How Long & How Often Should You Work Out on the Elliptical for Optimal Results?

The elliptical trainer helps burn calories and strengthen your muscles.
i IT Stock/Polka Dot/Getty Images

Exercising on an elliptical trainer can help you lose weight and improve your cardiovascular health. The low-impact movements make it a good choice if you have joint issues or if you find high-impact exercises like running uncomfortable or too difficult. While you may be tempted to spend hours using the elliptical to lose weight, you'll actually get better results if you opt for a short workout.

Calories Burned on Elliptical

The American Council on Exercise estimates that you burn 8 to 9 calories a minute using an elliptical. A study published in the June 2010 issue of the “Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research” found only minimal differences in health benefits, including calorie burn, between training on an elliptical and jogging on a treadmill. Unlike the treadmill, however, the elliptical also allows you to work your upper body because you have to use your arms to push and pull the handles.

Benefits of Short Workouts

Many women spend hours exercising on cardio equipment hoping to lose excess weight, but a recent study actually found that when it comes to exercise, less is more. The research, published in the September 2012 issue of the “American Journal of Physiology, Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology,” found very little difference in fat loss between people who exercise for 30 minutes and those who exercise for 60 minutes per day. The study suggests that 30 minutes of cardio exercise, whether on an elliptical or other cardio machine, is enough to give you noticeable benefits and that any advantages you'll get from training longer than 30 minutes will not be worth the extra time and effort. Extra training may also be counterproductive because it can lead to overuse injuries such as strained muscles.

How Often to Exercise

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that adults participate in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week, or 30 minutes of exercise five days a week to prevent weight gain and lower the risk of chronic health issues. If you are looking to lose weight, however, the ACSM suggests getting closer to 250 minutes of moderate exercise a week. Exercising at a moderate pace on the elliptical for approximately 35 minutes per day falls in line with the ACSM's recommendations and is enough to give you optimal health benefits.

Elliptical Tips

As with any exercise, always begin with a five-minute warm-up to slowly increase your heart rate. To do this on the elliptical, set the machine for light resistance. To get the best results from your workout, gradually increase the resistance. This will challenge your leg and arm muscles and burn more calories while you exercise. As you stride, press down on your heels through the entire movement. This puts more emphasis on your hind muscles, including your glutes and hamstrings. Always finish your workout with a five-minute cooldown by decreasing the resistance and allowing your heart rate to return to normal.

the nest