A mini stepper is a small, portable cardio machine with two pedals that move in an up and down motion. Using a mini stepper simulates climbing stairs, although the pedals have a limited range of motion. Your current fitness level and fitness goals will determine the effectiveness of the mini stepper.
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Mini steppers are compact, portable and relatively inexpensive compared to other cardio machines. Depending on the make, a mini stepper costs between $50 and $125. It has two hydraulic foot pedals that move up and down. Some mini steppers have adjustable tension to make your workout more intense. Most models include a small electronic monitor that provides information about your workout, such as elapsed time, approximate calories burned and total steps.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that the average healthy adult under age 65 do 30 minutes of moderately intense cardio, five days a week or 20 minutes per day of vigorously intense cardio, three days a week. These guidelines are for individuals that want to maintain their fitness level and reduce risk for certain medical conditions. If you want to lose weight or increase cardiovascular endurance, you will need to work out at higher volumes and intensities.
If your goal is to maintain fitness -- and the mini stepper provides a moderate cardio workout for you -- then it is good enough for your goals. ACSM rates a moderate workout as one that raises your heart rate, yet still allows you to carry on a conversation. If you use a heart rate monitor, aim for 70 to 80 percent of maximum heart rate for a moderate workout. A high intensity workout maintains your heart rate over 80 percent of your maximum heart rate.
If you are already relatively fit and want to improve your cardiovascular fitness level, a mini stepper workout may not be intense enough for you. However, it may work as an alternative workout. Any activity that you aren't used to is more difficult than one you are used to. If you run regularly, a mini stepper will offer a new challenge and provide some much-needed variety to your cardio routine.