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Is Elliptical Good Cardio?

author image Marie Mulrooney
Marie Mulrooney has written professionally since 2001. A retired personal trainer, former math tutor, avid outdoorswoman and experience traveler, Mulrooney also runs a small side business creating custom crafts. She's published thousands of articles in print and online, helping readers do everything from perfecting their pushups to learning new languages.
Is Elliptical Good Cardio?
A row of elliptical machines Photo Credit ER09/iStock/Getty Images

In terms of calories burned, the elliptical trainer offers an efffective cardiovascular workout. According to figures from Harvard Health Publications, you can burn up to 800 calories per hour working out on an elliptical trainer, depending on your body weight. However, not every elliptical trainer fits every body -- and that's just the first of several considerations you should take into account when choosing a piece of cardio equipment.

It's a Full-Body Workout

Most elliptical trainers come with moving handlebars slaved to the pedals' movement and resistance; pushing and pulling on these handlebars activates the major muscle groups of your upper body, creating a true full-body cardiovascular workout. More muscles worked equals more calories burned. However, just resting your hands on the handlebars without actually pushing and pulling doesn't do much for you -- so make sure you're actually working those arms, instead of just "phoning it in."

One Size Doesn't Fit All

Many elliptical trainers in the gym have a variable stride length, enabling them to fit a number of different body types. But if your stride is very short or very long, you might have trouble finding an elliptical trainer that suits your natural stride -- especially if you're shopping for a home-use elliptical trainer. If the elliptical trainer isn't comfortable when you first use it, it'll never be truly comfortable to use -- and in that case, you might be better off with a bike or a treadmill.

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