Elliptical Training for Runners

Get the same cardio benefits from running on the elliptical.
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As a runner, including a form of cross training, such as an elliptical, in your routine helps give your body a chance to recover from the demands of pounding the pavement. According to research published in the “Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness,” women experience the same level of cardiovascular improvements when training on an elliptical machine as on a treadmill when the volume and intensity are equivalent.


Researchers at the University of Mississippi found that you get the same cardiovascular benefits on an elliptical machine as a treadmill. It strengthens your heart and lungs and builds lean muscle mass. As you work out on an elliptical, you use the same muscles as you would when running: your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, core and calf muscles. Additionally, if your elliptical has moveable arm handles, similar to ski poles, you can get a better upper-body workout than when running. When you pull on the handles, you engage your chest and biceps muscles. When you push the handles, you engage your upper back and triceps muscles.


Compared to running, the elliptical machine burns slightly fewer calories. According to “Men’s Health,” you burn approximately 17 calories per minute running and only 13 calories per minute on the elliptical machine. According to Health Status, for a 200-pound person an hour on the elliptical is nearly equivalent to running at 7 mph for one hour. In this time, you burn 1,032 calories on the elliptical and 1,044 calories running. The exact number of calories you burn depends on your weight, gender, age and the resistance and incline on the elliptical machine.


On the WebMD website, exercise physiologist Kathy Alexander says that the impact force on your joints when you run is 3.7 times your weight. The elliptical machine is designed to mimic the running motion but with less impact on your body. This makes it a solid alternative to running, according to Matthew Vukurovich, South Dakota State University exercise physiologist. When used correctly, an elliptical should not cause any knee pain.


According to "Runner’s World," runners who include cross training in their workout regimen experience several benefits such as improved fitness, enhanced motivation, injury prevention and injury rehabilitation. Most running injuries are caused by overuse due to inadequate recovery, muscular imbalances and biomechanical irregularities. By using an elliptical machine, you can maintain or even improve your endurance without beating up your muscles, joints and connective tissue. Furthermore, if you have experienced an injury, an elliptical machine can help you maintain your fitness without prolonging your recovery process.

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