If you seek a killer cardio workout, using an elliptical machine or jogging will both do the trick. And because the best exercise is the one you'll stick with, it's wise to go with whichever activity you find the most fun. That said, there are advantages to the low impact of the elliptical as well as the no-equipment-required versatility of jogging. Whichever you choose, aim for 150 to 300 minutes per week at a moderate intensity, or 75 to 150 minutes a week at a vigorous level.
Get your cardio kicks with either jogging or working the elliptical. Both provide aerobic benefit, helping your heart pump more efficiently while increasing lung function. A stronger heart needs fewer beats to circulate blood throughout your body, leading to reduced resting heart rate and lower blood pressure. Thus, cardio helps stave off cardiovascular disease, the leading killer of women as well as men. Aerobic exercise also guards against Type 2 diabetes and is linked to lower incidence of colon, lung and breast cancers.
The beauty of cardio is that you can burn as few or as many calories as you want by upping the speed or intensity. A 155-pound person torches about 300 calories in a 30-minute, moderate elliptical session, the equivalent of a jog at 5 mph. But the elliptical offers two ways to up your burn: raise the resistance level or move your legs faster. Jogging has no magic resistance button, but you have the freedom to sprint for a few seconds and then return to a medium gait to accelerate your metabolism.
Jogging is a high-impact exercise, which is good news for your bones. The impact of your feet landing on the ground helps prevent bone loss and may even increase density over time. This translates to reduced risk of osteoporosis, which commonly affects women as they age. Jogging especially focuses on your legs, lower spine and hips, which are notoriously prone to fracture. Because the elliptical doesn't provide the same impact, it has far less effect on bones.
The low impact of elliptical training may mean less bone-building action, but it also spares your knees. While "runner's knee" may plague those who take regular jogs, it's a not an issue on the elliptical. With correct use, you should feel no knee pain at all on this machine; keep your back straight and face forward, engaging your abdominal muscles. But the elliptical still could spell trouble if you already have a history of knee problems. Speak to your doctor about alternatives if your knees become sore.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity do Adults Need?
- IdeaFit.com: The 25 Most Significant Health Benefits Of Physical Activity & Exercise
- Harvard Health Publications: Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights
- MayoClinic.com: Osteoporosis: Prevention
- MayoClinic.com: Elliptical Machines: Better Than Treadmills?
Nina K. is a Los Angeles-based journalist who has been published by USAToday.com, Fitday.com, Healthy Living Magazine, Organic Authority and numerous other print and web publications. She has a philosophy degree from the University of Colorado and a journalism certificate from UCLA.