July 17, 2024

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Does It Work For Weight Loss? Pros and Cons

Does It Work For Weight Loss? Pros and Cons

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These days, it seems like TikTok is all about trying to sell you stuff that can make you slimmer and more attractive. As a health journalist, I’m generally skeptical about the diet and fitness products I encounter online, but when I saw account after account extolling mini steppers of various brands — cost effective, easy to do while watching TV and actually a good workout! — I decided to try it.

I’m lucky to have access to a gym in my building, and I enjoy running outside, as well as using my Peloton. So, I was mostly wondering if a mini stepper lurking in the corner of my living room would help me squeeze more movement into my evenings and weekends when I’d otherwise be catching up on “Vanderpump Rules.” The short answer is yes, it absolutely did, though I don’t think the mini stepper is a good fit for everyone.

Here’s what to know before buying your own.

What is a mini stepper?

Mini steppers are small workout machines that are conceptually similar to a StairMaster. You stand on the machine and move the pedals up and down, simulating climbing stairs. With some mini steppers, you can change the difficulty level by increasing the resistance of the steps or range of the pedals.

photo of maura on a mini stepper
Mini steppers re-create the motion of climbing up stairs, so you can definitely work up a sweat using one.Tyler Essary / TODAY

Some steppers also have resistance bands so you can incorporate an arm workout. But for those that don’t, using a pair of handheld weights while you step should be quite effective, too.

The mini stepper I used for this review is made by Sunny Health & Fitness. It comes with resistance bands and a twistable knob to make stepping more difficult. By tightening the knob, you increase the angle of the pedals so it’s more strenuous to push them down.

The Sunny stepper also has a digital face that tracks the number of steps, calories burned and how long you’ve been working out. You can also use the SunnyFit app for workout inspiration.

Sunny Health & Fitness Total Body Smart 2-in-1 Stepper Machine

Is a mini stepper good for weight loss?

My goal with using a mini stepper was not to lose weight, so I didn’t track my progress in this way. But there are lots of people who’ve shared their experience online about losing weight with their mini steppers.

One mom of four said that she used it to walk either a mile or 30 minutes every day for 30 days and she lost over 5 pounds. Another TikToker posted that she was down 6 pounds after just two and a half weeks of 10,000 daily steps on her mini stepper.

Research also shows that climbing stairs is associated with lower body weight.

Does the mini stepper actually work?

The answer to this question depends on your fitness goals, but it worked for me for a few reasons:

I exercised more during the winter. When it’s cold and gets dark early, the last thing I want to do is leave my apartment, let alone go for a run outside. The mini stepper allowed me to exercise from the comfort of my living room, which set a great foundation for working out more when the weather got nicer.

It felt like a good workout. Climbing up stairs for 45 minutes to an hour without stopping is no joke. Some days, I was too tired to even use the resistance bands, that’s how serious of a workout it was. I definitely felt sore the next day, especially after the first few uses.

I built up muscle tone and endurance. I didn’t have a regular workout routine when I started using the mini stepper this past winter, so I could definitely see my arms, legs and glutes get more toned after a few weeks of using it.

I had fun. Let’s be honest: Most of us don’t actually enjoy working out — that’s why we try to distract ourselves while doing it. If you’re one of these people, the mini stepper is great because you can easily set it up in front of your TV, watch one episode of your favorite show and that’s your movement for the day.

photo of maura on a mini stepper
The mini stepper helped me discover a love for moving my body heading into the spring and summer.Tyler Essary / TODAY

How long should you walk on a mini stepper?

I would use my mini stepper for 30 minutes to an hour each time, and that felt like a pretty solid workout. It would take me about 45 minutes to do around 1,000 steps.

There are lots of mini stepper workout routines available online that range from 15 or 20 minutes to an hour. The SunnyFit app also has workout options of varying lengths for its 2-in-1 Smart Stepper.

To lose weight with walking, it’s generally recommended that you walk for 45 to 60 minutes a day, five to six days a week.

Pros of the mini stepper

I’ve already gotten into some of the pros of the mini-stepper, but here are a few more:

  • Super easy to do at home. I have a Peloton in my apartment, but the mini stepper still felt more approachable on days where I really didn’t want to work out.
  • Small and easy to store. Most at-home workout machines take up a lot of space, but not this one! As someone who’s run a lot on the treadmill and done a lot of spinning, I believe the space-to-quality-of-workout ratio for the mini stepper is the best.
  • Quiet. It definitely makes a little bit of noise, but it’s not anything your downstairs neighbors would be able to hear. It didn’t bother my dog too much, and he’s very excitable.
  • Good workout. I really did feel like my leg and arm muscles were burning, and if I made a conscious effort to try to step extra fast, I could definitely get winded.
  • Cost-effective. I think $80 is a pretty good deal for a space-efficient machine that delivers a good workout that you can do while multitasking or more intensely for a shorter period. It also feels pretty sturdy, given the price point.

Cons of the mini stepper

There were a few things that I didn’t love about my mini stepper:

  • Hard to coordinate. I found that there was a bit of a learning curve with figuring out how to step and use the resistance bands at the same time. I didn’t have as much trouble when using small dumbbells.
  • Balance issues. When I increased the angle of the pedals to make the workout harder, I occasionally found myself losing balance on the machine, which would wobble a little bit as a result.
  • Not a must-have if you have easy access to other machines. If you’re easily motivated to go to the gym or you already have another workout machine that you like in your home, I don’t think the mini stepper will add much to your routine, unless you’re looking for diversity or to try something new.

Should you get a mini stepper?

Based on my experience of using the mini stepper for a few months, I think it is a great option for people who are busy and easily find excuses not to workout.

Because you can keep the stepper in your home without taking up too much space and you can do other tasks while stepping, it’s a seamless way to start moving on a regular basis. Plus, it really does feel like a good workout, and many have said it can help with weight loss, if that’s your goal.

That said, I think people with a lot of fitness experience, or who enjoy going to the gym or using an existing machine in their home, like a treadmill or stationary bike, might get less out of the mini stepper.