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​Stair Machine or Stepper?

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You’ve probably seen people using them at the gym – walking up steps without going up! But you may have also noticed that some of the machines look like actual moving stairs and others have steps that go up and down. What’s the difference? Which is better?


It was the 1980s when Stair Master introduced its first machine. It was a brilliant idea for a machine to compete with the growing popularity of treadmills. Everyone knows that walking up stairs is a great cardio workout. But, instead of just finding a tall building and walking up and down its stairs, why not offer different speeds, resistance, and programs to be used in a comfortable setting at home or at the gym?


These first stair machines were little more than revolving steps with an on/off button. They were also very big, heavy, and expensive. Therefore, they were found almost exclusively in gyms. With time, the limitations of these machines were seen. To make a revolving staircase with the height and depth of real steps requires a huge machine. But, even if the steps were big enough, the user was limited to the choice of taking a small step at a time or two small steps at time.


The Step Machine, or Stepper, was introduced sometime in the late 1990s, but didn’t catch on until the 2000s. The Stepper allowed a much lighter and more affordable machine for the home. Perhaps more importantly, it allowed the user to choose the length of his stride to a nearly infinite degree. By simply moving his feet up and down, the motion of climbing stairs is almost perfectly mimicked. To complete this advantage, it offered the same sort of built-in programs and reading that became available on treadmills around that time.


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