Elliptical machines use pedals to simulate a combination of stair climbing and cross country skiing without putting pressure on your joints. The many benefits of working out on an elliptical include burning fat, strengthening your muscles and increasing your endurance. But before hopping on and starting your workout, make sure you’re prepared to do it safely.
Elliptical machines feature electronic monitors, one or two-way motion, movable or stationary handles and adjustable stride length. Most elliptical machines come with an electronic monitor and electronic sensors on the handles that can measure your heart rate, miles covered, intensity and calories burned. While most ellipticals allow you to pedal forward, some have the option of pedaling backward to work a different set of muscles. Some handles are stationary to focus the work on your legs, but others move and offer resistance so that you can get an arm workout simultaneously. One feature, adjustable stride length, is important because it lets you adjust the machine to your individual height so you can avoid injury.
Proper Use and Form
Proper use of exercise equipment is essential, especially when using equipment for the first time. When using an elliptical machine, stand up straight, engage your abdominals and use the handlebars for balance. You can adjust the incline level at the front of the machine to increase the intensity of your workout. Adjust the handlebars so that you aren’t bending forward, which can put unnecessary stress on your back and wrists. Start out by increasing the incline level by small increments until you know what your body can handle. Using the machine at too high of an incline can strain your back and legs, as well as cause over-exertion. Wait until the machine comes to a complete stop before you get off.
Space and Weight Limits
Consider the space you have for an elliptical machine when purchasing it or using one in the gym. You'll need plenty of space -- around 20 square feet or more to safely use an elliptical. Don't put the machine close to walls, ceilings or other machines to avoid hitting anything while you use it. Check the weight limit of the elliptical machine. Most ellipticals have a weight limit of 350 pounds, according to the American College of Sports Medicine.
Operation, Power and Performance
The elliptical machine shouldn't limit your range of motion. Check the difficulty levels available on the manual mode and also the different programs available. You can pre-program an elliptical for the amount of fat burn and intervals, for example. You can also change the resistance level on the machine to suit your ability or workout preference. The control panel features should also be easy to read, user-friendly, accessible and provide essential information about the workout, according to the American College of Sports Medicine.
How often and how long you workout on the elliptical machine depends on your fitness level. If you're new to this exercise, start slowly and begin with a 10 to 15 minute workout three to five days per week. Increase your time on the elliptical by about 10 percent each week, recommends the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. For example, if you are exercising between 10 to 15 minutes per session one week, the following week you can safely add one to two minutes per session. While this may seem slow, you'll avoid injury by not trying to perform too much exercise during the beginning of your program.
Danielle Clark has been a writer since 2009, specializing in environmental and health and fitness topics. She has contributed to magazines and several online publications. Clark holds a Bachelor of Science in ecology and environmental science.