An elliptical machine is a fantastic way to increase endurance and tone the entire body. It’s a fantastic complement to a running regimen, whether you need to reduce impact during recovery, break a routine or plateau, or simply challenge your body in a new way. Including elliptical workouts in your endurance training benefits your whole body. Let’s take a look at the benefits of using an elliptical, either alone or as part of an existing cardio routine.
What You'll Learn
- What is an Elliptical Machine and How Does it Work?
- Benefits of Elliptical Training
- Benefits of Combining Elliptical Training with Walking or Running
What is an Elliptical Machine and How Does it Work?
An elliptical machine is also sometimes called a cross trainer. It has foot pedals that rotate in a circular motion, similar to the motion of riding a bicycle, except that you are standing on the pedals. It also has handles that you use to remain upright in the correct posture, and most models have handles that move back and forward with your stride, so you can push or pull against the handles and get more of a full-body workout.
Elliptical machines allow the foot to roll naturally from ball to toe just like walking or running, for improved foot flexibility and comfort. But because the feet remain in contact with the pedals at all times, there is no impact on the feet or lower body.
Elliptical machines have settings that allow you to adjust the speed and resistance of the motion, to increase the intensity of your workouts. Most modern elliptical machines also have settings that allow you to reverse the rotation of the machine, targeting different muscle groups.
Benefits of Elliptical Training
Elliptical machines offer the same heart-healthy benefits as other forms of aerobic exercise. They boost heart rate, improve metabolism, burn calories, and strengthen and tone the muscles. But nearly any exercise regimen offers these benefits. There are, however, a few reasons that cross-training with an elliptical machine has special benefits over other forms of cardio workouts. Here are the top benefits of using an elliptical:
1. Low-Impact Cardio Exercise
When used at similar intensity levels, elliptical machines deliver the same cardio benefits as other forms of aerobic exercise. However, because your feet remain on the pedals of an elliptical machine throughout the range of motion, there is reduced stress and impact on the feet and lower body. This makes an elliptical a great choice for recovery from impact-related stress and strain.
2. Faster Recovery
Because of the reduced impact, the body perceives elliptical workouts as requiring less effort than running, even though both activities increase heart rate and burn calories at the same levels. The faster recovery period makes it easy to do two elliptical workouts in a day, or do elliptical workouts on a recovery day, without further taxing or straining the body.
3. Full Body Workout
When used properly with handles, an elliptical incorporates greater upper-body movement and activity in your cardio workout, engaging more muscle groups and toning more of the body than running alone. Beware of fatigue that causes you to “lean” on the handles and disengage your core muscles.
4. Reduced Risk of Injury
Because the range of motion on an elliptical is defined by the machine, and because the feet remain on the pedals and hands on the handles, there can be a reduced risk of injury from impact or repetitive stress.
5. Can Be Used in Reverse
Of course, you can always run backwards, but it is a counter-intuitive form of exercise. Reversing an elliptical more deeply engages the quads and calves, as well as improving the body’s versatility and reducing boredom and fatigue.
Benefits of Combining Elliptical Training with Walking or Running
From a cardiovascular perspective, running and elliptical training within the same target heart rate burn about the same amount of calories, provide the same cardio benefits, create the same blood oxygen levels, and have similar effects on the strength and endurance of lower-body muscles.
Repeated studies indicate that the two activities are both excellent for cardiovascular health. But you gain some distinct benefits by combining running and elliptical workouts as part of an endurance training strategy.
6. Running Creates Impact
I know, we’re always talking about reducing impact. But the moderate impact of running in good shoes, or running on a treadmill, is actually healthy for you. Moderate impact helps to maintain strong bones and is an important aspect of lasting health and strength.
Unless you are in recovery or have other health concerns, it’s best to combine workouts of different impact levels to gain some of the benefits of impact, while reducing risk of injury.
7. Works Different Muscle Groups
Combining running with elliptical training gives you a more balanced, whole-body workout. Running provides great flexion in the calves and ankles, while elliptical training creates flexion in the hips, thighs, and knees. The act of lifting your feet during running engages some of your core muscles, while the act of using the handles on an elliptical engages the arms and shoulders. This form of cross training helps to tone the entire body.
8. Workout for Different Goals
Runners are familiar with building endurance by setting distance and pace goals, which is a great way to train. On the elliptical, it’s better to vary speed and resistance, with intervals that maximize the cross-training benefits of the elliptical.
9. Combining Workouts Reduces Boredom
Let’s face it, running on a treadmill can quickly get monotonous. And boredom doesn’t’ just affect your mind; your muscles need new challenges too. Alternating running with elliptical training helps to reduce boredom and keep your mind and body engaged in your activity.
Whether you are a devoted runner or walker, or whether you are already engaged in various forms of cross-training, adding an elliptical workout to your training regimen is a great idea. It helps to prevent injury and keep things interesting, trains and tones different muscles, and improves your overall fitness without causing additional stress and strain on the body.