post 11 Elliptical Benefits: Why This Cardio Machine Is Useful

11 Elliptical Benefits: Why This Cardio Machine Is Useful

Christiana Mikesch, CPT
Published by Christiana Mikesch, CPT | Senior Coach
Last updated: January 27, 2024
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Elliptical benefits include boosting stamina and cardiorespiratory capacity, burning calories, less stress on joints, improving balance, maintaining fitness after injury, and many more.

Based on my experience as a certified personal trainer and more than 25 hours of research, I compiled a list of the most important elliptical benefits that change your quality of life and improve your overall longevity.

After reading the article, you'll know all the important benefits of elliptical machine workouts, how long you should train, elliptical compared to other kinds of cardio exercises, and the best way to start experiencing these benefits today.

Quick Summary

  • The most important elliptical benefits include improved stamina and cardio capacity, burning more calories, putting less stress on joints, activating lower and upper body muscles, burning fat, targeting specific leg muscles, balance improvement, post-injury benefits, low maintenance, variety of option, and ease of use.
  • Elliptical exercise is particularly beneficial for those with joint issues, providing a low-impact exercise alternative to high-impact activities.
  • A study by Western Kentucky University found that VO2max (ml/kg/min) increased from pre-training (39.89 ± 10.74) to post-training (41.66 ± 10.90) after the initial run training program.
  • Personally, I find the elliptical to be an incredibly effective and versatile tool for fitness, suitable for a wide range of fitness levels and goals.

11 Benefits of an Elliptical Machine

A person on an elliptical machine working out

The 11 benefits of elliptical machine workouts are listed below:

  1. Boosts Your Stamina and Cardio Capacity
  2. Burns a Lot of Calories
  3. Puts Less Stress on Your Joints
  4. Serves as Both an Upper and Lower Body Workout
  5. Burns Body Fat
  6. Targets Specific Leg Muscles
  7. Improves Your Balance
  8. Maintains Fitness After Injury
  9. Provides a Variety of Options
  10. Straightforward to Use
  11. Low Maintenance

To get the most out of every benefit, you must follow guidelines and recommendations based on a large corpus of research in the past few decades.

Read our guide on the best budget elliptical machines that are high-quality and affordable and start experiencing these benefits already today.

According to a study in the National Library of Medicine, the most important principle is proper rest and recovery [1].

This means never entering the overtraining state or overtraining syndrome, which happens when you fail to recover between two cardio sessions [2].

According to another study in the National Library of Medicine, to avoid such negative effects, ensure at least 7-8 hours of quality sleep daily, consume enough carbohydrates and proteins to fuel you for workouts and prevent muscle loss, and implement proper supplementation in protein and electrolytes [3].

"Aside from the benefits of having healthy joints that aren’t worn down daily from the impact forces of running, you can also reap the potential benefits of improved cardiovascular health and increased fat burn from vigorous exercise on an elliptical."

- Michael Shafer, Certified Personal Trainer

1. Boosts Your Stamina and Cardio Capacity

A woman on an elliptical machine working out for cardio

One of my clients used the elliptical regularly and saw her VO2 max improve significantly. This was not just evident in her ability to perform longer workouts but also in her daily energy levels and endurance.

When you increase the VO2 max and improve your muscular and joint system, you also increase the ability to resist fatigue and tiredness during physical activity.

VO2 max is closely tied to or is the best predictor of cardio capacity, meaning you will increase your maximum oxygen consumption and improve your cardiorespiratory functions.

2. Burns a Lot of Calories

Burning many calories is the second benefit of a prolonged and intense elliptical workout.

Our bodies burn calories to release energy by synthesizing adenosine triphosphate (ATP) to fuel our muscles and allow for movement or, more precisely, contraction to occur.

Our body has four primary energy sources: oxidative, glycolytic (slow and fast), CP or creatine-phosphate, and adenosine triphosphate ATP (located in our blood and muscles).

Elliptical workout done in aerobic zones mainly uses oxygen molecules to synthesize ATP (more on aerobic zones for different levels of fitness experience will be tackled below the list of benefits).

To increase calories burned during the elliptical workout, the percentage of maximum oxygen consumption must be increased. This means performing prolonged elliptical workouts on higher percentages of VO2 max.

3. Puts Less Stress on Your Joints

A person working out on an elliptical machine for joints

From my experience, I've found that the elliptical is a game-changer for those with joint concerns. Unlike the jarring impact of running or jumping, the elliptical offers a smooth motion that's gentle on the ankles, knees, and hips.

I've worked with many clients who have transitioned from high-impact activities to the elliptical due to joint pain.

If you have ankle, knee, or hip problems, the elliptical or stationary bike workout is the best place to start your recovery.

4. Serves as Both an Upper and Lower Body Workout

I regularly include the elliptical in my routines to engage both upper and lower body muscles. The combination of arm and leg movement provides a comprehensive workout that targets multiple muscle groups, which I've found to be incredibly effective for overall toning and strength.

Lower body muscles active during elliptical training include the quadriceps, femoris, hamstrings, glutes, hip flexors, soleus, gastrocnemius, etc.

Upper body muscles active during elliptical workouts include triceps brachii, biceps brachii, pectoralis major, latissimus dorsi, deltoids, trapezius, and similar.

Although the muscle activation and requirements aren’t significant for all major muscle groups, activating all the groups mentioned above is an excellent starting point for cardio-based workouts.

5. Burns Body Fat

A woman on an elliptical machine for weight loss

Elliptical training performed in the aerobic zone burns a significant amount of fat.

Our bodies burn mostly fat when exercising in the aerobic zone, meaning our system primarily uses oxygen to form adenosine triphosphate (ATP).

The more oxygen and less glycogen and creatine-phosphate you use during your activities, the more calories burned and energy created with the help of body fats.

However, this isn’t to be mistaken with VO2 max or consuming the most significant amount of oxygen during workouts.

This is because our body will use oxygen even in anaerobic zones where glycogen and creatine-phosphate are dominant energy sources.

Related Post: How Does The Body Burn Fat

6. Targets Specific Leg Muscles

Elliptical training targets specific leg muscles such as the quadriceps, femoris, glutes, hamstrings, soleus, gastrocnemius, hip flexors, adductors, and plantar and dorsal flexors [4].

These muscles are essential for properly functioning the lower body's anterior and posterior chains.

Related Post: The Best Leg Isolation Exercises

7. Improves Your Balance

A person with good balance working out on the ground

I've noticed a remarkable improvement in my balance since incorporating elliptical training into my routine. The machine's requirement for core engagement, especially when you let go of the handles, challenges your stability.

This has been particularly beneficial for my older clients, who have seen improvements in their daily activities.

Strengthening the abdominal muscles, adductors, and glutes not only enhances stability during workouts but also contributes to better posture and movement efficiency in everyday life.

8. Maintains Fitness After Injury

Elliptical maintains your cardiorespiratory fitness after injury by allowing for a less intense workout.

This is especially important for athletes and trainees experiencing ankle, knee, hip, and shoulder injuries.

9. Provides a Variety of Options

A person working out on an elliptical machine

One thing I love about the elliptical is its versatility. In my own workouts and when training clients, I've used the elliptical for everything from light cardio to intense interval training.

Its versatility is useful for avoiding the monotony of cardio workouts, which increases motivation for future cardio sessions.

This feedback loop improves overall discipline in working out, closely tied to improved performance and all health-related metrics.

10. Straightforward to Use

The elliptical machine is straightforward and perfect for beginners or older people looking to improve their cardiovascular and respiratory fitness.

Learning to use elliptical takes less than a couple of hours, making it the perfect place to start your cardio journey.

11. Low Maintenance

Having used an elliptical both at home and in professional settings, I can attest to its low maintenance nature. It's a relief not to worry about frequent repairs or complex upkeep.

This ease of maintenance has made the elliptical a go-to piece of equipment for me and many of my clients who prefer hassle-free workout options.

Is Elliptical as Good as Running?

An athlete on the field running

Elliptical is as good as running. Both activities share similar benefits, such as cardiovascular health improvement, developing muscular endurance, improving your balance, and many other things.

However, running is much better than elliptical if you want to maximize your cardiorespiratory health since it is considered a harder type of exercise.

Also, running might not be an option for you if you experience joint problems, so in that case, elliptical training is much better since it puts less stress on your ankle and knee joints.

"There are a few key things to consider before choosing the right elliptical. You need a machine that fits both your body and your living space, and it needs to be able to track your progress. Additionally, you may want some fun features on top of all that like entertainment apps or connectivity with a tablet or smartphone."

- Jesse Zucker, Certified Personal Trainer 

Is Elliptical as Good as Cycling?

A person cycling uphill

Elliptical is as good as cycling. The elliptical cardio machine will force you to maintain a standing position that will activate your stabilizer muscles, which isn’t the case for cycling.

The main difference between cardio machines such as the stationary bicycle and the elliptical machine is the joint impact and stabilizer muscle activation.

Stationary bike workouts are considered to have a lower impact on joints.

Therefore, they include less stabilizer muscle activation and connection between the lower and upper body due to the sitting position.

The elliptical workout routine is an excellent progressive exercise for stationary bikes if you are an older adult looking to improve cardiovascular health.

How Long Should I Use the Elliptical?

You should use the elliptical for between 10 and 60 minutes. For warm-up before a strength training workout, 20 minutes of electrical exercise raises your body temperature, prepares your facia, and lowers joint traction.

To maintain your cardiorespiratory fitness, 10 to 30 minutes of elliptical at 35-50% of your VO2 max is the perfect place to start.

For intermediate gym goers, 10 to 30 minutes of elliptical at 50-60% of your VO2 max is the optimal place to start.

For advanced trainees, 10 to 30 minutes of elliptical at 60-70% of your VO2 max is the best.

Can the Elliptical Help With Belly Fat?

A person squeezing their belly fat

Yes, an elliptical can help with belly fat. However, it is a myth that local fat-burning can occur due to specific cardio exercises or workouts.

Losing belly fat isn’t as simple as repeatedly performing one cardio machine exercise over a few weeks.

When you burn fat, you never burn fat locally, but you use the fat from all storage across your body.

Therefore, it is impossible to use a specific exercise and target belly fat as propagated by certain fitness professionals.

Elliptical Workouts for Different Age Groups

The elliptical machine offers unique benefits tailored to different age groups.

Youth and Young Adults (Ages 18-35)

This age group should focus on:

  • HIIT workouts: Younger adults can leverage the elliptical for high-intensity interval training. Alternating between intense bursts of activity and fixed periods of less-intense exercise or rest boosts cardiovascular fitness and burns calories efficiently.
  • Muscle toning: By adjusting the resistance and incline, users can target specific muscle groups such as the glutes, quads, and calves, making the elliptical a versatile tool for overall body toning.

Example workout: A 30-minute session incorporating 2-minute high-intensity intervals followed by 1-minute of low-intensity recovery, combined with varying resistance levels to engage different muscle groups.

Middle-Aged Adults (Ages 36-55)

This age group should focus on:

  • Steady-state cardio: This age group can benefit from longer, steady-state cardio sessions on the elliptical. These workouts are effective for weight management and improving heart health.
  • Low-impact nature: The elliptical's low-impact nature is kinder on joints, which is crucial for those experiencing the first signs of joint pain or arthritis.

Example workout: A 45-minute session at a moderate, consistent pace, focusing on maintaining a steady heart rate within the fat-burning zone.

Seniors (Ages 56 and above)

This age group should focus on:

  • Balance and flexibility: Seniors can use the elliptical to improve balance and flexibility. The stable, fluid motion of the machine helps in maintaining and enhancing these physical attributes without the risk of injury.
  • Joint-friendly exercise: The elliptical provides a joint-friendly cardiovascular workout, essential for seniors looking to maintain fitness levels without exacerbating joint pain or arthritis symptoms.

Example workout: A 20-30 minute session at a low to moderate intensity, focusing on smooth movements and maintaining an upright posture to engage core muscles and improve balance.


Is 30 Minutes of Elliptical Enough?

30 minutes of an elliptical is enough to achieve most benefits of elliptical workouts, such as improving your cardio capacity, burning fat and calories, and targeting specific lower body muscles. The elliptical trainer is used for entire-body workouts and is considered less stressful than a cardio workout due to the added benefit of being low impact on your ankles and knees.

What Happens if I Use the Elliptical Everyday?

If you use an elliptical every day, what happens is you will improve your cardiorespiratory fitness, lose weight, and improve your overall cardiovascular health. Elliptical machines are excellent for maintaining cardiorespiratory health, upper and lower body basic functionality, and improving the overall quality of life.

Is the Elliptical Better Than Walking?

The elliptical is better than walking. However, the intensity of the elliptical machine workout is crucial for determining overall benefits such as improved physique, fitness, cardiovascular health, joint function, and similar.


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