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Cardiovascular exercise has multiple benefits for your energy level, weight and fitness, but high-impact cardio can be tough on your knees and other joints. Playing outdoor sports like basketball will get your heart rate up as you run and jump, but it can be hard to enjoy if the weather isn't permitting. Likewise, it can be hard to motivate yourself to get out of the house and to the gym. Elliptical machines give you an effective low-impact cardio workout in the comfort of your own home.
Elliptical machines have two pedals that move to recreate a running motion in your legs. Unlike a treadmill, however, your feet don't land on a hard surface. This makes an elliptical a low-impact exercise machine. Using an elliptical in conjunction with inversion equipment or foam rollers is particularly beneficial for people with stiff knees, hips or backs. They offer a movement similar to upright or recumbent bikes, except that you're standing instead of sitting. Ellipticals feature moving handlebars that also help give you a great upper body workout.
Elliptical machines can give you a total workout for your lower body muscles, too. Some models allow you to vary the incline, which will let you change how your muscles are targeted. A steeper incline can help target your glutes, while a flat incline will help build your quads. Another way to vary the muscles you're working is by changing the direction of your feet. By changing direction of your strides you can put more focus on the front or back of your legs. Of course, you can also vary the resistance so you can warm up gradually to a challenging level and then cool down again when you're done. If you're sore, work out the kinks with a vibration machine.
Once you've picked out an elliptical machine that works for you, consider a good floor mat to put underneath it. These padded mats will help to protect wood floors, similar to the way treadmill mats work. Take your pick from roll-up mats and interlocking gym flooring. Roll-up mats store easily, while interlocking ones tend to be thicker and offer more protection.
Whether your goal is to get in shape or to lose weight, a cardio machine lets you work out anytime at home. Put it in your living room so you can watch TV while you workout, or put it in the basement and create a private gym. Whatever you choose, the selection at Kmart offers a variety of choices at great prices.