Can You Lose Weight on an Elliptical Machine? (And How Much?)

I come from a very competitive family, and when it comes to weight loss and looking good, I always end up last. I’ve tried crash diets and crazy, shaking-vibrating-heating machines… and yet and I’ve still fallen short of my modest weight loss goal

So when it came to choosing a new exercise machine, I considered the elliptical machine, and I wanted to know everything before I spent more hard-earned cash on another machine that would simply be there to stub my toe at night when I walked past it. 

Was the elliptical machine going to be my saving grace, and could you lose weight on an elliptical machine?

Can You Lose Weight on an Elliptical Machine?

The elliptical machine is a top fitness and weight loss training machine. It offers great benefits and it can also help you lose weight fast. The machine helps you burn calories fast, and in just half an hour, you can burn through 240-400 calories, depending on your current weight and fitness levels. 

When you burn more calories than you consume, you will lose weight. It’s a scientific fast, barring any medical conditions prohibiting weight loss. Spending as little as an hour on the elliptical machine per day can burn through 500+ calories, which translates as losing 1-1.5 pounds of weight per week

Why Should You Calculate Actual Calorie Burn on an Elliptical Machine?

So an elliptical machine could help me lose weight (hopefully faster than my cousin Sarah), but just how much weight I could lose was still a question. From my research, I had learned that I could lose a little over 300 calories in half an hour on the elliptical machine since I weighed about 155 pounds. 

I struck up a conversation with one of the fitness trainers at my local gym, and he kindly explained exactly how the calories burned on an elliptical machine could translate into pounds dropped. 

Just How Much Calorie Burn Can You Achieve?

Harvard University ran some trials to see just how effective the calorie burn on an elliptical machine really was. Using different exercise types and different machines, the elliptical trainer was faced off against other methods of calorie burn. These were some of the results:

For a person weighing 125 pounds, the calories burned in 30 minutes reached 270, while someone of 155 pounds body weight burned through 324 calories. On the upper end of the spectrum, a heavier person of 185 pounds burned up 378 calories in 30 minutes on the elliptical machine. 

Whether you choose the walking or running selection on the elliptical machine, you can expect great weight loss due to the calorie burn. 

In my layman’s terms, the more you weigh, the more calories you can burn on an elliptical machine as you work against your body’s own resistance. There were some other factors to also keep in mind when calculating the body’s calorie burn on an elliptical machine. 

What Are the Factors Affecting Calorie Burn on Elliptical Machines?

There are different parameters that can influence how many calories a person can burn. These include:


The heavier you are, the more calories you burn. Likewise, men tend to have a greater muscle mass, which will translate into a greater calorie burn than for women. If you are already fairly muscled, you will burn more calories in a shorter space of time (as long as the exercise is still challenging enough to your body). 

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Men tend to have a greater muscle mass, which will translate into a greater calorie burn.

Age and Fitness

Age also plays a part. If you are fairly healthy and in your middle-age years of 50-65, you can expect to lose a modest amount of weight and burn the same calories as a younger person. 

This depends on how long your elliptical routine is for. At the same intensity level as someone younger, but not as fit, you can expect similar calories being burned. Same intensity level as someone younger, but they are fitter than you, and you can expect to burn more calories. 

This one had me confused. Could I burn more calories than someone younger than me who is fitter than me? Yes, I could. Fitness levels affect the amount of calories you burn. The fitter you are, the longer or more intense your exercise routine needs to be to achieve the same or greater calorie burn rate as someone who is less fit and older. 


Men burn more calories than women as they tend to be heavier and more muscular than women. This was great news for my cousin Bob, but it meant I had a bit more time on the elliptical waiting for me to achieve the same calorie burn. 

13 Strategies for Greater Calorie Burn Using the Elliptical Machine

The very helpful trainer suggested a few ways that I could boost my weight loss progress while using the elliptical machine. Remember that the more calories you burn, the greater your negative energy balance becomes? For those new to weight loss terminology, it means that the more calories you burn, the more you use up your body’s own energy, which is then greater than the energy you eat, causing a deficit or weight loss. 

These are some great strategies for losing more weight on the elliptical machine and boost your calorie burn. 

1. Keep Your Body in Burn-Mode With Variety 

If you feel yourself breezing through your elliptical routine with little to no strain, you are not burning calories. True, the elliptical machine is supposed to be comfortable and have a low impact on your joints, but you still need to feel the burn

By changing exercise levels, you can increase the calorie burn, creating new exercise opportunities that will keep your calorie burn levels high.

2. Create Elliptical Routines

You will only lose weight if you make elliptical machines part of your weekly routine. Your time on the elliptical machine should add up to 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, while extensive or intense workouts should be at least 75 minutes per week. 

3. Change the Elliptical Machine’s Settings

The elliptical machine can help you change up your calorie burn levels by using different settings

By changing the stride length, adjusting the pace, or changing from forward to backward steps you can challenge your body more, work different muscle groups, and burn more calories. 

4. Focus on Short Bursts of Activity

Long and steady workouts may feel great, but they don’t always prove as efficient in burning calories or helping you lose weight. Instead, vary your pace, moving from gentle “running” to sharp climbing and back down to an efficient run again. 

The faster you breathe for that short period of time, the better your cardio workout, and the better the calorie burn. 

5. Push the Known Exercises

Once your body knows how to perform a particular exercise routine, you can change things by increasing the pace in intervals throughout the routine, boosting the burn of calories. This change in pace is a simple adjustment that can have powerful effects. 

One example of this is to switch up the intensity of the running programs on the elliptical machine. Combine this with effective arm flexion for a whole body workout. 

When changing pace, keep moving in the intervals between the pace changes to enable your body to keep burning calories. 

6. Don’t be Scared of Stepping off the Elliptical Machine

You can include the area around the elliptical machine to also improve your overall workout. Vary your routine by stepping off and doing 5-10 minutes strength training exercises before hopping on for some more cardio workouts

There are no limits to what you can do with an elliptical machine if you can imagine a creative routine. 

7. Use Incline Setting for a Greater Challenge

Keep in mind that each of the settings on the elliptical machine uses different muscle groups, and these all respond differently, leading to more or less calorie burn and weight loss. You can opt to select the incline setting on the elliptical machine for a greater challenge. 

8. Follow the HIIT Training Mindset

As anyone in the fitness world can tell you, HIIT stands for high intensity interval training. It means to train in intervals, focusing on improved cardio workout

So you would use a slow and steady march on the elliptical machine and intersperse with sudden and rapid bursts of more intense training with an incline adjustment, resistance increase, or change of direction. This all helps your body to respond by releasing more fat cells to burn for energy — burning calories. 

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Following the HIIT training mindset will help you burn more calories.

Even if you are only able to do the walk setting, you can still alternate between a slower walk, or opt for an incline walk to really turn that walk into a cardio workout

9. Focus on Posture Not Speed

You can run “up” the elliptical hill at great speed, but if your posture is poor, you won’t achieve much or lose more weight. Focus on maintaining an upright posture throughout the workout. 

Posture will align the right muscle groups to perform and burn calories. Poor posture will lead to injuries and less muscle development. 

10. Hands on the Right Handles

My first time on the elliptical machine, I became tired quite quickly, and naturally I tried to shift my hands to the bars in the middle for some support. This is a really bad idea as it will reduce the effectiveness of your routine, lead to poor form, and develop into a bad habit. 

11. Opt for Music and Not TV

Listening to music while you cycle through HIIT and endurance routines on the elliptical machine can really boost your motivation and improve your physical activity. Watching TV will reduce the correctness of your position, and watching TV will reduce the calories burned. 

If you are going for a pretty intense workout, then opt for a good set of runners’ headphones to keep your tunes jamming where they need to. 

12. Toggle Between Resistance and Incline

Resistance and incline complement each other. While on the elliptical machine, you can alternate between resistance and incline. By alternating, you keep your body alert and working harder. 

13. Foot Position

The foot pedals of the elliptical machine are designed to most closely mimic the natural position of your feet on the machine. Try not to stand on your toes to try and make the routine easier. Instead, focus on keeping the full tread of your exercise shoes in place. This allows your body to use all of the correct muscle groups like they should work. 

Final Thoughts on If You Can Lose Weight on an Elliptical Machine

I was so excited by the information I got on the elliptical machine that I instantly booked the machine at my local gym for a few sessions. My body responded with that pleasurable burn that speaks of weight burning off my curves, and I was soon hooked. 

Needless to say, my own elliptical machine for home use is on its way—take that cousin Sarah! I know now that I can indeed lose weight on my elliptical machine if I apply it correctly with these strategies to keep my body burning through calories. 

If you’re like me and contemplating an elliptical or treadmill machine at home, be sure to check out our article on whether or not it’s safe to put it on a carpet at home. You may need to order a special mat

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