Image: Richard Coshott
Finding the right form of exercise can be a challenge in itself.
Joining a gym isn’t for everyone, whether it’s because it’s too expensive or too intimidating. As for exercising outdoors (running or hiking, for example), the weather can mess up your plans. So, what are the options? One solution is to use a stepper machine in the comfort of your own home.
A mini stepper is like a simplified version of the stair master that you’ve undoubtedly seen in gyms.
Although they don’t provide as intense of a workout, the best mini stepper will provide solid cardio training. Ideally, a mini stepper should supplement your overall exercise regime, but if you’re new to working out, it’s a great way to begin strengthening your muscles.
The bonus is you can use it according to your own schedule and it’s small enough to stash out of sight when you’ve finished with it. You can even use it in front of the television!
Of course, there are variations on the basic design. Some mini steppers have handles for balance or removable resistance bands for support and an upper body workout.
Like the larger stair climber, a mini stepper has two hydraulic pedals for your feet that move up and down. The best models have an adjustable tension so you can control the level of difficulty. Your heart rate increases as you pedal and your lungs work harder.
In this way, you’re improving your cardiovascular health and increasing your strength and stamina. The best mini stepper exercise machine will have a computer console that displays your stats (for example, the number of steps and the number of calories burned).
As with most basic cardio exercises, using a mini stepper will successfully burn calories (although not as many as a full-sized stair master). Some folks have the clever idea of using a mini stepper at work—under their desk while they’re seated—and they’ve reported burning up to 100 calories in 60 minutes.
The targeted muscle groups are the lower body (legs and hips) and core (abs). The range of motion is small, so you won’t work deep into the muscles; however, repetitive stepping will eventually tone these areas.
If you use the mini stepper on a regular basis, before long you’ll be able to endure longer and more arduous workouts. You’ll probably notice that you’ll have an easier time going up and down stairs and you may be able to handle more intense physical activities than ever before.
If you aren’t keen on joining a gym, the mini stepper might be the way to go. You can work out at home or even bring your stepper to work and use it in your office. If you want a full-body workout, look for mini steppers that can accommodate resistance bands.
Mini steppers won’t break the bank; the best mini steppers tend to run around $100. We love that they are lightweight (around 20 lbs.) and many models can fold up for storage or travel.
The balance issue is two-fold. First, some steppers have slippery undersides so they may skid across the floor when you step on them. Secondly, some are designed without handles of any kind or even removable resistance bands. Certainly, it can be hard to remain upright on these models (although they work well underneath a desk).
Unless you use resistance bands or have a model with moving handles, the mini stepper exercises mainly the lower body. Some people remedy this by using free weights.
The smaller size makes for a limited amount of movement.
A common complaint with mini steppers is that they tend to squeak when in use.
Before we share all the details, here's a quick overview of the best models at the moment.
Features we love
Buy it now
Stamina InStride Pro
- Super compact, perfect
Sunny Health & Fitness
- Unique twisting motion
jfit Under Desk &
- Allows you to pedal
Gold’s Gym Mini Stepper
- Compact, east to store
- Smoothest pedaling of
Keep reading for the lowdown on the best mini steppers.
With the Stamina InStride you can choose to incorporate an upper body workout (upper back, chest, arms) by using rubber resistance bands or skip the bands to focus on toning the lower body (glutes, thighs, calves). You can keep track of your workouts (time, number of steps, calories burned) on the battery-run monitor.
Although this mini stepper is made from durable steel, it’s lightweight so you can move it from room to room or take it to your office.
The rubber padding keeps the stepper in place and the wide pedals help you to keep your balance.
Since this stepper is so lightweight and small, we were able to toss it into a gym bag and bring it to the office. It was a perfect way to break up a long workday and to jumpstart an afternoon of lengthy meetings!
What sets the Sunny Health & Fitness model apart is its unique side-to-side movement that works the lower body muscles in a challenging yet safe way. With adjustable tension, you can work deeper into your muscles but remain in control.
The Twister Stepper is sturdy, thanks to no-skid footplates and a solid steel construction. An LCD monitor tracks your workout (time, calories burned, number of steps). When you’ve finished your routine, it’s easy to just fold up and stash away until next time!
Although it took us a few tries to get the hang of the twisting motion, once we did, we were hooked. We loved how our whole body felt strengthened and toned after a 30-minute workout.
The j/fit stepper was created with an office setting in mind. This is a great pick if you spend hours at a desk and worry about getting enough exercise. This mini stepper fits under a desk and doesn’t skid or tip over. You can pedal it from two different angles, and you can use it sitting or standing.
There are solid rear wheels and a front handle so you can easily change positions. A monitor keeps track of your stats (time, steps, calories). You can easily change the level of difficulty by adjusting the level of tension.
We found this to be one of the quietest of all the steppers. This was especially important to us when we brought the stepper to a large meeting; no one knew it was under the desk!
For those who live in small spaces or for folks who travel, Gold’s Gym mini stepper is a solid choice.
Although it’s just 13 lbs., this stepper has a maximum weight capacity of 250 lbs. It provides a low-impact workout that elevates your heart rate and tones your legs, buttocks and core, while protecting your hips and knees.
Despite the compact size, the pedals are large and comfortable and the unit stays firmly on the ground during use. Like many other models, there is a display that shows the basic stats of your routine.
We found this to be the best mini stepper for travel because it’s extremely lightweight and easy to carry. It was comforting to know that no matter where we were, we had a mini stepper on hand.
If you’re looking for a top of-the-line stepper, the Xiser is for you. The only negative we found is the hefty price tag.
Cast from an aluminum mold, the Xiser stepper is extremely durable and long lasting. Since there are no welded parts, there aren’t any weak spots in the frame, and it can withstand up to 400 lbs.
It has a longer length for even more stability and a smooth pedaling motion that makes almost no sound.
There are three resistance levels to choose from: walk, high-speed, and run.
This portable stepper weighs in at just 14 lbs. so it’s a breeze to take with you or move around your home.
Here’s a video showing how to set up your Xiser stepper:
We loved just about everything to do with the Xiser mini stepper. But what really impressed us is that it can withstand up to 400 lbs. This is great news for folks with larger builds who have had trouble finding appropriate gym equipment.
Life is full of complications and surprises. Don’t let your workout be any more difficult than it needs to be.
The mini stepper is a straightforward, unfussy way to improve your cardiovascular health.
Although it may take a few tries before your routine feels comfortable, with a stepper you don’t have to factor in extra gadgets or add-ons. With regular use, a mini stepper can increase your muscle tone, your strength and endurance.
And since it’s portable, you can exercise at home or in your office.
Studies have shown that elevating your heart rate for one hour every day can improve your overall health and quality of life.
If you’re worried about meeting that requirement (even if you live in a small space or travel or have a limited budget), the best mini stepper reviews like this one will help to find the model for you.