Regular gym-goers would probably notice that there’s never a shortage of people using an elliptical.
Well, elliptical machines are one of the most in-demand equipment in fitness centers — and for a good reason! It’s low-impact, easy to use, and can be readily adapted for home use.
But is it really effective? Find out all the drawbacks and benefits of elliptical workouts in this article.
Is the Elliptical a Good Form of Exercise?
An elliptical machine provides several benefits that make them popular gym and home exercise equipment.
Also known as a cross or elliptical trainer, an elliptical machine is a low-impact stationary machine that mimics the movement of aerobic exercises like walking, running, and hiking.
Elliptical machines have suspended foot pedals that can be moved in a gliding motion that conforms to a natural stride. The user never lifts their feet off the pedals as they move.
Because elliptical workouts eliminate the harsh impact of ground walking or running, they cause LESS stress on the joints, spine, and leg muscles.
The fluidity of the elliptical makes it an ideal workout routine for beginners, older adults, and individuals recovering from an injury.
How Long Will It Take to See Results?
Any exercise, done consistently and regularly, can significantly improve your health and your life.
It would require a change in lifestyle habits to see tangible results — from developing a healthy diet to getting restful sleep daily.
It would also depend on your weight loss and fitness goals. After all, different exercises target different muscle groups, which can produce various results.
Since elliptical workouts are LOW-IMPACT, you shouldn’t expect immediate changes. Higher-intensity workouts tend to give faster results.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, 30 minutes of elliptical training can burn around 200 to 400 calories.
If done five days weekly, that would burn at least 1,500 calories a week, which is enough to burn around 1 lb. (0.45 kg).
Regular moderate exercise and proper diet can give NOTICEABLE changes in about four to six weeks.
What Muscles Does the Elliptical Use?
Many turn to elliptical trainers because they can provide a full body workout with only a low risk of injury.
An elliptical workout targets several muscle groups. The leg motion targets the lower body muscles such as:
The arm movement while gripping the handlebars exercises the upper body, specifically the following muscles:
- Rear delts
Because an elliptical workout emphasizes aerobic exercise, it primarily engages the cardiovascular system.
An elliptical machine engages BOTH the upper and lower body, making it a great foundational training for a workout program.
What Are the Benefits of Elliptical Exercise?
Elliptical trainers are versatile machines that can give a better workout for your upper and lower body. But what makes it an EFFECTIVE exercise equipment?Below are the advantages of using the elliptical in your fitness routine:
1: Contributes to Weight Loss
One of the leading motivations to exercise is to lose weight and get fit.
Using an elliptical machine for half an hour can burn 324 calories on average. It promotes a healthy weight loss of 1 to 4 lbs. per week if done regularly.
Individuals with greater body weight can expect tangible results faster than others.
If you want to maintain your current weight or prevent weight gain, doing 30-minute elliptical machine workouts five days a week is enough.
To maximize weight loss, you should do 45 to 60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise using an elliptical.
Remember, losing weight depends on many factors — including fitness levels, current weight, and hormones.
A combination of healthy lifestyle habits is the best way to lose weight.
Elliptical training is a low impact exercise intended to relieve pressure on the hips, knees, ankles, and spine.
According to a research done in 2014 on the referent body weight values of cardio exercises, it was found that elliptical exercise is LESS weight-bearing than other forms of workouts.
Because you don’t have to lift your feet off the pedals, it puts less stress on the joints. Using the elliptical eliminates the harsh impact force of jogging or running on hard surfaces.
The Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program (AFEP) also advises doing low-impact exercises to help ease arthritis in patients.
A low-impact exercise like ellipticals can be an ideal physical therapy for older adults and individuals recovering from injuries.
Less impact on the joints also means you can exercise LONGER and burn more calories in a single session.
3: Enhances Cardiovascular Health
An elliptical trainer not only targets your lower and upper body — it also engages your heart and blood vessels.
Spending 30 minutes on an elliptical machine can speed up your heart rate, pumping more blood to essentially “exercise” your heart muscles.
What’s great about an elliptical machine is you can do both steady-state sessions and high-intensity interval training.
A 15-minute high-intensity training can do wonders for your cardio stamina. Increased stamina can also help boost your performance level for other workouts.
It allows you to get efficient aerobic exercise, improving your cardiovascular endurance and stamina in the long run.
4: Reduces High Blood Pressure
With good cardiovascular health, you also lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Exercising releases serotonin — a hormone that helps regulate mood, sleep, wound healing, and bone health, among other things.
According to this study, serotonin also has antihypertensive or blood pressure-lowering effects.
Using an elliptical machine for as little as 20 minutes per day improves your mental health and helps reduce hypertension.
5: Improves Balance
An elliptical machine can also help condition your body for better balance.
One way to improve your balance using an elliptical trainer is to keep your stance straight and forego using the handlebars as you stride.
Ensure that you have the incline and resistance at controllable settings so that you can safely exercise.This weight-bearing exercise strengthens your core muscles, which aids in developing and maintaining stability.
What Are the Drawbacks of Elliptical Exercise?
Elliptical trainers are great if you’re looking for a low-impact cardio machine — BUT they’re not without flaws.Despite their many benefits, elliptical machines are not for everyone. An elliptical may not be the most effective exercise for a few reasons:
1: Not Beneficial for All Sports
Remember that different exercises can target different muscles that may be more beneficial for specific activities.
As such, an elliptical may not be the most suitable cardio machine for certain sports because of the different movements involved.
If you’re preparing for a race or marathon, you might be better off using a treadmill. That’s because elliptical strides on suspended pedals are NOT comparable to treadmill jogging.
2: Unfit for Certain Users
Although elliptical trainers are generally safe for the knees, they can still aggravate pre-existing knee injuries or conditions.
You stand to benefit more from a stationary bike or other cardio machines, as suggested by your doctor or physical therapist.
Most elliptical workout machines are also configured based on measurements that may not be accessible for people of different body types.
People who are too short or too tall may find using the elliptical awkward because the handles and pedals are designed to fit in SPECIFIC positions on the machine.
However, a treadmill or a stair stepper machine does not have the same restrictions when used.
3: Less Calorie Burn
If weight loss is your primary fitness goal, an elliptical workout routine may NOT be the best exercise if you want results fast.
For the average individual, a 30-minute elliptical training can burn about 300 calories.
In comparison, high-impact aerobics and treadmill running can burn calories more effectively in the same amount of time.
Though it can be an effective weight loss exercise, an elliptical workout is less efficient at burning calories because it’s low-impact.
A treadmill can provide a better calorie-burning lower-body workout because it requires more effort than an elliptical.
HIIT is another form of training known to boost weight loss FAST because it involves intense bursts of exercise followed by short recovery periods.
4: Less Bone Strength
An elliptical machine workout may not be the best if you intend to build bone density.
In weight-bearing exercises like ground jogging or running, the repetitive impact force of your feet hitting the ground STIMULATES your bones to be denser.
It leads to stronger bones that are more resilient against fractures and injuries.
In comparison, this low-impact workout does not provide the same bone-strengthening effect.
Because your feet do not make contact with the floor during an elliptical workout, it does not promote bone growth.
You can use the elliptical if you are at risk of injury or have recently been injured. Otherwise, alternative weight-bearing exercises are better at reducing bone demineralization.
Unlike other aerobic exercises, using an elliptical trainer comes at a COST.
When it comes to ellipticals, you have two options: either go to the gym or buy an elliptical machine.
Low-price elliptical trainers can be around $100 to $150 — but you can expect only a basic model with limited workout programs, resistance levels, and warranty.
Mid-range models can cost you $700 to $1,500. These are intended for regular usage with more performance specs like display monitors and pulse trackers.
For gym-quality elliptical trainers that can last you for five or more years, you’re looking at prices ranging from $2,000 up to $5,000.
On the other hand, a gym subscription costs $50 per month on average, which can amount to $600 per year.Although a gym subscription gives you access to other workout equipment, not everyone can squeeze in time to go to the gym.
How to Achieve the Best Elliptical Workout?
Incorporating elliptical training into your workout routine can effectively work your entire body in a low-impact session.
If you want to make the most out of your elliptical training, check out these tips:
1: Stand Straight
According to a certified personal trainer, people tend to slouch once they get tired to alleviate the strain on their legs when using an elliptical for an extended period.
It’s important to maintain good posture to minimize joint pain and muscle strain.
You should stand tall, place equal amounts of pressure on both legs and feet, and keep your shoulders lowered.
This posture helps keep your upper body from taking the brunt of your weight.
2: Grip the Handlebars
Don’t let the handles control you. Instead, YOU should be the one controlling the handlebars according to your workout routine.
Hold each handle and use your strength to pull and push them along with your pedaling. Engaging your upper body can help tone your arm muscles and give a full-body workout.
3: Don’t Stand on Your Toes
Putting your weight on your toes or the balls of your feet means more stress on your knees.
You may feel pain around your knee joint or experience numbness in your legs if you do this when using the elliptical.
Move your feet as if you’re running.
Place equal amounts of pressure on both feet and move through the length of your foot with each pedal stride.
4: Incorporate Dynamic Moves and Speed
Add different resistance levels, inclines, and intervals to your workout to challenge your body to adapt.
Gradually increase the resistance to improve your endurance and strength. Elevate the incline to target your glute muscles.
You can try sprinting and even pedaling BACKWARDS to enhance your cardio.
Incorporating dynamic moves can help engage various muscles, increase strength, and burn calories faster.
5: Put Away Your Screen
If you’re distracted by your phone, chances are you’re not putting in all your effort to exercise.
To see significant fitness improvements, you have to make each workout count. Instead of watching TV, listen to upbeat music instead.Studies show that listening to music while exercising can actually make you feel HAPPIER and increase your energy.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you’re still unsure if an elliptical is a good option for you, below are commonly asked questions about ellipticals that can help you:
Is a 30-Minute Elliptical Workout Enough?
If weight loss is your goal, then yes. You can effectively lose weight at a MODERATE pace by using an elliptical.
A 30-minute moderate-intensity elliptical training can burn 350 calories on average. You can lose 1 lb. or more if done consistently for five days every week.
Is the Elliptical a Good Alternative to Running?
An elliptical CAN be a great alternative to aerobic exercises. It’s comparatively easier on the joints and provides a dynamic workout in one machine.
Nevertheless, running also has several advantages that you can’t mimic using an elliptical.
It engages your lower body better, burns more calories, and improves stamina and endurance.
If you’re a beginner or at risk of injury, enlist the help of a running coach or consult a physical therapist to learn how to incorporate high-impact exercises into your regimen correctly.
Using an elliptical machine gives a low-impact exercise that delivers all the benefits of aerobic exercises without the risk of injury or strain on the joints.
Although it’s an effective workout for any individual at various fitness levels, it’s not the best exercise for building bone density or muscle mass.
As such, include other routines in your workout program to optimize your physical fitness.