What is an Exercise Stepper?

D. Messmer

An exercise stepper is a piece of home exercise equipment that provides athletes with an aerobic workout. The exercise stepper simulates the action of walking up a set of stairs, so it provides a leg workout. Some variations also have arm attachments so that the athlete can get an upper body workout at the same time.

Repeating steps provides a good workout for the quadriceps and hamstrings.
Repeating steps provides a good workout for the quadriceps and hamstrings.

Though there are many designs, the basic principle of all exercise steppers is the same. They consist of two platforms, each of which is large enough that the athlete can place one foot on it comfortably. These platforms connect to a set of hydraulic pistons that keep the platforms raised above the floor. When the athlete steps on the platform, though, the weight of the athlete's body causes the platforms to slowly lower toward the floor. When the athlete lifts his or her foot off the platform, the hydraulics quickly push it back to its original starting position.

Exercise steppers are often used in aerobics classes.
Exercise steppers are often used in aerobics classes.

In order to use an exercise stepper, then, the athlete begins by placing each foot on one of the platforms. As the platforms begin to lower, the athlete shifts his or her weight to one foot, thus taking the weight off the other. Taking the weight off this leg lets the platform beneath it raise. When it reaches the highest point, the athlete shift his or her weight to the other leg, which causes that platform to lower and the other to raise. By repeating this process, the athlete simulates walking up a set of stairs.

This type of exercise provides several benefits for the athlete. In order to keep the platforms continually raising and lowering, the athlete must continue stepping, so the exercise stepper provides a good, sustained aerobic exercise. The repeated steps also provide a solid workout for the quadriceps, hamstrings and calf muscles.

In addition to these aerobic benefits and the benefits of the exercise stepper to the leg muscles, many designs of the machine also include arm attachments. Sometimes these attachments are static, and their sole purpose is provide stability for the athlete while he or she uses the exercise stepper. This design is ideal for those athletes who have a hard time maintaining their balance while on the exercise stepper.

Some designs, though, use these arm attachments to provide a better overall workout. One common design involves a set of handles that the athlete pushes and pulls in time to the motion of the legs. Another design uses a set of handles that each attach to a cord or elastic cable, so that the athlete curls and uncurls the arms in time with the legs' stepping action. In both cases, the arms attachments enable the athlete to get an upper body workout at the same time that the exercise stepper provides the legs with a thorough workout.

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Discussion Comments


I like to do stepping exercises, but I didn't see the point of buying an exercise stepper when I have stairs in my home. Walking up and down them works just as well and doesn't cost any money to do.


In a pinch, anyone who wants to do stair stepper exercises can use a board or even a low stool. It's not the object but the motion that creates the workout benefits to many muscles in the body.

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