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What is a mini stepper and what kind of workout does it provide?

The Nordic Lifting Mini Stepper from Amazon. 

The Nordic Lifting Mini Stepper from Amazon

Mariana Best for Hearst Newspapers

In true San Francisco fashion, my humble abode is a 270-square-foot city studio that functions as my home, office, and gym. Once I finessed my queen size bed and work desk into my tiny space, I knew I was going to have to get creative when it came to putting together an at-home fitness area.  

A compromise between an under-desk elliptical and a traditional elliptical, the Nordic Lifting Mini Stepper boasts a compact design friendly for small spaces with functionality similar to that of a larger machine. It promises both a cardio and toning workout for under $100 and even comes with detachable resistance bands to incorporate arm-strengthening exercises into the mix. 

Nordic Lifting

I wanted a machine that was small enough to stuff in my closet, would make me break a sweat, and could help keep my legs strong enough to endure San Francisco hills (they’re no joke!). Nordic Lifting’s unit seemed like a no-brainer, and I whipped out my credit card to guinea pig it myself. 

As someone who already owns and regularly uses a treadmill, under-desk elliptical, and resistance bands, I put the mini stepper machine to the test for 30 days to see if it would add value to my exercise routine without adding too much bulk to my modest home gym space.

What is a mini stepper?

A mini stepper is a stationary fitness unit that mimics a stair-stepping motion to engage a variety of lower body and core muscles. Its space-saving design requires less real estate than a full-size stair climber or elliptical machine, both of which target similar muscle groups as the mini stepper. Typically, mini steppers are more budget-friendly than their larger counterparts. 

Models like the Nordic Lifting stepper typically track metrics on a battery-operated tracker. This one includes metrics like step count, the time elapsed, calories burned, and reps per minute. 

Stair stepper vs. stair climber: Is there a difference?

Similar to the stair climber machine found at the gym, the mini stepper engages the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves; but unlike a traditional stair stepper, your feet never leave the two independent pedals (like an elliptical). 

While the stair climber typically has multiple resistance and speed levels to choose from, the mini stepper has no interchangeable levels of difficulty. It relies on your body weight as resistance, and the intensity of your workout is dependent on how vigorously you decide to step. 

What muscles does a stair stepper work?

The mini stepper can activate the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves in the lower body; with the added resistance arm bands, shoulder muscles, biceps, triceps, abs, and hips can also feel the burn. 

The mini stepper can be used on both hardwood and carpet floors. 

The mini stepper can be used on both hardwood and carpet floors. 

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Mini stepper review

For this review, I used the Nordic Lifting Mini Stepper for 30 days for 20 to 45 minutes per session. Notably, I am a daily jogger and clocked roughly 20,000 to 30,000 steps per day outside of the mini stepper workout while testing. My goals were to tone up my legs and arms, incorporate a resistance workout into my cardio-centric routine, and work up a visible sweat without having to trek to the gym. 

After 30 days, I can confidently say (from my unlicensed one-woman study) that the mini stepper is here to stay: The machine’s unobtrusive design, ease of use, and muscle-activating qualities add a much-needed strength training element to my daily routine. 


  • Space-saving design 
  • Budget-friendly 
  • Easy to use 
  • Multiple color options 

The mini stepper is 11.5 x 16.5 x 7.9 inches and approximately 16.5 pounds. With these dimensions, it seamlessly fits into my small living space and can be stowed away in my tiny closet when not in use. For a quick workout during my lunch break, I could whip this bad boy out and catch up on “The Bachelorette” while getting my heart rate up. 

At around $93, the unit is a more budget-friendly choice than a classic elliptical or step climber machine (where prices can easily run over $1,000) and is in line with what I spent on my under-desk elliptical (around $125). For those thinking of investing in a traditional stair climber or elliptical machine, the mini stepper offers an ample in-between option worth trialing prior to making larger purchases. 

This machine is simple to use and is ready to go right out of the box with zero assembly required. As a fan of the Barbiecore aesthetic, I appreciate that the mini stepper comes in a bubblegum pink shade; it can also be purchased in red or silver. 


  • Loud 
  • No resistance levels 

I was pleased to discover that the mini stepper came with a square mat to place it on, particularly because I have hardwood floors and noise-sensitive neighbors. Despite the additional cushion that reduced the noise of the pedals banging against the floor, the stepper machine began squeaking after two hefty uses. While not a deal breaker, the squeak was distracting enough for me to invest in a silicone fitness equipment lubricant to ease its cries. It helped temporarily, but considering the persistent noise I wouldn’t recommend this model to someone who intends to use the machine regularly in a cohabiting space. 

While the machine provides a sweat-inducing workout, as someone who regularly works out I found myself wishing there were resistance levels to choose from. I appreciated the stepper came with optional arm resistance bands but was fearful of them snapping off their hinge due to the hooks’ plastic construction and hitting me in the face. I did not use them for the 30 days and instead opted for holding 2-pound hand weights while stepping to engage my arm muscles and core more effectively. 

I give my knees a good daily pounding — I played volleyball for 12 years and have been a runner for 17 years strong – and found my knees aching after longer mini-stepper sessions. Maintaining good posture helped, but I had to ice my knees twice in the 30 days. For those with similarly testy knees, an under-desk elliptical may be a better option as it doesn’t utilize weight resistance and is designed to be a low-impact workout.  

The mini stepper tracks a number of metrics on its display screen. 

The mini stepper tracks a number of metrics on its display screen. 

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Is a mini stepper a good workout?

The Nordic Lifting Mini Stepper undoubtedly provides a good workout — so long as you’re willing to put the work in. By stepping at a consistent pace and incorporating hand weights, I’m able to work up a sweat in less than 20 minutes. I absolutely noticed increased muscle tone in my hamstrings, calves, and quads after 30 days of consistent use, which has been helpful when I need to scale a mountainous San Francisco sidewalk. As someone who prides themself on working out every day, I felt humbled by how sore my legs were weeks into using the mini stepper. 

I’m a bonafide cardio girlie, and the mini stepper is a scorcher. If you can’t fit a full-size elliptical or treadmill (or can’t budget for one), this small machine will offer a desirable at-home workout. However, for those who regularly lift weights and engage in strength training exercises, the lack of resistance options may make the mini stepper a poor fit. 

While the mini stepper doesn’t bang on the knees as much as a treadmill in my experience, those with sensitive or stiff knees may benefit more from an under-desk elliptical machine that does not put weight on your joints. 

If you’re someone with limited storage space who wants a brainless way to incorporate cardio and toning exercise into your television-watching schedule like me, the Nordic Lifting Mini Stepper is for you. Put on a thriller, grab some hand weights, and get stepping — it’s worth the investment. 

Everything you need for the best at-home workout