When it comes to weight loss, working out regularly on an elliptical machine is a solid strategy. However, it's also vital to incorporate resistance training, as well as a rest day, to stay strong and healthy.
An elliptical workout will go a long way toward helping you burn calories for weight loss, but you should also incorporate strength training and allow yourself a rest day to recover.
Read more: Elliptical Machine Benefits
You shouldn't get on the elliptical every morning — your body needs at least one rest day from exercise every seven to 10 days, according to the American Council on Exercise. If you're doing a hard workout on the elliptical every morning, as well as incorporating strength training, you run the risk of overtraining.
Signs of overtraining include feeling burned out or trouble falling asleep, even if you're feeling exhausted. Allowing yourself to take a day of rest allows your muscles to repair damaged tissues and allows the circulatory system to remove metabolic by-products from muscle cells, ACE reports.
Calories Burned on Elliptical Machine
Cardiovascular activity — usually shortened to just "cardio" — is an important part of any weight-loss program. The physical activity recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020, say to do at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise. Cardio refers to any activity that gets your heart rate up, according to the Mayo Clinic, and this could include running, swimming, cycling or, of course, the elliptical machine.
An hour of an elliptical workout at moderate intensity will burn approximately 365 calories, according to the Mayo Clinic, although the specific number that you burn on the machine varies based on gender, weight and other individual factors. Be careful not to put too much stock in the number of calories that the machine says you have burned — research published in April 2018 in Exercise Medicine noted that ellipticals appear to overestimate caloric expenditure significantly.
HIIT on Elliptical Machine
To ramp up your weight-loss efforts, skip the moderate-intensity, steady-state elliptical workout in favor of a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout.
To do a HIIT workout on the elliptical, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) says to increase the resistance and your speed on the machine for 30 seconds and then decrease both for two minutes for recovery. Repeat this cycle until you've reached your desired time allotment, but don't forget that the workout should also include a short warm-up and cool-down.
According to the ACE, HIIT is an anaerobic workout that will elevate your metabolism not only during your workout, but afterward as well, a phenomenon known as the "afterburn effect." This allows your body to burn more calories, even when it's at rest, which can help with weight loss. HIIT can also help you take in and use more oxygen during steady-state training, as well as improve your endurance.
Strength Training for Weight Loss
Using the elliptical for weight loss is a good plan, but cardio isn't the be-all and end-all of fitness. Adding resistance, or strength training, to your workout regimen will also help you shed pounds. Research published in January 2018 in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism concluded that those who improved their diet and engaged in resistance training were able to lose body fat as well as increase their lean muscle mass.
The physical activity guidelines recommend at least two days a week of strength training, resistance training or muscular strength and endurance exercises that aim to improve muscle strength, endurance and mass.
Each workout should involve all major muscle groups, from your shoulders to your core to your legs. You don't have to have a gym membership or own dumbbells or fancy resistance machines to accomplish this; body-weight exercises, such as squats, push-ups and lunges, all work just as well.
- Mayo Clinic: "Exercise for Weight Loss: Calories Burned in 1 Hour"
- Health.gov: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020: Appendix 1. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans"
- Exercise Medicine: "Caloric Expenditure Estimation Difference Between an Elliptical Machine and Indirect Calorimetry"
- American Council on Exercise: "Try This HIIT Workout on the Elliptical Trainer"
- International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism: "Resistance Training Combined With Diet Decreases Body Fat While Preserving Lean Mass Independent of Resting Metabolic Rate: A Randomized Trial"
- American Council on Exercise: "8 Reasons to Take a Rest Day"
- Mayo Clinic: "Cardio 101: Benefits and Tips"