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consumer-reports-2013-iconWhen considering a fitness equipment purchase for your home, you may come across reviews from professionals and other exercisers. While these can provide valuable insight, it’s important to ensure that these evaluations are legitimate and accurate. Keep in mind the following regarding elliptical reviews online or in magazines or newspapers:

  1. Make sure that the source is reputable. Publications like Consumer Reports and Consumers Digest and well-known and established, but if you are not familiar with the magazine or web site, do some research to determine who runs the outlet and if it is indeed objective and independent of any fitness equipment brand.
  2. While Web research is convenient, an online-only search can turn up several sites that are simply for-hire endorsements or promotional material – masquerading as true opinions. Some experts estimate that up to 5% of all online product reviews are “deceptive opinion spam,” or the work of people paid to tout or disparage products. Be savvy here.
  3. Check a variety of reviews and don’t just rely on one. Remember that reviews are opinions, and opinions typically vary. If you see a number of similar ratings and comments for a particular model, it is more likely to be an accurate assessment. Watch for relative consistency or noticeable inconsistency in analyses of the same product.
  4. Note the prices of products reviewed. Some reviews compare elliptical machines that cost around $500 with those that are priced at $2000. This isn’t always a valid comparison, as lower priced models simply cannot compete feature-by-feature with premium machines.
  5. Examine the brand’s web site. For every elliptical machine you are considering, see if external reviews are mentioned on the brand’s web site as well. If so, these typically are only positive evaluations, but they can still help provide a comprehensive  picture.
  6. Ask some experts. Don’t simply rely on elliptical reviews alone, but ask personal trainers and fitness instructors at your health club which brands they recommend. Visit a specialty fitness retailer and talk to the staff about their favorite machines. And check with family, friends and coworkers about their experience with home fitness equipment.

While reviews provide helpful guidance in choosing a fitness product, they shouldn’t be the main determinant. What’s most important is to actually try different elliptical machines and assess which one suits you the best, based on how it feels, its features, its size and its price. Nothing can surpass the value of your own experience testing a piece of fitness equipment.