(Originally published in 2020; updated June 2021)
When lockdown began, I had just hit my stride at the gym for the first time in years.
It was a disappointment, but losing access to a stable routine quickly became secondary to the mounting anxiety of living in New York during the initial onslaught of the pandemic. I wanted to work out to relieve some of that, but the early uncertainty of how the virus spread coupled with quickly overcrowding parks in my neighborhood led to some serious couch time.
Within a few weeks, though, it became clear that both my mental and physical health had suffered the effects of reduced movement. I sought out an affordable replacement for my favorite cardio machines that could help me sweat at home without breaking the bank and with the added caveat of fitting neatly into a compact New York City apartment.
A few clicks later, I landed on a retro classic that had burrowed into the recesses of my brain: the Tony Little Gazelle.
Anyone with a television from the late nineties to early oughts probably remembers the commercials for the machine. Upbeat music, dramatic enthusiasm, and the bouncy blonde ponytail of Tony himself as he pumped his way through a number of exercises on the Gazelle while coaching on a team of fitness-seeking actor behind him.
This was somewhat of a golden era for at-home workout products, and the Gazelle was yet another quick ticket to getting in shape if these clips were to be believed.
I was intrigued, and happy to see the prices ranged from $249 to $400, a similar number to what I’d be saving over the course of a few months on my frozen gym membership.
Taking the plunge, I chose the Gazelle Freestyle without noticing it didn’t come with added resistance–something an experienced gym-goer like myself would need. Despite that setback, the machine arrived quickly in a surprisingly compact box and was much easier to put together than I’d expected. I had the benefit of a handy husband stuck at home with me to help, but I could have assembled the machine myself given about 40 minutes and a little elbow grease.
For my first workout, I recall spending a minute or so getting acquainted with the necessary movements to stay upright and gliding smoothly, then going to town for about an hour while the attached activity meter recorded my strides, time, and exertion. I was skeptical of its accuracy–as with all cardio machine’s often dubious readings–and focused more on my breathing to measure my efforts.
While I barely broke a sweat even going at a quick clip, I dismounted the machine to very wobbly legs and feeling like I’d actually moved a lot. I wouldn’t call it anywhere near the type of sweat session I’d grown to love on a standard elliptical or stair climber, but it beat sitting all day while riding out the Covid-19 upswing of the the spring 2020 months.
Spring turned to summer and with summer came the chance to walk and work out outdoors more, so I enjoyed that more often than my previous home workouts. Still I continued using the machine a couple times a month when I didn’t feel like interacting with the outside world, and I found it a great stand-in for increasing my step count on rainy days and other times when putting on full workout gear seemed tiresome.
Even after moving to a smaller apartment in Brooklyn, I found I could fold up the Gazelle and tuck it behind my bedroom door, dragging it out a few times a month to supplement the activity I was trying to re-incorporate into my lifestyle. Now that New York is back to the colder months and infection rates have skyrocketed once more, I’m grateful to have the machine so I can get my blood pumping despite another round of increased homebound-ness already in place.
The Gazelle isn’t a replacement for more intense cardio or weight training if those are workouts you’re already performing, but it is certainly better than doing nothing at all. Beginners will love the almost zero impact it has on your joints, and more advanced fitness lovers can easily alter the workout by leaning forward, backward, or pumping more quickly for interval training and a more challenging session.
There’s also the option of the Gazelle Supreme, as seen below, that has “power pistons” meant to increase resistance as you glide, giving you a much tougher workout than the Edge. Reviewers criticize the fact that there is no adjustment outside of “on” or “off” concerning the pistons, but cycling between the two modes could provide enough of a workout to burn significant calories and increase leg muscle strength to make up for it.
As for downsides outside of the relative ease of the workout: it’s small. This is obviously convenient for storage, but anyone with wide-set hips or over 300lbs likely won’t find any use for the Gazelle. Considering many potential users with a wider frame could benefit from something this beginner-friendly, it’s unfortunate they don’t yet offer a more accommodating option.
It’s also a bit unwieldy to drag in and out of its designated storage space despite its fairly small size. The foot pedals often fall when I go to pull it out quickly and sometimes smack hard against my wall, leaving a scratch in the turquoise paint. If you have a quieter color scheme or white walls, I doubt this is as much of a problem.
On the upside, I’ve seen it referred to as an “air walker” and that sums it up really; it’s a gentle, light cardiovascular activity that won’t get you ripped but is a nice way to get moving. You don’t need fancy gym clothes or to expose yourself the elements, and it folds up and down quickly so you don’t have to commit to a large space in which to store the thing.
Overall I would recommend a Tony Little Gazelle to anyone starting their fitness journey who wants to ease into heavier cardio workouts or supplement an existing low-impact routine. This can also be great for someone like me who, while more advanced in the workout sector, can use something easy-going for those lazy days at home when I’m reticent to get out and take a long walk but still feel like I need some gentle movement.
Below you’ll find the two models I recommend, but you can find a more in-depth comparison between the options on the official Tony Little Gazelle website here.
Gazelle Freestyle Glider by Tony Little
This is the particular option I purchased, and it’s ideal for folks just getting started out who aren’t ready to commit to something more expensive but need a gentle, low-impact workout at home. You’ll receive two workout DVDs and a fitness computer with your purchase, ensuring you have everything you need to see if you’re getting the movement you want.
Gazelle Supreme by Tony Little
The Gazelle Supreme is just like the Freestyle but with the option of added resistance, something super helpful to those who have already been on a fitness journey and need added difficulty. Buyers warn the resistance is simply “on” or “off,” not adjustable, so buy only if you’re committed to a harder workout regularly.