is the best way to make sure the fitness stair climber you buy doesn't make you want to climb the walls.

Motorized Stair Climbers
Motorized stair climbers use belts or magnet systems to move the stairs you climb. This motorized movement minimizes impact on your joints, making stair climbers a favorite among people who need or want a low-impact workout.

Choose a motorized stair climber for a lower-impact workout, so long as you have the space to house it. Motorized stair climbers are bigger and heavier than manual stair climbers and the more you spend on these stair climbers, the bigger and heavier they are.

Manual Stair Climbers
Manual stair climbers may be self-propelled or use hydraulics, requiring you to work with the stair climber to move the stairs and resulting in a higher-impact workout than motorized stair climbers.

Manual stair climbers take up less space than motorized stair climbers and are generally easier to move if you need to store your stair climber when it's not in use. If you're considering buying a manual stair climber, pay close attention to how it controls resistance: self-propelled stair climbers feel more natural, but hydraulic stair climbers allow you to vary the intensity of your workout.

Foot Action
Avoid manual stair climbers with dependent foot action, where pushing down on one pedal raises the other. Dependent foot action doesn't force you to lift each foot completely to take the next step, resulting in a less effective workout. Look for independent foot action instead.

Whether you choose a motorized or manual stair climber, look for models with wide, comfortable pedals that are at least as large as your shoe size or can accommodate the shoe sizes of everyone who'll be using it; too-small pedals can cause strain and discomfort.

Also look for pedals that keep your feet parallel at all times. Stair climbers with pedals that move to an angle at their highest position push your weight forward, destabilize your center of gravity and reduce the effectiveness of your workout.

Features to Look For
At a minimum, look for stair climbers that feature hand rails with a secure grip for safety when you mount and dismount or to steady yourself during a workout. Be sure the stair climber you choose can sustain the weight of the heaviest person who will use it-exceeding the stair climber's weight limitation can lead to injury and shorten its lifespan.

All stair climbers offer the ability to set resistance and time manually. Choose a stair climber with preset programs if manual options alone won't keep your interest. Look for workout variations like preprogrammed resistance intervals, fat-burning modules and targeted cardio programs and/or the ability to create and store a custom workout.

When you're evaluating stair climber displays, you'll notice they vary greatly from model to model. Basic stair climber displays track steps, distance and time elapsed; more advanced displays may also calculate calories burned or monitor your heart rate.

The more features the stair climber offers, the more you're likely to pay. The same holds true for extras like water bottle holders, magazine stands and MP3 players.

If you need a heart rate monitor but the stair climber you like doesn't offer it, purchase a separate heart rate monitor to use during workouts. You'll get the same benefit for a lot less than upgrading to a higher stair climber model.

Construction and Warranty
Whatever make, model or class of stair climber you choose, pay attention to its construction. Generally, spending more on a stair climber buys you better quality; budget stair climbers usually fail to get high marks from consumers and professional testers for lack of sturdiness and durability.

Stair climber construction quality and warranty quality go hand in hand: the more you invest in your stair climber, the better the warranty. Avoid warranties that are 90 days on everything; the best warranties are lifetime warranties on parts and one year on labor. Keep in mind that there are many varieties of warranties in between these parameters, so read that fine print carefully.

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