Stair climbers are not particularly glamorous. However, stair climbers, also known as stair steppers, are an effective way to get a cardio workout and build your lower body without the pounding your legs are subjected to while jogging or running. The best stair climbers are commercial grade machines that you see in health clubs and gyms, and generally cost thousands of dollars. The stair climber that works best for you might be a fold-up model that fits in a tight space and costs as little as $100 as of February 2011.
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Stair climbers that work the best are motorized instead of manual, and feature independent stepping, which requires your lower foot to work harder, instead of dependent stepping, They also have independent instead of hydraulic shock systems. Independent review sources recommend a number of commercial grade machines. BestCovery recommends the StairMaster SC916 Stepper, and Galt Buying Guides recommends the StairMaster 700PT Stepmill -- a step mill more closely mimics the actual act of climbing stairs. Another machine lauded by Galt Buying Guides is the ProSTEP 6000 Climber, which will run you about $3800 as of February 2011.
There are also stair climbers on the market that offer commercial grade quality machines at consumer prices, according to Galt Buying Guides. For about $2,500 as of February 2011, you can equip your home with the StairMaster FreeClimber 4200 PT. This machine has 20 resistance levels, speeds that vary from 26 to 174 steps per minute and a nice LED console. It has four workout programs -- manual, steady, fat burner and aerobic -- and a reading rack. The Star Trac SC4100 Stairclimber is considered to be nearly the equal of commercial machines, in part because of its high-quality and heavy duty construction.
The best stair climber for you might be an innovative machine from NordicTrack, the FreeMotion s5.6. Recommended by Consumer Search, the FreeMotion s5.6 combines the stepping action of a stair climber with the stride of an elliptical trainer. It may give you a more varied workout than a regular stair climber. It sells for about $2,400 as of February 2011.
A budget stair climber can give you a great workout. They are also easy on your wallet. Galt Buying Guides recommends the Schwinn 305p, about $300 as of February 2011, with independent stepping, 12 resistance levels and a fine warranty for a budget machine. The NordicTrack MTN 740 Stepper, a choice of Consumer Search, is well-equipped with a built-in fan, adjustable resistance and heart-rate monitor. It sells for about $650. The best super low-budget stair climbers, as recommended by Galt Buying Guides and Consumer Search, include the portable Brookstone Fold-A-Way Cardio Stepper, which can be stored in a closet or under a bed and costs around $200. An even less expensive portable machine is the Stamina SpaceMate Folding Stepper 40-0069 at around $100. These low, low budget machines feel flimsy to some people, but they afford you a decent workout.