Lack of time is one of the most common excuses adults have when it comes to not exercising every day. Between work, family and sleep, sneaking in a workout can seem next to impossible. But not to worry — experts agree that just 15 minutes a day on the elliptical can have major health benefits.
The elliptical trainer is a fantastic form of cardiovascular exercise. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity or 15 minutes of vigorous intensity per day for health benefits.
Using the Elliptical for Cardio
Starting or restarting a workout can be intimidating, particularly if you've tried numerous diet and fitness fads only to see the same number show up on your scale. If this sounds familiar to you, perhaps it's time to bring it back to the basics and start simple with the elliptical machine.
Often playing second fiddle to the treadmill, the elliptical is underrated — though it really should shine as a fantastic form of exercise. For starters, elliptical machines are commonly found in gyms across the country and even in hotels. This makes it easy to rely on the elliptical machine for consistency no matter where you live or where you are visiting. They also provide a low-impact, full-body method of cardiovascular exercise, which is key to overall health and wellness.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults should get a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity each week. When these goals are met or exceeded, you are less likely to develop many chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and several types of cancer. Plus, you just feel better.
15 Minutes on an Elliptical
If 15 minutes a day on the elliptical is all the time you have, the American Council on Exercise recommends you use that time as efficiently as possible by doing High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), which is a departure from the 30 to 60 minutes of continuous steady-state cardio that most people do on cardio machines. When you train at a higher intensity, even for a short amount of time, you burn calories more efficiently.
To complete a HIIT workout on the elliptical, alternate between bursts of intense work by adding resistance and moving as fast as you can for a short amount of time, followed by slower, active recovery. For beginners, try 30 seconds of tough work, followed by 60 to 90 seconds of recovery and then repeat. Over time, you will be able to increase the amount of intense time and decrease your recovery periods.
If 15 minutes of vigorous elliptical work every day still sounds intimidating, you can start off even simpler. The American Diabetes Association recommends beginners start with just five or 10 minutes a day, gradually increasing your time as you build up stamina and see improvements in your fitness level.
Elliptical Workouts and Diet
When you turn to elliptical workouts for weight loss, it's important to remember that you have to burn more calories than you consume in a day in order to actually shed pounds. A lot of people fall into the trap of thinking,"I worked out today, so I earned that cupcake." But here's the reality — using Metabolic Equivalent of Task (MET) value, a 150 pound person burns approximately 340 calories working at a moderate pace on the elliptical for 60 minutes. Be mindful of what you consume — that one decadent snack could negate all of your hard work.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a healthy weight loss program consists of a realistic weight loss goal, a reduced-calorie, nutritionally balanced eating plan and regular physical activity — like working out on an elliptical. It's important to remember that portions count and even a small amount of weight loss can lead to big health benefits.
Before you start a weight loss plan, talk to your doctor about a method that's right for you. Calorie intake and nutritional choices vary for each individual, but committing to change — and sharing your goals with a medical professional — is a solid first step to weight loss.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition”
- American Council on Exercise: “Try This HIIT Workout on the Elliptical Trainer”
- Harvard Health Publishing: “Interval Training: More Workout in Less Time (and you can do it)”
- American Diabetes Association: What We Recommend: Aerobic Exercise”
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: “Interested in Losing Weight?”
- ProCon.org: "Met Values for 800+ Activities"