Getting your steps in is an effective and accessible way to maintain a healthy lifestyle. According to the Mayo Clinic, the average American walks 3,000 to 4,000 steps a day or roughly 1.5 to 2 miles — this isn't enough. Laps around the block with your dog, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, and walking to an errand versus driving are just a few ways to help you get your number above the goal of 10,000 (though this benchmark isn't everything) — especially if your aim is to be more active or even lose weight. But if you want to sneak in more steps from the comfort of home, adding a stair stepper to your fitness routine could be the answer.
While they aren't as popular as stationary bikes or treadmills, stair stepper machines have many benefits and can deliver a muscle-building workout. "Besides the fact of it being a torcher of a workout, stair steppers are proven to increase your aerobic conditioning, muscular endurance, as well as strengthen your bones and joints while burning a ton of calories," says Anthony Crouchelli, C.F.S.C., director of talent at Liteboxer. Having one in your home is great not only for your low-impact days but for high-cardio days when the weather outside doesn't permit a run or bike ride, he adds. More good news? Steppers won't make nearly as much noise as a treadmill — great for apartment living, points out Crouchelli.
Stair steppers come in a range of sizes and prices, and offer different levels to accommodate your needs. If you need an idea for a workout, Crouchelli suggests a 20-minute routine he calls "Tempo and Hills": Start at 50 percent of your top speed and add 0.2 every 30 seconds, building up to your top speed. Once you hit that ceiling, use the same 0.2-method every 30 seconds to descend to your starting 50-percent rate. Repeat this pattern for the duration of the workout. (Related: The Best Peloton Bike Alternatives On Amazon, According to Reviews)
With so many stair steppers on the market, it can be difficult to pick just one. Consult the below guide for the top-rated stair stepper machines, based on customer reviews.
Sunny Health & Fitness Stair Stepper Machine
This simple stair stepper machine actually offers two ways to get your steps in: steep climbs and quick, shallow steps. It's wobble-free, thanks to a stabilizing ring at the foundation, and has an adjustable handlebar, which allows for multiple people to enjoy it comfortably. This stair stepper machine, in particular, features a lateral side-to-side action that imparts a more fluid step motion and activates different muscles than other steppers. It might not be that noticeable, but the lift in your muscles will be. (Related: This $50 Mini Workout Machine Has Changed the Way I Stay Active at Home)
One reviewer wrote: "We wanted a stair stepper, but didn't have space for a standard one. This solved the problem. It may seem a little "tippy" due to its lightweight, but that goes away as soon as you put your weight on it. It's really remarkably designed and well constructed. It will have you breathing hard in a few minutes, and the resistance can be adjusted to increase your level of exertion."
Body Power 2-in-1 Elliptical Stepper Trainer
Similar to an elliptical, this machine provides a smooth, oval footpath, with synchronized handlebars, while the stepper movement gives you a total-body workout. The brand's technology, which they call curve crank, eliminates the dead zone or segmented step that sometimes occurs with other step-based machines, ensuring a continuous glide.
"I am so happy that I bought this piece of equipment," shared a customer. "It's everything I was hoping. It's smooth, silent, and doesn't take much space. I jump on it for a few minutes in the morning, and then again while I'm watching the news in the evening. (Better than watching the news just sitting on the couch!) I've only had it about two weeks, but I can already feel a difference in my energy level and in my muscle tone."
Sportsroyals Stair Stepper for Exercises-Twist
This mini stepper has footbeds that not only go up and down, but also turn for an effective cardio workout. It features a powerful hydrologic system and a v-shaped frame increases the load-bearing capacity (it can support up to 330 pounds). Wide, non-slip foot pedals with shock absorption guarantee a comfortable and stable workout. While it looks more basic than others on this list, it has a large LCD monitor, showcasing the time, step count, and calories burned. For those who are less handy or have less storage, it arrives fully assembled and is compact enough to stash under furniture, in closets, or tucked into corners. Add the included resistance bands to exercise your upper body, too. (Related: As a Plus-Size Person, I Never Thought I’d Find a Comfortable Exercise Bike — Until I Found This)
"Barely seven minutes at a casual to semi-quick step and fatigue and the burn kicks in," notes one fan. "In less than two months, three to four times a week, about five to seven minutes per session, I already dropped one inch around my waist. This mini stair climber is a solid build with strong resistant shocks. One's movement up and down also includes going side to side, which seriously strengthens one's core."
Bowflex Max Trainer Series
For a more substantial piece of equipment, this machine is a mix of elliptical and a stepper. It offers eight levels of resistance and two workout programs to offer challenges no matter your level of fitness. The brand claims that you can achieve cardio benefits of interval training in as little as 14 minutes. And even though it has a more expensive price tag, more than 13,000 reviewers gave it five stars, saying it's worth the splurge.
One reviewer said: "I've owned the Bowflex Max Trainer for a little more than a month now. The advertising says a full workout in 14 minutes. I can't get to 14 minutes! This is a tough workout. I've begun eating better and bought this machine to help with exercise. It is awesome. It fully works out my entire body. This is non-impact on the joints. It is fun to use. It is easy to use."
MaxKare Stepper Mini Stepper for Exercise Stepper
Ergonomic foot pedals help reduce any potential damage to the knees, and textured foot pads prevent slipping with this low-impact machine. A small LCD screen lets you know your total number of steps and the duration of your sweat-building session. This stair stepper machine also comes with adjustable and removable resistant bands, so your arms can get just as strong and defined as your legs. (Related: The 11 Best Resistance Bands for At-Home Workouts)
"I love that this stepper [and it] is ready to go right out of the box," reported a shopper. "It’s great for those days I don’t feel like jumping around to do cardio. I do 20-25 minutes and it really has me sweating and my legs trembling by the end of my session. It also doesn’t take up much space; I love this thing!"
Doufit Stepper for Exercise Machine
This adjustable piece of exercise equipment offers two types of workout modes: a basic step workout and added resistance bands to pull for full-body conditioning. A digital monitor tracks steps, calories, and your workout time — so you can get lost in a good book or Netflix show while you sweat it out. This piece of equipment is ideal for anyone looking for a light intensity, low-impact option. Plus, it's collapsible to save on space when not in use. (Related: Try This 15-Minute Lower-Body Workout from Kayla Itsines' New Low-Impact Program)
"I purchased this machine to tone and to ease my way back into exercising," shared a customer. "When I assembled the stepper, which was easy, I didn’t think that I would get a good workout because there’s only one resistance and it didn’t look heavy-duty, but I was wrong. I love it! This stepper is sturdy, and it really gives me a workout. If you’re into serious weights maybe this wouldn’t work for you, however, if you’re looking into staying active [or] toning, beginner gym-goers, this machine is perfect for home use."
NordicTrack FS14i FreeStride Trainer
While the price tag is a serious commitment, this state-of-the-art machine is more than just a stepper: It also acts as an elliptical and treadmill. It boasts Bluetooth, an HD touchscreen (which you can stream studio classes from), and also connects to iFit's world-class, trainer-led content. Choose from global walks — a climb in Greece one day and a run in Thailand the next — to allow you to escape and exercise at the same time. (Related: The Best Home Workout Apps to Download Right Now)
One user commented: "Love, love, love my new elliptical from NordicTrack. My husband has their treadmill and bike. All have iFit capabilities, which I use daily. The classes and instructors are wonderful and I have traveled the world while exercising. These are worth every penny they cost and even though my husband had to put them together, the instructions were easy to follow. I am truly a NordicTrack fan!"
Stamina SpaceMate Folding Stepper
This stair stepper machine might have a slim design, but don't let that fool you. The sturdy steel frame offers plenty of support, the foam-covered handlebars provide a comfortable grip, and it has a handy monitor that tracks your number of steps per minute, the number of steps during the workout, workout time, and calories burned. Hydraulic cylinders with adjustable-resistant allow for a smooth motion, and it's easy to move or store since it has wheels and folds flat. (Related: The 8 Best Folding Treadmills for Small Spaces, According to Customer Reviews)
"I hesitated buying something like this for fear it would just sit and not get used," admitted a reviewer. "I made myself do it for five minutes every day to start out, and gradually increased one minute per week. I love it and it makes my legs feel like jello by the time I’m done. It folds up and stores perfectly if needed, but because I use it every day, we don’t store it. I’ve had it for just 4 months now, and it’s very affordable, I would pay way more for a gym membership for 4 months and wouldn’t use it as often! Highly recommend!"
Maxi Climber The Original Patented Vertical Climber
If you want to combine bodyweight resistance, aerobic exercise, and muscle-strengthening movement, this is the machine for you. It offers a full-body, low-impact workout, so it's easy on the knees and ankles, in case you're recovering from an injury. If you loathe assembling equipment, this stepper arrives 90 percent pre-assembled and ready to use in minutes. Want a little more insight into your health? Download the companion Fitness App, which not only tracks your progress, but also provides additional programs, routines, challenges, and even suggestions for meal plans.
One user raved: "Alright, this simple-looking machine will KICK YOUR BUTT! I am an avid cyclist, [doing] 75-100 miles a week, and a very active woman. My husband wanted to get this due to the great reviews and compact size. This machine will give you a run for your money, it took me a few months but I am up to 20 minutes straight on it, it has totally increased my performance when cycling. Seriously I thought I would jump on this and it would be a breeze, [but] the first time I used it, I couldn't even make three minutes, felt like a total wuss. Totally recommended if you are looking for a full-body workout with a small amount of space to operate!"
Proform Plus Carbon HIIT H7
Designed with a 10-inch vertical and 5-inch horizontal path, this stair stepper machine allows you to strengthen muscle and burn a lot of calories. It combines the stepping path with powerful, upper-body punching actions — simulating stair climbing and boxing — which allows you to activate your calves, hamstrings, quads, glutes, biceps, and triceps simultaneously. It's equipped with iFit, an interactive workout platform with studio classes, some of which allow trainers to control your level of individual resistance. As it stimulates your legs into stair climbing, the handlebars will invite your top half and arms to start punching, creating a full-body HIIT workout. (Related: This At-Home Beginner's Boxing Workout Will Get You in Fighting Shape)
"I bought my machine when the fitness centers were shut down due to the virus," wrote a fan. "Glad I did. I get a better workout and can stay at home. I started at lower levels of resistance and shorter time. After five months, I do three hours per day at level 15-16 resistance, three days per week. Great workout equipment."