Late night infomercials featuring celebrity fitness gurus such as Denise Austin and Tony Little have given rise to the popularity of the mini stepper, a relatively inexpensive stationary piece of home exercise equipment. The basic construction of the mini stepper is modeled after the technology found in stair steppers and elliptical machines.
Using the Mini Stepper
Mini steppers are extremely easy to use and appeal to those who have never exercised before or who want a less strenuous workout. These stationary devices have two foot plates on which exercisers place their feet in standing position. These plates go up and down when pressure from the leg muscles is applied. The motion is similar to that used to operate the pedals of an old pump organ and simulates the effect of walking in place on a very slight incline.
Mini steppers provide very little variability in ways to exercise. However, there are some models that provide more bells and whistles than others. Some mini steppers, such as that made by NordicTrack, include a timer and calorie counter, as well as resistance bands for an upper body workout while you step. Other mini steppers, such as the Stamina SpaceMate Folding Stepper 40-0069, include resistance settings on the stepper's cylinders that permit more challenging indoor workouts. The cost of these steppers as of July 2009 was around $130 and $100, respectively, although there are models that can be purchased for only $50.
Mini Stepper Pros & Cons
The mini stepper has several advantages. It is quite inexpensive compared to sophisticated electronic stair steppers and elliptical machines used in gyms and r exercise machines such as the Bowflex TC5000 Treadclimber, which costs around $2,500. Due to their simple construction, there is little confusion over how to use a mini stepper. Also, mini steppers are portable enough to travel with and easy to stow when not in use.
The mini stepper has disadvantages, however. Because most do not come with a heart monitor and none come with a touch pad that gives a digital heart rate readout, exercisers cannot know if they are getting an adequate cardiovascular workout. Additionally, reviews gleaned from consumer sites indicate that many mini steppers are shoddily made, overheat and smell of burning plastic when used, are noisy, move across the floor when in use, and do not permit overall stability because they lack handrails. A review of mini steppers conducted by the Wall Street Journal indicates that many mini steppers broke after a relatively short period of use and that some cannot support weight of more than 250 pounds.
Making Better Use of Your Mini Stepper
You can make sure you're getting the right amount of exercise on a mini stepper by purchasing a heart monitor. One part of the heart monitor is attached around the chest; a watch-style device is worn on the wrist and gives exercisers a digital readout of heart rate. If you're getting the intensity of cardiovascular exercise required to burn fat, your heart should be sustained within its target range for the duration of your workout. Heart monitors can be purchased at stores that sell sporting equipment. As of July 2009, the cost of heart rate monitors ranged from $40 to $150.