Although sometimes advertised on retail websites as elliptical trainers, the Gazelle series of exercise machines more closely resembles air walkers or air striders. Because Gazelle exercisers lack the more complicated mechanics of elliptical trainers, they cannot offer the same challenging, varied workout for all fitness levels. But the Gazelle does make an ideal bargain exerciser for beginners if cost is your primary concern.
The primary difference in function between a Gazelle exerciser and any elliptical trainer is the stride motion. On an elliptical trainer, your feet move the pedals through an ellipse, meant to approximate the natural motion of your body when you run or walk. With the Gazelle, the pedals swing forward and back along the same arc, covering the bottom half of the ellipse but not the top.
The Gazelle’s variable stride length gives you more control over which lower-body muscles you work than with a fixed-stride elliptical trainer. Simple shift your body position and adjust your stride on the Gazelle, and suddenly you’ll be focusing primarily on your glutes, hamstrings or quads. An elliptical trainer with adjustable stride length or an adjustable incline ramp can give you the same ability to shift muscle focus, without the need for seemingly death-defying acrobatics.
Upper Body Workout
Both the Gazelle and elliptical trainers offer a chance to tone your chest, back and arms by pushing and pulling on moving handlebars as you stride. The Gazelle sports vestigial handlebars, while elliptical trainer handlebars are usually much longer, offering you more variety in grip positions and the chance to position your hands just so for a natural range of motion as you stride.
Maximum Weight Limit
The sturdiest model of the Gazelle currently available, the Gazelle Freestyle, has a maximum user weight limit of 300 pounds. Although this is comparable to the weight limits you’re likely to find on elliptical trainers in the budget price range, higher-end elliptical trainers feature user weight limits up to and higher than 400 pounds. If you weigh enough to approach the weight limit on the Gazelle, you’ll find that a sturdy elliptical trainer feels steadier and safer beneath you than the Gazelle, thanks to a wider base.
As of May 2010, Gazelle exercisers cost in the neighborhood of $100 to slightly more than $200. You can purchase elliptical trainers at or near this price range, too, but be sure to try the elliptical trainer out first. Many ellipticals under $400 are poorly built or feature noisy air fan-based resistance.