An elliptical is an an exercise machine that imitates the motion of walking or running without putting too much pressure on the joints. Like running, it provides aerobic exercise, which is key for weight loss. However, the amount of time you need to spend on an elliptical to lose weight will depend on several individual factors.
Diet and Exercise
The only way to lose weight is to burn more calories than you consume. To accomplish this, you must increase the calories you burn per day and decrease the amount of calories you take in. A pound of fat equals 3,500 calories, so to lose a healthy rate of 1 to 2 lbs. of fat per week, you must burn an extra 500 to 1,000 calories per day below your body's normal, needed amount. Aerobic exercise, such as using an elliptical, is an important component of achieving this deficit. In general, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise five days per week. For best results, however, calculate the time you spend exercising according to several factors.
Even if you sat in bed the entire day, your body would have to use a certain amount of energy to keep itself functioning. This basic number of calories you burn every day is known as a metabolic rate, and it varies considerably depending on your gender, age, height, weight and lifestyle. A short, sedentary woman may only burn about 1,200 calories, while a tall, active man might burn around 2,200. You can use an online calculator such as LIVESTRONG.com's MyPlate to determine your metabolic rate. This will help you determine how many calories you need to burn on an elliptical.
Calories Burned on the Elliptical
Elliptical machines don't always burn calories at the same rate. Two primary factors affect the rate at which you burn calories on an elliptical: the amount of resistance you set for the machine and your current weight. If you set the elliptical at the highest resistance, you may burn several times as many calories per hour as you would at the lowest resistance. In addition, when you weigh more, you burn slightly more calories. Most elliptical machines can give you a rate of calories burned per hour, and many tell you how many calories you burned at the end of the workout. If yours doesn't, you can use an online calculator to estimate the calories you burn.
Calculating the Time
The final factor in determining how long you should use an elliptical is the calories you consume per day, which you can track with a food journal. When you put these three variables together -- metabolic rate, calories burned on the elliptical per hour and calories consumed -- you can calculate how long you need to use the elliptical. For example, if your metabolic rate is 2,000 calories per day, and you consume 1,700 calories, you need to burn an extra 200 calories. If you tend to burn about 400 calories per hour on the elliptical, you need to exercise for half an hour to achieve your daily goal. As your caloric intake may fluctuate from day to day, you may need to exercise more or less to compensate.