Stair Stepper vs Elliptical: Which Is the Best?

Fact Checked

Tonya McIntosh

Tonya McIntosh—The main person behind TGFFitness as its Founder and Chief Editor. Get to know more about Tonya


If you are wondering which is better between stair stepper vs. elliptical machines, I assume you have seen both of these machines. Even if you do not know what they are, do not worry because today, we shall be looking into both the products in detail and also review one of the best products in each category.

But before we dive into the reviews, let us find out more about what a stair stepper and an elliptical machine are, how they differ from each other, and when it is best to use either of the products.



What is a stair stepper?

A stair stepper exercise machine, as the name suggests, is an apparatus that allows a person to imitate climbing up a flight of stairs without going anywhere. We can use the term stair stepper or stair climber interchangeably.

There are two main types of stair steppers:

  • One type of stair stepper includes an actual mini staircase that keeps rotating with the same mechanism as treadmills. We can consider them as mini escalators with just 2 to 3 steps.
  • The other type includes two levers for each foot that move up and down depending on the person’s steps.

How to use a stair stepper?

Since we are all familiar with what we need to do while climbing up a flight of stairs, using a stair stepper naturally comes once you mount the machine. All you have to do is get on the apparatus and start moving your legs as if you are climbing up a staircase.

You can hold on to the side handles for balance or keep exercising without support. The never-ending rotating staircase is an excellent way to stay fit without putting in much effort.
Here is a simple video on how to use a stair stepper correctly:

What is an elliptical machine?

An elliptical exercise machine or elliptical trainer is one that mimics the movements of walking, running, and climbing without putting much strain or pressure on the joints. We call these machines cross-trainers or x-trainers sometimes.

There are three types of elliptical trainers:

  • Front-drive elliptical machines have their motor or wheel in the front. These types of devices are simple and more affordable than the other two.
  • Center-drive elliptical machines have their flywheel in the middle and hence, saves space.
  • Back-drive elliptical machines have their wheel at the back, which allows smooth movements.

How to use an elliptical trainer?

Elliptical trainers are also not difficult to use because it has a similar motion with the stair stepper. The main difference is that an elliptical trainer allows a person to move their arms along with their legs by holding on to the attached handles.

There are two sets of handles. One is stationary while the other moves. Hold on to the fixed handles while mounting the machine, and then you can switch to the handles attached to the moving pedals.

After getting on, you can start moving your legs in a running or walking motion to start your workout.

Here is a video that will help you better understand how to use an elliptical trainer:

Feature and Benefit Comparison

Feature and Benefit Comparison

Here, flexibility means the number of uses that each exercise machine provides. The elliptical wins this round because you can get a full-body workout on one of these machines. You can target a specific group of muscles if there is an option for you to adjust or change the inclination angle. Thanks to the moving handles, you can give your upper body and arms a good toning burn too.

On the other hand, the stair steppers focus only on your legs. You cannot work out your arms like in an elliptical machine because all you do is hold a fixed handle which exists for the sole purpose of providing support.

Cardio workout comparison

If you want an exercise machine that will give you a good cardio workout, you might want to go with the stair stepper. While the elliptical is very low-impact, the step climber can increase your heart rate and give you a good burn.

Regardless of how fast you are going, the step climber regulates your heart rate very quickly. We have come to this conclusion solely based on the fact that the stair stepper is slightly more high-impact than the elliptical.

Calories burnt comparison

Full-body workouts are more effective to burn calories. Therefore, we can safely say that the elliptical will win this round. Since you can move your arms and legs on an elliptical and just your legs on a stair stepper, it is evident that the elliptical machine burns more calories in 30 minutes.

Major benefits comparison

The best benefit that elliptical machines provide is its inclusivity. This machine is safe for every adult, even if they are obese or suffer from some physical injuries. Its low impact nature will not put much pressure on a person’s joints and muscles.

On the other hand, stair steppers are very easy to use, and the person using it is in complete control over the speed at which they want to exercise. These machines are compact and easy to assemble.

Disadvantage comparison

Elliptical machines are slightly more complicated to use, and stair steppers focus only on the legs.

How to choose the best stair stepper?

If you want to buy a stair stepper that suits your needs perfectly, consider the following points before finalizing on a product:

Height of the steps and levers

Some stepper machines have very steep steps, which may be difficult to climb. Make sure the levers are only tall enough to give you a good workout.


There are chances that you will want to move the machine one day. Look for a lightweight machine with transportation wheels.

LCD screen

You will need to keep track of your progress on a stair stepper, and the LCD screen will help you with that. If the product does not have an LCD screen or any other added features, you better go for another option.

Size of the machine

You should make sure that the size of your stair stepper will fit into the space you have made for it at home.

How to choose the best elliptical machine?

Adjustable resistance

Since ellipticals are much more low-impact, you will need adjustable resistance levels to keep the workout effective.

Size of the machine

Similar to stair steppers, keep in mind the size of free space in your home before buying an elliptical.

Added features

The more added features like water bottle holders, tablet holders, and EKG machines that an elliptical machine has, the better it will be.

Try it out

We recommend you try out the elliptical machine first in the shop or wherever you are buying it from, before making the payment.

Sunny Health & Fitness Stair Stepper

The Sunny Health & Fitness Stair Stepper is portable and light. You get the burn you need from its easy-to-use stepping mechanism. Even if you do not have much space in your home for a machine, this product will easily fit in.

I like the LCD screen on this machine that keeps track of the calories I’ve burnt and also the time that I spent on the machine. There are 12 dual hydraulic cylinder choices when it comes to incline settings. This machine can hold up to 220 pounds of weight.


  • It is easy to use and comfortable too.
  • The heavy-duty construction is sturdy and stable.
  • There are low chances of slipping thanks to the patterned plates.
  • It is easy to fold and store when it’s not in use.


  • The steppers might get stuck sometimes.
  • The levels slam to the base while exercising.

Sunny Health & Fitness SF-E905 Elliptical

Editor’s Choice

What I love about the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-E905 Elliptical machine is its eight levels of magnetic resistance that you can easily control by twisting the micro-controller. Safety is also a huge thing when it comes to elliptical machines, and the easy-grip handles and non-slip pedals make sure you don’t fall.

With the pulse sensor feature, you can keep track of your heartbeat and keep it at the desired rate. The floor stabilizers make sure that you do not sway even if the floor is uneven.


  • It is compact and does its job perfectly.
  • It is easy to assemble.
  • It is quiet while operating.
  • Great value for the product.


  • It might not be the ideal product for very tall people.
  • The stride is rather short.

Wrapping Up

Between the stair stepper and elliptical, I will choose the elliptical machine as the winner because it is much more inclusive. You get to work out your body and allow people with physical limitations to work out too.

While the stair stepper in question is small and very sturdy, the elliptical comes with a heartbeat sensor as an added feature.

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Chief Editor
Tonya McIntosh

Hello there! My name is Tonya McIntosh, and I’m the Founder and Chief Editor of TGFFitness. I’m also a NASM-certified Nutrition Coach and Personal Trainer. With eight years of experience under my belt, I’ve found that one of the most common issues my clients struggle with is remaining consistent.

Finding your main motivator to keep going is easier said than done for Keep Reading.

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