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

Although elliptical machines are a great cardio option, inadequate exercise frequency and duration delay fitness results. Following specific frequency, duration and intensity guidelines improves your elliptical workout, promotes weight loss and supports cardiovascular fitness. Make the most of your gym time by planning a sound -- and consistent -- workout program.


According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), performing cardiovascular exercise three to five days per week supports optimal cardiovascular fitness and weight loss. Working out fewer than three days per week garners minimal fitness adaptations and minimally maintains your current level of fitness. You can use an elliptical more than five days per week if desired.


You can prevent weight gain and reduce disease risk with 150 minutes of elliptical training per week. A typical 150-minute weekly goal is accomplished with 30 minutes a day on five different days. The ACSM suggests a weekly goal of 250 to 300 minutes for enhanced weight loss outcomes. Exercise segments of 10 minutes can be amassed throughout the day to reach daily time goals.


Exercise intensity is prescribed as a percentage of maximal heart rate. Max heart rate is the highest number of beats your heart can accomplish in one minute and can be estimated by subtracting your age from 220. The ACSM suggests 55 to 65 percent max heart rate for exercise beginners and 65 to 90 percent max heart rate for experienced exercisers. Intensity and duration are inversely related, meaning that higher intensities can be maintained for less time.

Weight Loss

The American Council on Exercise states that 1 lb. of body fat is equal to 3,500 calories. Therefore, burning 250 daily calories on the elliptical uses the caloric equivalent of ½ lb. per week while 500 daily calories uses 1 lb. of calories per week. Faster speeds and higher resistance will burn more calories per minute. Exercise combined with caloric restriction causes more weight loss than exercise alone.


Elliptical machines provide less joint stress than a treadmill or running outside and may be a better option for older adults and exercise beginners. You can increase intensity and subsequent heart rate by picking up speed, adding resistance or employing arm motion. Remember to consult a doctor before starting a new fitness program.

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