Light Vs. Moderate Speed on the Elliptical

Elliptical trainers provide three levels of cardio exercise.
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Fitness doesn't come in a one-size-fits-all package and neither does a suggested elliptical speed. Elliptical speeds -- low, moderate and high -- each have positives and negatives. The range that is best for you depends on your fitness goals and your current fitness level. Get clearance from your doctor and then commit to a total of 150 minutes of exercise a week.

Low Speeds

    Going slow and steady on the elliptical will result in fat loss, but it may take a longer time for you to accomplish. Unless your heart rate stays within an aerobic, calorie-burning range, it will not get high enough to burn fat. Before exercising, determine your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from the number 220. Stay within 50 to 60 percent of this number when working out a low speed. When you are working out at low speeds, singing and chatting will come easily, and the movement, regardless the speed, is low impact.

Moderate Speeds

    At a moderate speed, you will still be able to carry a conversation. Keep your heart rate between 60 to 70 percent of your maximum. Setting your pace at a moderate speed helps you reach your calorie goal in less time. Do between 30 to 60 minutes at a moderate speed, pushing toward a total of 5 hours per week for optimal fitness and weight-reduction. Use your elliptical's handlebar sensors, or an attachable heart rate monitor, to maintain an even, medium speed. Keep your heart rate in that 60 to 70 percent zone.

Interval Training

    Combine low and high speeds to get the best of both worlds. Interval training burns calories and slashes your workout time. Why step out of your low-moderate comfort zone? Interval training retains lean muscle while you burn calories, unlike other high intensity, fat-burning cardio activities. When you are starting out, switch between three- or five-minute intervals of low to medium speeds for 20 to 30 minutes. End on a low speed. Gradually increase the moderate intervals and decrease the short interval times. Interval training burns calories and slims while conserving your muscle mass.


    Consider going beyond low and moderate speeds with high-intensity interval training, which is HIIT for short. HIIT takes you into the 80 to 90 percent maximum heart rate level. HIIT incorporates short bursts of high speeds to build muscle and burn fat. HIIT training resets your metabolism, helping you burn fat when you're not exercising, even up to 24 hours after elliptical use. Try HIIT but don't skip the warm up and cool down periods. Be safe and gradually increase and lower your heart rate during these stages. Add six to ten high-speed intervals that alternate between thirty seconds of medium and low speeds.

    The 80 to 90 percent maximum heart rate speeds are for brief interval training. Pushing past this zone causes lactic acid formation in the blood. Though naturally occurring, too much lactic acid causes fatigue and muscle discomfort. Adding intervals of moderate and low speeds allows your body's lactic acid levels to reset.

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