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Calories Burned on the Elliptical Machine

written by: Misto1481 • edited by: Cheryl Gabbert • updated: 2/17/2011

If you are curious how many calories you are able to burn while using an elliptical machine, this article is the right one for you. The elliptical is quickly becoming one of the most popular cardio machines due to its less stressful nature on the joints & its ability to incorporate the whole body.

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    How Many Calories Can You Burn on the Elliptical Machine? (2011, February 13). Calories Burned on an Elliptical Trainer. Retrieved from The elliptical is quickly gaining ground as the “go to” piece of cardio equipment because it puts less stress on the joints and incorporates the whole body into the movement. The machine uses a gliding nature where the feet never have to leave the pedals they are on, which eliminates stress on various joints. The machine also has arm handles which moves the arms allowing the upper body to work along with the lower body during the exercise. This movement naturally increases calorie expenditure since it gets the exerciser’s whole body into the activity. But how many calories does the elliptical machine actually burn?

    There are many factors that come into play when trying to figure out how many calories you can actually burn using this piece of cardio equipment. First off, most cardio machines are calibrated with a 150 lb person in mind meaning that if you weigh more or less than that, the calorie expenditure will be either greater or lower than what the machine is saying. Other factors that come into play include the workout duration, whether or not the user is interval training, the elliptical tension settings, a person’s body composition (muscle to fat ratio), the user’s experience level, the user’s sex, and whether or not the user is using the arm handles and including their arms into the movement. Many of these factors will change the outcome of the number of calories burned, so it’s pretty safe to say that you should only use what the machine is telling you as a less-than-accurate guesstimate.

    If you want to increase the amount of calories you are burning, there are some sure-fire ways that you can do this by making some quick adjustments to your routine. First thing would be to build in some interval training. This means changing up either the speed or the resistance you are using at different times during the workout. For example, you could do a nice leisurely pace for 3 minutes and then switch up to a vigorous pace for one minute, and then repeat for 3 or 4 cycles. This type of training has been shown to push the body harder and increase the amount of calories burned during and after a workout.

    The second thing to do would be to make sure that you are incorporating your arms into the movement. Getting your whole body into the movement means that you are working more muscles in order to perform the exercise. When your body has to call on more muscles to perform a movement, it has to burn more calories in order to keep those muscles working so that they can execute the exercise effectively.

    Finally, you can use both directions that the machines offer. Try switching things up every once in a while to challenge your body. You can go forward on theelliptical2  elliptical for 5 – 10 minutes and then change your direction backwards for 5 – 10 minutes. If you do this you will incorporate different muscles into the movement which again increases the amount of calories burned. It is believed that going backwards on the elliptical incorporates the hamstrings more while going forward incorporates the quadriceps more. Take advantage of this in order to maximize the amount of calories burned.

    Now if you just want a simple estimate, there are a few routes you can go. First, go to and use their calorie burn estimator to figure out how many calories you will burn using an elliptical. All you have to do is put in your weight as well as your duration and it will give you a fairly accurate estimate. You can also use the health calculator on Glamour’s Health and Fitness section which actually allows you to change the measurement system (US or Metric) and the intensity level (moderate or vigorous). Here are some general estimates that you can use as well:

    - 150 pound woman, 30 minutes of elliptical exercise: 387 calories

    - 180 pound man, 30 minutes of elliptical exercise: 464 - 500 calories

    - 120 pound woman, 30 minutes of elliptical exercise: 310 calories

    Whatever route you go, just make sure that your workout causes you to get your heart rate going and builds up a sweat. A good rule of thumb is if you have to pause between words when speaking a sentence, you are working at a good intensity.

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    Sources (2011, February 13). Calorie Burn Estimator. Retrieved from (2011, February 13). Health Calculator. Retrieved from (2011, February 13). Calories Burned on an Elliptical Trainer. Retrieved from