Despite what the ads say, there are no five foods that will flatten your tummy or creams that will melt away fat. To lose weight, you need to burn calories, and the elliptical is one way to do it. You don't need to worry about the weather, you can read a book or watch TV and the bike-pedaling-like motion can be easy on your joints. Machines vary from those that just involve your legs to those that work your arms as well, but all allow you to work out at different speeds and resistance to vary the intensity level.
Double your elliptical workout time. According to MayoClinic.com, the average person needs to exercise about 300 minutes in a week to lose weight. Assuming you are already getting the prescribed 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week required to maintain your weight, try spending an hour on the elliptical, rather than just 30 minutes, five days per week, or 50 minutes six days per week.
Find the right combination of elliptical time and calorie-cutting. MayoClinic.com tells us that a caloric deficit -- burning more calories than you consume -- of about 3,500 calories per week leads to a safe weight loss of 1 pound per week. If you safely cut 250 calories a day from your diet, make up the rest by spending extra time on the elliptical.
Increase the intensity of your elliptical workout. Moderate activity is working at 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate. Vigorous activity is working at 70 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. Quickly calculate your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. By increasing the intensity, you could work out for half the time each session or cut the number of days in half to burn the required number of calories for weight loss.
Try interval workouts. If you aren't up to a full 30 or 60 minutes of vigorous pedaling, try two minutes at a moderate intensity and two minutes at a vigorous intensity. You'll end up burning more calories than you would at straight moderate intensity.
- Ignore the number of calories on the readout. According to "Shape" magazine, ellipticals are notoriously inaccurate at calculating calories burned.
- When calculating how long you'd have to work out to create your calorie deficit, don't forget to include calories burned in other activities like house and yard work or climbing several flights of stairs.
- You can also measure intensity with the talk test. At a moderate pace, you should be able to talk easily but not sing. At a vigorous pace, talking is difficult.
- Always start with moderate intensity and work up to vigorous intensity if you're new to exercising.
Nancy Cross is a certified paralegal who has worked as an employee benefits specialist and counseled employees on retirement preparation, including financial and estate planning. In addition to writing and editing, she runs a small business with her husband and is a certified personal trainer with the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA).