The very first Elliptical trainer was introduced by Precor towards the end of the 20th century and became an immediate hit. By the turn of the millennium, ellipticals were popping up in gyms around the world, and today a gym would seem incomplete without at least a couple of them. But why did the elliptical become so successful so fast? Was its instant popularity simply the result of it being introduced at the height of the fitness boom and can you lose weight on an elliptical?
What is an elliptical?
Much like the treadmill and the rowing machine, the elliptical is a stationary exercise machine designed to mimic an activity outside of its traditional environment. With the elliptical, that exercise is stair climbing, with the majority of models allowing the user to pre-program their preferred stride, resistance, and incline.
Despite being a staple of cardio, the elliptical is a low impact machine, meaning it puts next to no pressure on the joints of the user. For this reason, the elliptical is often recommended to older fitness fanatics who are trying to burn calories but are limited in the exercises they can safely attempt.
Is the elliptical an alternative to other exercise machines?
This is a tricky question to answer. While many people use an elliptical machine as opposed to a treadmill, a stationary bicycle, or a rowing machine, doing so is not always advisable. Ultimately, it comes down to what you want to achieve through your exercise routine. You see, although the elliptical works out much of the body, it is not effective in building muscle, so if you are aiming for toning you’re going to have to incorporate other exercises into your workouts.
You can do this by introducing a treadmill, as running both burns fat and develops leg muscles such as the quads and the glutes. When paired with other cardio exercises, running has also been known to develop the abs, which an elliptical will not do.
That being said, if your primary concern is burning calories, there really isn’t any need to use both an elliptical and a treadmill. Of course, many gym-goers and fitness fanatics enjoy a combination of the two anyway, but those who are simply looking to burn those excess calories will be just fine with one.
But will an elliptical really work?
If you are considering purchasing a personal elliptical machine for use at home, you should be prepared to drop a couple of hundred dollars at least. On top of that, you should make sure you have room in your budget for the extra electricity costs that come along with powering an elliptical for a couple of hours at a time every week.
Because an elliptical is so much more expensive than many other stationary exercise machines – not to mention actually running or cycling – it is understandable that you would want some assurance that your chosen elliptical will in fact help you lose weight.
Let us pause here for a word on calories. Everybody who has ever tried to lose weight is no doubt familiar with calories, but few actually understand what a calorie is. While a lot of people assume a calorie is a nutrient, not unlike fat or protein, it is actually a unit of measurement used to denote the level of energy one will derive from any given food. Calories are essential to the healthy running of the body, but become dangerous when consumed in large amounts.
The body stores unused calories as fat, which, obviously, contributes to weight gain. A great many health complications can arise out of excessive weight gain, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and even cancer. For this reason, the importance of burning calories and losing weight extends far beyond the realm of aesthetics.
According to a study conducted by Harvard Medical School, the average person will burn 2.16 calories for every pound of body weight in a 30-minute elliptical workout. So yes, according to one of the most reputable voices on health and fitness, you will lose weight using an elliptical.
However, it is important to note that even Harvard Medical School is incapable of providing anything beyond an average of calories burned per workout. While the average 200-pounder will burn 432 calories in a single 30-minute stint on an elliptical, the exact number of calories you burn through the same exercise will likely differ.
Can You Lose Weight on an Elliptical? Yes, you will lose weight on an elliptical trainer, but it is important to remember that calorie burn is heavily influenced by one’s breathing and heart rate, among other things. For that reason, you may not lose as much as you were expecting to lose based on reports from authoritative sources.
However, there is also the possibility that you will find yourself progressing faster and losing more weight than you expected. Once you have a couple of elliptical exercises under your ever-tightening belt and the results have started to show, you will be able to calculate your personal calorie burning rate, which will allow you to alter your elliptical routine to accommodate your long-term fitness goals.