Simulating a natural running motion, elliptical machines work large muscle groups, which consequently increase heart rate and burn calories. But the exact number of calories burned on an elliptical depends on your weight, intensity and duration.
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Here's how to figure out the answer to, "How many calories am I burning on the elliptical?" as well as strategies — like incorporating intervals — to increase the calorie burn.
Elliptical Machine: Calories Burned per Hour
Age, body size, nutrition, activity level, environmental factors and body composition (fat-to-muscle ratio), all play a role in how many calories you burn for any activity, per a November 2016 review in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Generally, heavier individuals burn more calories than leaner people during exercise.
Considering these factors, it's difficult to determine the exact number of calories burned on elliptical machines. However, you may use the following estimates from Harvard Health Publishing to get a better idea of how much energy you burn during an hour on the elliptical:
Elliptical Calories Burned per Hour
The number of calories burned on the elliptical is similar to that burned during 30 minutes of boxing, cross-country running or competitive football. For comparison, cycling on a stationary bike burns 420 to 932 calories in a half-hour, depending on your weight and intensity.
Consider the intensity of your workout too. The faster you go on the elliptical, the more calories you burn. If you're trying to burn more calories, increase the speed, resistance or both.
Another option is to incorporate HIIT into your workout. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) involves short, intense bursts of exercise followed by rest or low-intensity exercise. This strategy has been proven effective at reducing total body fat mass and abdominal fat, according to November 2017 research in Sports Medicine.
For example, you may increase the speed on your elliptical for 30 seconds, slow down for another 30 seconds and repeat. Do it for up to 20 minutes. Just make sure you don't lean on the handles — that's cheating.
If weight loss is your goal, calories burned is only one part of the equation. Weight goals depends on the ration of calories consumed versus calories burned. Calories burned needs to be greater than calories consumed. However, calories shouldn't be drastically reduced, as this can be potentially unsafe and counterproductive for weight loss.
Benefits of Using an Elliptical
The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) points out that as little as one hour of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week may improve overall health. Ideally, adults should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiovascular training or 75 minutes of high-intensity cardiovascular training each week.
One way to meet these guidelines is to use an elliptical. This versatile cardio machine works for both moderate- and high-intensity aerobic training. Plus, it's easier on your joints compared with the treadmill and other activities, such as running or jogging.
Moderate- and vigorous-intensity exercise not only keeps your heart healthy but may also improve lung function and make everyday activities easier. In the long run, it may lower your risk of cardiac events by reducing bad cholesterol levels, blood pressure, body fat mass and inflammatory markers, per the NHLBI.
Another advantage of ellipticals over other gym machines is that you can work your arms and legs simultaneously, notes the Mayo Clinic. Some models are equipped with movable handles, offering a full-body workout. You can also find ellipticals that can be pedaled in reverse to better target your calves and hamstrings.
Running on an elliptical is also a good way to torch calories. The results, however, depend on your diet and workout plan. If you reward yourself with a bag of potato chips after hitting the gym, it may take you longer to achieve a healthy weight.