Elliptical For Weight Loss: 3 Tips To Use Elliptical To Lose Weight 2022

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Medically reviewed by Ramakrishnan, G., Ph.D

How To Lose Weight On The Elliptical

We all strive to achieve good health, though it is often a difficult prospect. For many people, weight loss is the highest priority. Being overweight can lead to all sorts of health problems, as well as making life difficult in a lot of ways. Exercise is the key, but that can be difficult for a lot of people. The answer is the elliptical machine[1], an effective way to exercise that’s also easy on your body.

A weight loss plan requires a multi-pronged approach. You may need to adjust your diet, or even look into supplements for help. However, exercise is going to be the main driver, workouts burning off the extra weight while a good diet reduces calorie intake. If you need a low-impact way to get your heart rate up so you can meet your fitness goals, an elliptical can be the best choice.

How To Lose Weight On An Elliptical?

For a lot of people, everything they know about working out they learned in high school gym class. Other people might be more experienced. Either way, the basic idea is the same. The best way to lose weight with an elliptical machine, or any other sort of exercise, is to use good form and stay motivated to exercise regularly.

One big advantage of the elliptical is that it’s easy to use, so good form is not hard to learn. Despite that ease of use, it’s also a very effective exercise. It works the lower body, but can also exercise the upper body and abdominal muscles. 

In fact, elliptical workouts can involve up to 80%[2] of the muscles in your body, providing an aerobic workout[3] in the process. In addition, it is a low-impact method of exercise.

High impact and low impact are words that are used a lot without explanation. It really is about impact, in other words, how hard you end up landing. A higher impact exercise is like running, where your body is jolting along with each step. 

Elliptical workouts, on the other hand, are low impact. The machine stays in contact with your foot throughout the motion of the exercise, so you’re never really landing. 

This sort of low-impact exercise is great for people with painful joints, weight problems, or other sorts of mobility limits. 

When you’re first starting elliptical workouts, it can be helpful to know a couple of things:

  • The readout on an elliptical showing calorie burned is almost always wrong[4].
  • Start slow, so you don’t risk hurting yourself
  • Letting go of the handles can add some difficulty
  • It’s more important that you go regularly than go hard

One thing to realize about any exercise program is that it can only take you so far. Exercise is part of choosing a healthier lifestyle, which includes a range of different aspects.

Use Good Form

Good form is an essential part of any exercise. If you’ve ever worked with a personal trainer, you’ll know a lot of what they do is correcting form in exercises.  Good form allows you to get as much out of your workout as possible. Perhaps most important, practicing good form is the best way to prevent injury while exercising. 

The temptation to slack off when you get tired and let your form collapse is natural. Unfortunately, it’s also counter productive[5]. You may be able to do more, but it’s also not getting you as far. It’s better to do less exercise with good form. 

An elliptical machine, as we mentioned, can provide a good workout for most of your body. That also means that you can’t just worry about your feet and legs, but also your overall posture.

A couple of key points to keep in mind for good form:

  • Keep your back straight. Good posture is tough, but it’s also important for keeping you healthy. During an elliptical workout, you want to keep your back straight and relaxed. Your head should be up and over your center of gravity. Keep your shoulders back and relaxed. 
  • Do your best to keep your weight more on your heels. It’s tempting to lean on your toes, but this can actually cut off blood flow and lead to tingling or numbness. Put your foot near the front of the footrest, toward the inside. Focus on using a walking motion, putting your weight down evenly. 
  • Don’t lean on the machine. This shouldn’t happen if your posture is good, but most of us will probably end up leaning over the handrail, supporting some of our weight on our arms to take it off our feet. It does make things easier, but only because you’re reducing the effectiveness of the exercise.

The best exercises focus on body recomposition, combining exercises that raise your heart rate with strength training. The result is that you add muscle while you burn more calories, making it a key part of any weight loss plan. Body recomposition is a great goal for losing weight. An elliptical can be a big part of that.

Vary Your Routine

It seems like there is only one thing you can do on an elliptical: walk. However, there are lots of ways to vary the motion and how you’re working out on the elliptical. Regularly changing up your exercise routine is important so that you’re getting as much as you can out of every session. 

Making these sorts of changes as you go along is important for a couple of reasons. It makes the exercise more interesting, which is important as an elliptical workout can be kind of boring. 

Perhaps more importantly, varying your workout can make it more effective. A fast-paced elliptical workout with low resistance is a great cardio workout. It gets the heart rate up and gets you moving. On the other hand, more resistance can lead to more toned, more efficient muscle. Muscle does a better job of burning belly fat, so adding some resistance to your workout occasionally can help you lose weight faster. 

Varying the intensity can also be helpful in other ways. Called interval training, it simply involves working harder for parts of your workout and then easing off for others. That way, you can get the benefits of both aerobic and anaerobic exercise. Interval training has been shown to make a workout more effective. 

High-intensity interval training[6] (HIIT) is popular in exercise routines[7] that can be a great way to up your heart rate, burn more calories and work on strength training. However, the ‘high-intensity part of that is important. Working too hard can lead to injuries. 

Bending your legs more will work different muscles. Adding an incline to your elliptical workout can also be helpful. One common tip is to reverse the motion of the workout as if you were walking backward. 

Stay Motivated

Exercise, by necessity, is hard work. If it was easy, there would be no point in doing it. Unfortunately, that makes it all too tempting to play hooky, avoid the gym, and spend the time on your couch. An elliptical machine is a good option in this regard for a few reasons. 

It’s a simple, low-impact workout. That means it is easy to hop on and off, with a low barrier to getting started. It also works most of the body, so you’re exercising as much as possible in one workout.

Staying motivated can often mean keeping yourself entertained. Books on tape and podcasts are both hugely popular. There are a lot of options. Find one you like, then only allow yourself to listen to it on the elliptical. You can do the same while binging on a favorite show or something else you enjoy.

Identifying goals is also key for your workout plan. It provides motivation as well as allows you to track your progress. Meeting a goal is a great feeling that you’ll want to repeat. Any workout routine should be put together with your goals in mind. 

Why Use An Elliptical?

There are a lot of options when it comes to working out for weight loss. Running, swimming, free weights, and yoga all can help you lose weight in different ways. An elliptical machine[8] has a few advantages over those other options, however. 

For some people, elliptical machine workouts are going to be part of a larger workout routine. For others, an elliptical can be the best option for a whole body exercise, doing enough on its own. An elliptical is appropriate for many different fitness levels, as cardio training is always good for you. Getting the heart rate up is an essential part of improving fitness and health. It’s also one of the best ways to combat heart disease.

An elliptical makes a great cardio machine, which is important because aerobic exercise, raising your heart rate, is one of the best ways to target belly fat, as well as lose weight generally. An essential part of any workout routine, the elliptical works both the upper and lower body, you can also add resistance to build some muscle. 

One of the biggest advantages of the elliptical, however, is that it is a low-impact exercise. Impact, in this case, refers to the actual impact of your foot against the ground. Running on a treadmill is a comparatively high-impact exercise. Your body comes down and stops with each step. The impact associated with running can be hard on joints, particularly the ankle, knee, and hips.

Since the elliptical is a low-impact exercise, each step isn’t as hard on your joints. As a result, elliptical workouts are great for people with conditions like arthritis or joint injuries. It may also be a good option for people who are obese, or for anyone with mobility problems.

Ellipticals are a great full-body workout, giving you a fat-burning cardio exercise that ups your heart rate. What makes an elliptical the best choice for many people, however, is that it is a low-impact exercise.

+ 8 sources

Health Canal avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in Health Canal, you can read more about the editorial process here

  1. Mayo Clinic. (2020). Elliptical machines or treadmills: What’s better? [online] Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/expert-answers/elliptical-machines/faq-20058294
  2. ‌NordicTrack Blog. (2019). Main muscle groups used in an elliptical workout | NordicTrack Blog. [online] Available at: https://www.nordictrack.co.uk/learn/main-muscle-groups-used-elliptical-workout/
  3. ‌Ohkawara, K., Tanaka, S., Miyachi, M., Ishikawa-Takata, K. and Tabata, I. (2007). A dose–response relation between aerobic exercise and visceral fat reduction: systematic review of clinical trials. International Journal of Obesity, [online] 31(12), pp.1786–1797. Available at: https://www.nature.com/articles/0803683
  4. ‌McLaughlin, K., Noack, B., Granados, J.Z., Sperling, R., Roltsch, M. and Crouse, S.F. (2016). Energy Expenditure Overestimation Bias in Elliptical Trainer Machine. [online] TopSCHOLAR®. Available at: https://digitalcommons.wku.edu/ijesab/vol2/iss8/44/
  5. ‌Chambliss, H.O. (2005). Exercise Duration and Intensity in a Weight-Loss Program. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, [online] 15(2), pp.113–115. Available at: https://journals.lww.com/cjsportsmed/Abstract/2005/03000/Exercise_Duration_and_Intensity_in_a_Weight_Loss.20.aspx
  6. ‌HigH-intensity interval training. (n.d.). [online] . Available at: https://www.acsm.org/docs/default-source/files-for-resource-library/high-intensity-interval-training.pdf?sfvrsn=b0f72be6_2.
  7. ‌Maillard, F., Pereira, B. and Boisseau, N. (2017). Effect of High-Intensity Interval Training on Total, Abdominal and Visceral Fat Mass: A Meta-Analysis. Sports Medicine, [online] 48(2), pp.269–288. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29127602/
  8. ‌Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport. (2013). Metabolic Cost of Stride Rate, Resistance, and Combined Use of Arms and Legs on the Elliptical Trainer. [online] Available at: https://shapeamerica.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02701367.2006.10599385#.YJ3UUJMzZQK

Medically reviewed by:

Sean Newton has nearly ten years of experience as a health and fitness writer, focusing on diet and its effects on your health. He also is an avid athlete and martial artist, specializing in bodyweight exercises and movement training. Together with an evidence-based approach to good health, his goal is to lay out the facts for readers, so they can make informed choices.

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