Growing up as a runner and a soccer player, I didn't naturally gravitate toward ellipticals when visiting the gym. Even as a personal trainer, I assumed that the elliptical couldn't possibly compete with the intense workouts I was used to getting with a run on the treadmill. All that changed when I decided to give the elliptical a go and realized I could still achieve a kick-butt workout . . . and not have any knee pain after! I've compiled my top six reasons I choose the elliptical more often than not and encourage my clients to do the same.
Low Impact on Your Joints
Running, outdoor cycling, and dancing can all be great forms of cardiovascular exercise, but the pounding on your joints takes a toll. The elliptical is designed for a smoother motion, promoting a low-impact cardio workout option during pregnancy or postpartum. And if you're worried about how much you're really burning, according to Harvard Health, a 30-minute elliptical workout can burn comparable calories to jogging, cycling, and swimming!
Choose Your Own Pace
How hard you push and pull determines how fast you go, and runners and walkers alike can pick their speed based on what feels right for them. Most machines have a dashboard where you can see your calories, distance, and speed as you go. For beginners, a pace between 3-4 mph is a great place to start, and runners can aim for 5 mph and up.
Easy For Steady State or Interval Workouts
Whether you want to keep a steady pace or add in some intervals, the elliptical is a great machine to mix it up. You can do this by altering your resistance and climbing "hills" or by upping your speed and doing some sprints. Using your arms to push or pull for short bursts of time is another alternative for interval training. Remember, interval workouts are great when you're short on time to boost calorie burn.
You Make It Go, You Make It Stop
Most treadmills require you to set the speed and keep up, but an elliptical requires effort on your part to start moving and keep moving. If you've ever fallen off a treadmill without wearing a protective clip, you know most belts keep on moving and can be dangerous — especially if you're working out during pregnancy and postpartum. If your balance isn't 100 percent, you won't have that problem when using an elliptical.
Handles Work Your Upper Body Too
Many machines offer moving handles with the motion of the lower body, allowing you to get a complete-body workout as you exercise. This means you can burn more calories than you would on a recumbent bike. If your model doesn't offer handles, and you feel comfortable not holding on, try pumping your arms up as if you were running or walking to keep your heart rate up!
You Can Go Forward or Backward
Walking backward on a treadmill is a near-impossible feat, but changing directions on an elliptical allows you to target different muscles on your body and add some variety to your workout. Keeping the resistance low when you switch directions is recommended for balance, but feel free to turn it back up once you get into a rhythm.