How Effective is the Elliptical for Weight Loss?

How Effective is the Elliptical for Weight Loss?
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If you are just embarking on your weight loss journey, you might feel a little bit uncomfortable the first time you walk into a gym. Don’t worry, that’s totally understandable. The good news is that the majority of stationary exercise machines in the gym can be easily mastered, but there are some which may be better suited to your needs than others.

The treadmill, for example, is an old cardio favorite, but it is often an ill-advised choice for gym novices trying to lose weight. The same can be said of the rowing machine and the exercise bike. For this reason, more and more fat fighting beginners are taking to the elliptical, a cross-training machine designed to burn calories without the intensity or exertion demanded by something like the treadmill. But just how effective is the elliptical for weight loss? Can it be relied upon to burn away fat in a timely manner? Read on to find out.

Why choose the elliptical?

Many people struggle to understand the logic of choosing the elliptical over the treadmill. However, these people fail to recognize that a significant number of those who are trying to lose weight cannot safely use a treadmill. Running, be it on a treadmill or in a more natural setting, puts a great deal of pressure on the joints of the lower body, which means it is impossible for those who suffer from arthritis, gout, bursitis, and similar conditions.

The elliptical, however, is a low impact exercise machine and allows the feet of the user to remain flat while demanding little force from the knees and hips. Yet despite its status as a low impact exercise machine, the elliptical ensures a full workout, the intensity of which can be altered according to your desired resistance and stride.

How effective is the elliptical for weight loss?

In 2004, Harvard Medical School, an authority on all things health and fitness, conducted a study to determine the number of calories burned by each machine in the gym in a 30-minute workout. The results showed that the average 155-pound person will burn 335 calories in one 30-minute elliptical workout, while the average 185-pound person will burn a total of 400 calories through the same exercise.

The same study found that the average 155-pound person can expect to burn 298 calories during a 12 min/mile run, with the average 185-pounder burning 355. When we compare these findings, we see something a little surprising: the elliptical can be more conducive to weight loss than running.

This should eradicate the idea that using an elliptical is settling for second best when a treadmill is not an option. In reality, the elliptical is its own exercise machine with its own unique set of pros and cons, and those who incorporate it into their workouts may see faster results than those who rely on the treadmill as the foundation of their exercise routine.

How effective is the elliptical for building muscle?

Okay, now that we have covered the effectiveness of the elliptical when it comes to losing weight, let’s take a couple of minutes to discuss the usefulness of the same machine in terms of muscle development. The typical elliptical allows the user to employ both their arms and their legs, thereby working out both the upper and lower body. Despite this, the elliptical deals exclusively in weight loss and does not contribute to the growth of muscle. This is where the treadmill has an advantage.

A treadmill – and running in general – allows you to build muscles and burn calories at the same time and is particularly effective in developing the quads, the glutes, and the abs. If you are hoping to build muscle through your new exercise routine but are not in a position to safely use a treadmill or take up jogging, you can still do so with the elliptical at the center of your exercise routine. All you need to do is incorporate some extra cardio exercises into your workouts. Push-ups and sit-ups are useful when it comes to building muscle and are less likely to aggravate joint issues than running.

You may also want to consider some light weight training, which is a surefire way to tone your body. Of course, weights will put extra strain on your joints, so you may want to wait until you are a couple of weeks into your workout schedule and have already dropped a few pounds as your frame will be better equipped to support the additional weight of some dumbbells.


When it comes to building muscle, the elliptical is not an effective machine and must be paired with other exercises if any results are to be seen. In terms of weight loss, however, you will struggle to find a more reliable machine in your gym than the elliptical.

By putting minimal strain on the joints and allowing for a fluidity of movement not attainable through other stationary exercise machines, the elliptical makes it possible for those who are suffering from disease and injury to work around their limitations to reach and maintain a healthy weight.

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