Want to Lose Weight With Elliptical Workouts? Here’s Your 7-Day Kickstart Plan

Can you lose weight with elliptical workouts? You bet — with the right approach.
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It's no secret that regular exercise can help you reach your weight-loss goal faster. And hopping on the elliptical is a great option, for a number of reasons.

Working out helps you burn more calories, which can add up to pounds lost. And while any form of exercise can ultimately help you get the job done, the elliptical machine is great because it's low-impact and you can adjust the intensity to meet your needs. And of course, there's no need to worry about the weather.

Even better? The elliptical's versatility makes it ideal for jumpstarting your weight loss. You can start off with short, moderate workouts and move on to more challenging ones as your fitness improves, helping you torch even more calories.

Curious exactly how many calories you burn during your workouts? Download the MyPlate app for a more accurate and customized estimate.

Here's a seven-day kickstart plan designed to help you do just that. Created by fitness pro Meghan Kennihan, CPT, an NASM-certified personal trainer, it'll help you burn between 300 and 400 calories a day. That's enough to help you lose 1 to 2 pounds in a week, assuming you also make an effort to clean up your diet and trim your portions (more on that in a minute).

Ready to get started? Let's go.

The Plan: 7 Elliptical Workouts for Weight Loss

Kennihan's seven-day plan is perfect for beginners: It starts off with just 20 minutes of elliptical work, changing up the resistance throughout the workout to boost your calorie burn. Over the course of the week, you'll gradually build up to 30 tough minutes covering hill-style terrain.

Rather than provide specific levels for resistance or inclines, Kennihan recommends tailoring the intensity of each workout to what works best for you. "All ellipticals are different, and what a resistance level feels like depends on your individual body weight," she notes.

So instead, base your speed and intensity on your perceived level of exertion:

Rate of Perceived Exertion

  • Level 1: You’re moving at a pace that basically feels like you’re watching TV on the couch.
  • Level 2: You’re comfortable and could maintain this pace all day long.
  • Level 3: You’re still comfortable, but are breathing a bit harder.
  • Level 4: You’re sweating a little, but feel good and can carry on a conversation effortlessly.
  • Level 5: You’re just beyond comfortable, you’re sweating more and you can still talk easily.
  • Level 6: You can still talk, but now you’re slightly breathless.
  • Level 7: You can still talk, but you don’t really want to. You’re also really sweaty.
  • Level 8: You could grunt out a one- or two-word answer and can only keep this pace for a short time.
  • Level 9: You’re almost giving it your absolute all.
  • Level 10: You’re going the hardest you possibly can.

Day 1: 20-Minute Resistance Play Workout

  • 5 minutes at Level 3
  • 5 minutes at Level 4
  • 5 minutes at Level 5
  • 5 minutes at Level 6

Day 2: 20-Minute Interval Workout

  • 5 minutes at Level 3
  • 1 minute at Level 5
  • 2 minutes at Level 3
  • Repeat the previous 3 minutes for four more cycles

Day 3: 25-Minute Hill Workout

  • 5 minutes at Level 3
  • 2 minutes at Level 7
  • 1 minute at Level 3
  • 2 minutes at Level 8
  • 1 minute at Level 3
  • 2 minutes at Level 9
  • 1 minute at Level 3
  • 2 minutes at Level 7
  • 1 minute at Level 3
  • 2 minutes at Level 8
  • 1 minute at Level 3
  • 2 minutes at Level 9
  • 3 minutes at Level 3

Day 4: 25-Minute Resistance Play Workout

  • 5 minutes at Level 3
  • 1 minute at Level 6
  • 1 minute at Level 9
  • 2 minutes at Level 3
  • Repeat the previous 4 minutes for four more cycles

Day 5: 30-Minute Interval Workout

Repeat the same workout as on Day 2, but try for a harder intensity this time and go for 30 minutes instead of 20.

Day 6: 30-Minute Hill Workout

  • 5 minutes at Level 3
  • 5 minutes at Level 7
  • 5 minutes at Level 8
  • 5 minutes at Level 7
  • 5 minutes at Level 8
  • 5 minutes at Level 3

Day 7: 20-Minute Resistance Play Workout

Repeat the same workout as on Day 4, but try for a harder intensity and go for 20 minutes instead of 25.


Make sure to take a rest day when you need it to avoid symptoms of overtraining.

Throw in a few body-weight exercises to increase your calorie burn during your elliptical workouts for weight loss.
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How to Up the Intensity

Aside from switching up the resistance levels and moving at a faster pace, are there other ways to make your elliptical sessions more challenging as your fitness improves? You bet. "I recommend mixing it up with strength training," Kennihan says.

She suggests turning your typical sweat session into a circuit. So 10 intense minutes on the elliptical, then hop off and do body-weight exercises like push-ups, squats, lunges and dips for 10 reps. (Start with a set of just one or two exercises, then build up to doing a set of each!) Then get back on the elliptical for another 10 minutes, repeating the circuit up to three times.

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"This will boost your metabolism and help build muscle, which burns more fat at rest and leads to quicker weight loss," says Kennihan.

As an added bonus? It'll also help stave off boredom.

Cut calories by loading your plate with fruits and vegetables.
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Remember to Eat Right, Too

Exercise can go a long way toward supporting your weight-loss efforts — but it won't make much of a dent unless you also take in fewer calories by eating smaller portions and choosing healthier foods.

"If you continue to eat high-calorie, highly processed foods, you won't see a change," Kennihan warns. "You can literally eat all the calories you just burned off exercising by going to get a Starbucks latte after your workout."

In all, you have to burn about 3,500 calories to lose a pound of fat. That means if you want to drop a pound per week, you'll need to eat around 500 fewer calories per day, according to the Mayo Clinic.

You can do that in a healthy way by:

  • Saving treats for special occasions. Reserve the cookies or ice cream for just once or twice a week instead of every day.
  • Nixing mindless snacking. It's fine to have a healthy snack if you're hungry. But try not to nosh out of boredom.
  • Swap high-cal foods for low-cal ones. Have a side salad instead of fries of chips, a piece of fruit instead of a snack bar, or swap the cheese on your sandwich for crunchy pickles or sprouts.
  • Trim your portions overall. And try not to go back for second helpings unless you're still truly hungry.

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Before long, your efforts — both on the elliptical and in the kitchen — will start to add up. You might start to see serious progress on the scale within just a few weeks, and not long afterwards, you'll notice a difference in the mirror, too.