How Long and How Often Should You Work Out on the Elliptical for Optimal Results?

Exercising on the elliptical machine is one way to burn calories and lose weight. For optimal results, use an elliptical or cross-trainer five times per week to create a caloric deficit.

Ellipticals support aerobic fitness. (Image: Westend61/Westend61/GettyImages)

The elliptical has the added benefit of impacting the joints less than other forms of cardiovascular exercise, such as walking or running. Not only is this a great way to lose weight, it is also good for heart health.


Working out on the elliptical can be combined with proper diet for weight loss. For best results, you should exercise approximately 60 minutes a day, five days per week.

What Is an Elliptical Machine?

An elliptical or cross-trainer is a popular stationary cardiovascular exercise machine that simulates walking, running or stair climbing. Cardio is associated with many health benefits, especially heart health. The recommended amount of cardio for adults is at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week.

Many people prefer the elliptical machine to running because it is easier on the knees and ankles. This low-impact form of exercise is easy to use, applies less stress to the body and improves overall balance. Cross-trainers with movable arm handles also provide a total body workout.

Elliptical Workouts for Weight Loss

Cardio exercise, such as using an elliptical machine, is a proven way to lose weight. Performing cardio on the elliptical allows you to burn high amounts of calories each session. By burning more calories than you have taken in — through exercising regularly or creating a caloric deficit through diet — you have a recipe for weight loss.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that, to lose a significant amount of weight, you increase moderate-intensity exercise to at least 300 minutes per week. This can be achieved through one hour on an elliptical or cross-trainer five days a week.

Maximizing Results With Elliptical Workouts

Weight loss via elliptical workouts is not only possible, it's probable. By burning an additional 500 to 1,000 calories every day, you can expect to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week. The key is to burn hundreds of calories through exercise and shave off even more calories through reduced food intake.

To maximize weight loss on an elliptical or cross-trainer, consider doing high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts. HIIT may be preferable over steady-state cardio for people whose main goal is weight loss. According to the American Council on Exercise, HIIT is a time-effective form of cardio that can help you burn more calories in a shorter period of time.

Treadmill Versus Elliptical

The question remains: Is the elliptical or treadmill better for weight loss? According to Harvard Health Publishing, both forms of cardio burn hundreds of calories per session. The number of calories depends on your body weight and intensity.

Pedaling on an elliptical trainer generally burns more calories than running at 5 mph (12 minutes per mile), but running at faster speeds will burn more calories. This is an approximation, so the amount of calories you burn on the elliptical will depend on your pace.

In attempts to settle the elliptical vs. treadmill debate, the experts at Mayo Clinic point out that the elliptical has several unique advantages over the treadmill. It is lower impact, engages the upper body and can be performed in reverse to work different muscle groups. Ultimately, though, using an elliptical over a treadmill comes down to personal preference.

Achieving Your Goals

Though it sounds cliché, consistency is key. This is true of exercise frequency, duration and intensity. In order to reach your fitness goals, you must consistently put in the time and effort.

Consistency is also important when it comes to the other aspect of weight loss, which is diet. Creating a caloric deficit is mandatory. By burning calories through exercise and consuming fewer calories through diet on a regular basis, you can expect to lose weight.

If you want to lose weight using an elliptical, aim for at least 30 minutes of HIIT or 60 minutes of steady-state cardio per session. Exercise at least five times per week and incorporate a caloric deficit into your diet.

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