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What Are the Benefits of Elliptical Exercise Machines?

written by: Donna Cosmato • edited by: Angela Atkinson • updated: 12/23/2010

Burning more calories, building bone, and strengthening the immune system are just a few of the many benefits of elliptical exercise machines. If you are looking for a way to get a more intense workout in a shorter period of time, using a cross trainer just might be the way to go.

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    The key benefits of elliptical exercise machines are their ability to allow one to exercise several parts of the body simultaneously without putting stress on joints or bones. However, many secondary benefits of this type of exercise machine makes them attractive to a wide range of individuals.

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    Health and Fitness Benefits

    Exercising on an elliptical trainer, which may also be referred to as a cross trainer, increases the heart rate faster because you exercise the upper and lower body at the same time. According to Dr. Mike Perko, “A recent study looking at elliptical-vs-treadmill machines found that participants used 12% more oxygen and experienced greater heart rate on elliptical machines.”1

    Elliptical Trainer 

    This exercise method strengthens the heart and can reduce the risk of heart disease or stroke. More calories are burned and better results are achieved in a shorter time. In addition, because you can pedal forward or in reverse, you have to ability to work different muscle groups.

    Image credit/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

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    Low Impact – Resistive Exercise

    It is easy to add resistance or change the intensity of the workout to vary the workout and prevent boredom. Cross trainers provide low impact exercise; the pedaling movements do not stress joints or bones.

    With one machine, you can exercise:

    • Shoulders
    • Upper and lower back
    • Arms
    • Deltoids
    • Abdominals
    • Quads
    • Hamstrings and calves
    • Legs, thighs, and feet

    Vary the resistance level as needed depending on the target body part.

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    Weight Bearing Exercise

    The elliptical trainer provides a form of weight-bearing exercise, which builds and protects bone and muscle mass. The exercise is weight bearing because the individual supports his or her weight; the machine does not.

    Everyone needs strong bones for optimal health and can benefit from this feature, but seniors and those at risk for osteoporosis may be extremely interested in this aspect of using a cross trainer. They reap the same benefits as walking, running or skiing without the risk of joint or bone injury, and get those benefits faster and with less effort. Others who can benefit greatly from using an elliptical trainer are those recovering from knee and sports injuries.

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    Individualized Exercise

    Among the many benefits of elliptical exercise machines is the ability to design a workout program that is customized to an individual’s specific needs. While exact program configurations vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, most machines come with five to seven pre-set exercise programs that can be customized as needed to give you a good cardiovascular workout.

    Finally, an elliptical trainer is safe, efficient and requires no special skills. Less floor space is required because it has a smaller footprint than other types of exercise equipment.

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    Always consult with your healthcare provider before starting or stopping any exercise program. Start at a moderate level and work up as your health and physical condition improve. Follow the manufacturer’s safety recommendations and use the equipment as instructed.

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    1 – Washington University in St. Louis, Wellness Connection, WELCOA Online Bulletin, Elliptical Machines: Good News for Bad Knees, Mike Perko, PhD, accessed 12/19/2010

    Mayo Clinic, Elliptical Machines: Better than Treadmills?, Edward R. Laskowski, M.D., accessed 12/18/2010