Wondering if you should work out on an elliptical trainer or even get one for your home gym? Here are 13 benefits that make elliptical trainers a really good choice for your workouts.
Elliptical trainers have many benefits relating to cardiovascular health and burning calories in a safe, low impact way. An elliptical can build muscle in the lower body but also provide a light workout for the upper body. It’s a safe and easy way to get into shape for almost everyone.
Let’s take a look at all the different benefits in detail.
- 1 1. Improve cardiovascular health and endurance
- 2 2. Lower body fat
- 3 3. Get a full body workout
- 4 4. Choose what type of workout you want
- 5 5. Tone your whole body
- 6 6. Target different leg muscles
- 7 7. Don’t hurt your joints
- 8 8. Recover/exercise safely after injuries
- 9 9. Improve your balance
- 10 10. Use your time efficiently
- 11 11. Multitask
- 12 12. Suitable for everyone
- 13 13. Become a better runner
1. Improve cardiovascular health and endurance
Working out on an elliptical machine is a great way to improve your cardiovascular health. It’s one of the most important things you can do for your health and fitness.
An elliptical trainer allows you to use many muscles all over your body. All those muscles moving need blood with oxygen to keep working. To get enough oxygen and nutrients to those muscles, you have to breathe more and your heart has to pump more than when resting. Because you are using more muscle mass than on a treadmill, you have the potential to get a better training impulse.
That’s why your breathing becomes faster and your heart rate goes up when working out on an elliptical trainer. By pushing yourself your heart becomes stronger and better at pumping around blood, this keeps you healthier. Over time your lungs become more efficient as well as your muscles.
Combine all of those improvements and you have great improvements to your cardiovascular health and endurance. This helps you dramatically with longevity and by making physical activities in daily life easier. You don’t have to be out of breath for daily activities like walking up stairs or playing with your (grand)children.
Properly using an elliptical trainer uses a lot of muscle mass which makes it a very efficient tool in improving cardiovascular health and endurance.
2. Lower body fat
A big motivation for many people to start and keep working out is to lose weight. And preferably lose body fat because most people don’t want to lose muscle.
The biggest thing you have to do to lose weight is to consume fewer kcal than you use during the day. Part of that is improving your diet (eating fewer calories) but doing exercise also plays an important role (burning more calories).
An elliptical trainer is an efficient way to burn calories and therefore to lose weight. On an elliptical trainer you’re using your whole body and most models have more resistance settings than necessary for most people. The more muscle you use and the harder you use it, the more calories are burned.
Burning more calories can help you lose weight and lower your body fat percentage. How much you burn depends on your weight and intensity but a 185 lbs. person working out at an average intensity burns about 400 calories in 30 minutes on an elliptical.
Typically working out on an elliptical burns slightly more calories per minute than jogging outside or on a treadmill. This is likely because you’re using more muscles in your upper body.
Suggested post: How much weight can an elliptical machine handle?
While you might think that the full body workout is actually more difficult to do than on a treadmill for example, most people actually perceive it as a bit easier. So if it feels easier to burn more calories, that means it will feel easier to reach your goals.
3. Get a full body workout
Where a treadmill only really uses the lower body, an elliptical trainer involves both the upper and lower body.
Where most cardio machines just work out your lower body, an elliptical machines also uses your upper body. The pedals you move with your legs and the levers you move with your arms are all connected to the flywheel. That means you can divide the load over your upper and lower body.
The legs are constantly being lifted up and you have to push them back down. This uses pretty much all the musculature in your lower body from feet up to your glutes.
At the same time the arms are constantly pushing and pulling the levers. This means you’re using your back, chest, arms and shoulders.
Most of the time, your lower body will do the bulk of the work but if you want it’s possible to do more with the upper body as well. It’s a conscious choice you can make. If you’re choosing to involve more of your upper body, you can likely increase the resistance a little because you’re using a more muscle mass.
Between the upper and lower body, you’ve got your core connecting everything. The upper body and lower body are constantly moving in opposite directions. The core holds everything together and helps keep your balance. While it might not feel like you’re using your core too much, it has an impact over time.
4. Choose what type of workout you want
An elliptical trainer is pretty versatile and can be used for different workout goals. You can choose to do a long, steady-state cardio session or a short but tough interval workout.
Want to promote muscle growth? Use very heavy resistance for short periods. Prefer to burn more calories? Use lighter resistance for long periods.
You can also choose to focus more on training your upper or lower body just by mentally putting more energy into certain body parts.
Because there are many options to work out in different ways, almost anyone can find a workout they like and fits their goals on an elliptical.
5. Tone your whole body
Want to look better? Most people that work out do. An elliptical trainer isn’t only good for improving your health but also your physique.
Toning is actually a combination of lowering your body fat percentage and slightly growing your muscles. An elliptical trainer can do both those things at the same time which means you’ll dramatically improve your physique over time.
Above it’s already mentioned how an elliptical trainer is good for losing body fat. But because you get a full body workout, many of the muscles in your body will also grow a little, especially if you’re new to working out.
Follow a good diet and workout program and you’ll see a big difference after a few months but even after a few weeks, you’ll see some positive changes.
6. Target different leg muscles
Higher end elliptical trainers have a way of replicating an incline. On treadmills this is a much more common feature but on elliptical trainers it’s a little less common.
Changing the incline or ramp means you have to lift your knees higher on every stride. What goes up must come down. Or in the case of an elliptical trainer; you must push it down. By having to push down at different angles, you target different muscles.
The higher the ramp, the more you target the backside of your legs. So if toning your bum is important to you, get an elliptical trainer that can incline. Keeping the incline flatter targets the quadriceps more. Having that choice makes your elliptical trainer more flexible.
7. Don’t hurt your joints
Compared to running outside or on a treadmill, an elliptical machine creates really little impact on your joints. For many people this means they can work out more without hurting their knees, ankles or hips because there is no sharp impact.
An elliptical machine makes you move in a smooth motion which means the joints don’t get beat up like they do during running on pavement for example. You don’t hit the floor or belt at speed because your feet stay in contact with the pedals. That means there is no impact to your knees, hips and spine because the pedals and arm levers move in one smooth motion.
This makes it less likely you’ll hurt and/or injure yourself. Lower injury risk means that you can do it more often and longer than other things. That in turn makes it more likely you’ll reach your fitness goals.
Injuries often put a hold to the workout program you were following and consistency is one of the most important things to reaching your goals.
Suggested post: How much does an elliptical machine weigh?
8. Recover/exercise safely after injuries
The low impact makes it also a good way to exercise for people that already have some injuries. In some cases you shouldn’t do any exercise with an injury but in other cases it’s good for recovery.
Elliptical trainers make you move in a smooth motion that can help you strengthen the muscles around your injuries supporting and protecting that injury in the future. It can help you regain range of motion. And because you have the option to put more load on your upper body and use that for stability, you can easily take load off a certain joint to easy back into using it. This is much easier on an elliptical than many other forms of exercise.
Especially for people that have knee or hip injuries an elliptical machine can be a great way to stay in shape and even recover.
9. Improve your balance
Some other cardio machines like a treadmill can be dangerous for people that don’t have the best balance. An elliptical trainer requires less balance and is safer for people that have problems with this.
If you’ve got balance issues an elliptical trainer is actually one of the safer ways to train and maybe even improve your balance.
Because you’ve got handles to hold on to and your feet stay on the pedals, it’s unlikely you’ll fall. Once you feel comfortable with this, you could try to use the machine without holding on to the handles.
Just make sure you reduce the resistance significantly when you try this for the first time to make sure you can handle it. Using the trainer without the handles can improve your core strength as well since your core plays an important role in keeping your balance.
10. Use your time efficiently
Buying an elliptical trainer for your home gym is a big investment but if you don’t only look at the money but also all the other benefits, it might be worth it for you.
Think about it; how much time does it take to get to the gym and go back. Is it more than 30 minutes in total? That’s not unlikely. In 30 minutes you can actually burn around 400 calories on an elliptical machine. And that’s just in the time you’d otherwise have to commute to and from the gym.
Also, for many people it’s difficult to avoid all food temptations on the way back from the gym. You’re feeling good about yourself after you finish a workout and you allow yourself to get some fast food or a snack. Once isn’t that bad but if it turns into a habit, you’re probably better off just staying at home.
If you don’t leave the house and still work out, you’ll burn the calories and improve your health AND have fewer temptations because there is no extra food on your way home.
Of course there are also benefits to going to a gym and training there like social contacts and personal trainers.
On an elliptical trainer, your body doesn’t move around as much as on something like a rowing machine. Combine this with the fact that most ellipticals are relatively quiet and you have a combination that allows you to multitask during your workout.
OK, you’ll have your hands full (literally) so anything you do besides your workout will mainly take place in your brain.
But that means listening to podcasts, audio/video courses, watching movies, catching up with friends and family, etc is all possible. During a long cardio workout, it’s good to be distracted. I personally get pretty bored during steady state cardio workouts so I love it when I can do something else that keeps my mind off it.
Learning something during your workout is actually a pretty good idea. Physical activity has been shown to actually improve learning capabilities.
Most modern elliptical trainers have a little shelf or holder you can put a phone or tablet on. This makes it really easy to listen to pretty much anything you want.
12. Suitable for everyone
Other forms of cardio exercise can require a bit of skill and training to get right. Doing them wrong can lead to pain and injuries. This is the last thing you want to happen because you want to improve your health by working out, not making it worse.
Running on an elliptical is pretty difficult to get wrong. Of course it’s not impossible but much less likely than with running outside for example. Even rowing requires close attention to form to keep it safe.
Put someone who can walk on an elliptical machine and they’ll have the movement figured out in 15 seconds. It probably takes longer to figure out how to work the console although most of those are pretty self-explanatory as well.
That ease of use also means that it’s a good machine for pretty much everyone in the family.
You can see buying an elliptical trainer as an investment in the health of your whole family. Your spouse and/or older children might not immediately like it but maybe when they see you getting working hard and getting in a better shape and improving their health, they’ll be interested too.
Because of the low impact, low risk of injuries and the fact that you don’t need a lot of skill to use the trainer, many people can get a good workout done without many risks.
One thing to keep in mind is that different people could need different stroke lengths on an elliptical trainer. I’ve written a post about stride length you can find here (click).
13. Become a better runner
On top of all of the other benefits, you actually become a better runner by practicing on an elliptical. Sure, the movement and muscles you use aren’t exactly the same, but it’s still close enough to give you a noticeable improvement if you’re not a world class runner.
Because of the low impact, it can be a great way for runners to train something that is pretty similar to running but without the risk of injuries. Yes, you use slightly different muscles and movement pattern but the overlap is enough that you can see benefits without the risks of overuse injuries.
If you’re looking to improve your running performance but want to avoid the high impact of training outside or on a treadmill, an elliptical trainer is the low impact alternative that’s the closest.