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Are Elliptical Machines Good For Weight Loss? How to Lose Fat With Elliptical Workouts.

Updated on May 10, 2019
mikejhca profile image

To get in shape before cycling season starts I do endurance training on my elliptical trainer until I can run 14 miles at a fast pace.

Elliptical Trainers

An elliptical trainer is an exercise machine that was designed to be easy on your joints. It is used for low impact running. They are great for people that have knee problems and people that do not want to hurt their knees. When I use mine it feels like a cross between biking and running up stairs. Running long distances outside was too hard on my knees. So I switched to low impact running and biking long distances.

Peddling forwards works your your quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes as well as your triceps, biceps, chest, back and abs. If you want strong abs you will still need to do other abdominal exercises. Pedal backwards to work your calves. Forwards focuses on the thighs and going backwards focuses on the lower leg. Stand up straight and use good posture. Don't lean on the handles.

Elliptical trainer
Elliptical trainer | Source

Do Elliptical Trainers Work?

I started doing an elliptical trainer workout almost every day. A month later I quit using it because I did not look or feel different. Putting in time and going through the motions was not enough. Cycling, running, push ups and pull ups are exercises. The exercise only works if your workout is good for getting the results you want. It will not change your body very much if you just do the same routine over and over again.

Elliptical trainers can work. The first thing you need is a goal. With the right workout you should be able to lose fat, build muscle, or improve your cardiovascular endurance. Figure out what you want to accomplish then pick an exercise routine. Keep changing your workout as your strength and endurance improves. This year I started using my elliptical twice a week. Every time I tried to increase my speed or the distance. My first goal was to run 8.5 miles within 60 minutes. My second goal was to go 14 miles at a good pace.

They are as good as treadmills or bicycles if you trying to lose weight. I can burn calories faster by running on a treadmill but I can last longer and exercise more frequently on an elliptical. The fastest way to burn calories is not always the best way. You should be able to build a little muscle and tone your legs. They are not good for bulking up or gaining a lot of strength. If you want muscular legs like a cyclist then ride a bike to quickly gain muscle.


You can change your elliptical workout by changing your speed, the intensity and the duration. Maintaining the same speed and resistance is referred to as steady state cardio. It does not require a lot of concentration and it can be good for increasing your endurance. I often watch TV while I am doing steady state cardio to improve my endurance. The intensity for these types of workout tends to be low or moderate.

Switching the amount of effort required is referred to as interval training. While using the elliptical you can alternate between a fast and slow pace. Go fast, slow down then go fast again or stay at the same speed and change the resistance. Increasing the intensity of the workout gives you better results. Reducing the intensity for few a minutes gives you a chance to catch your breath so you can last longer. I go at a fast pace and when I need a break I slow down. After a short break I increase my speed again.

High intensity interval training is very intense and it requires concentration. You can't watch TV, read or talk to people. Alternate between a high intensity activity and an easier one. On an elliptical you would turn up the resistance and sprint. When you feel like quitting briefly reduce the resistance and slow down to rest. Intense interval workouts should last 10 to 30 minutes.

Steady state cardio helps me improve my endurance so I can bike long distances. High intensity interval training helps with going up and down hills. I recommend doing both types of workouts and including some strength training. Building muscle helps you burn more calories while you are doing cardio and throughout the day.

Add some strength training to burn more calories and increase the size of your legs.
Add some strength training to burn more calories and increase the size of your legs. | Source

How Many Calories Do You Burn?

While doing an elliptical workout I burned 999 calories in 56 minutes according to the display. The number of calories depends on the resistance, your speed, the duration, your weight and how fit you are. Losing weight can reduce the number of calories you burn. So can getting better at the exercise. The count on most elliptical machines is not that accurate, especially if they don't know how heavy you are and how fast your heart is beating.

Accurately calculating the amount of energy you used can be difficult if you don't have good fitness tracker. So I recommend using your average speed, distance and calories to tell if you are improving. To see if you are burning enough calories to lose fat check to see how much belly fat you have once a week. One of the easiest ways to see if you lost fat is with a tight pair of pants or shorts. If your clothes are getting looser than you are losing fat. Another way is to see how much belly fat you can grab.

When my elliptical display showed 999 my Fitbit count was only 605 calories. Finding out that I only burned 605 calories was disappointing. However for me 600 in less than an hour is great. The elliptical overestimated the amount of energy that I used but it is still one of the best fat burning exercises. Almost every time I did the workout I increased my speed or distance. If I exercised for 2 hours at a good pace I could burn close to 1,200 calories while watching a movie on my TV.

The intensity of the workout matters. I burned 605 calories going 8.52 miles in 58 minutes. Going 8.52 miles in 56 minutes burned 627 calories according to my Fitbit.


Diet and Exercise

To lose weight you need to burn more calories than you consume. After I started biking long distances my junk food craving decreased and I craved healthy food. I started eating healthier and drinking more water because that is what I wanted. Long cardio workouts change my eating habits. I eat less junk food when I am doing cardio to lose fat and build muscle. Doing 2 elliptical workouts a week might be enough to help you improve your diet.

Eating junk food and fast food can make it harder to exercise. So can skipping meals or eating smaller portions and being hungry. If you feel hungry, weak or tired because you did not eat enough healthy food then working out becomes much more difficult. It is easier to workout after a nice well balanced healthy meal. Pay attention to how your meals affect your workouts so you can make better choices. You should also stay hydrated by drinking water.

Exercising more and eating less does not usually work. Your diet should be healthy. If exercising makes you hungry then eat more healthy food. Eating until I am full and having snacks when I am hungry does not make me fat. It gives me the energy I need to have an active lifestyle. A sedentary lifestyle is linked to obesity. I have seen lots of overweight people that do not eat very much food. It is better to have an active lifestyle and eat more than to eat less and have a sedentary lifestyle.

I lost fat by exercising more and eating more healthy food.

How to Lose Weight

If your priority is losing fat then I recommend interval training and steady state cardio at a fast pace. Do intense workouts and focus on improving. Remember to give your muscles time to recover. Keep improving your strength and endurance until you get the results you want. For better results include some strength training and other cardio exercises like cycling and walking outside. Building muscle makes it easier to lose the fat but it can make it harder to lose weight.

People often feel like they should lose weight to lose fat. If your priority is to lose weight then I recommend steady state cardio at a moderate or slow pace. Do longer less intense workouts and exercise more frequently. Avoid workouts that will build muscle and increase your appetite. It takes more time but it is better for reducing the number on your bathroom scale. When I do intense cardio workouts to lose fat my weight usually stays the same or increases.

Have you tried riding a bike at the lowest resistance level? You peddle really fast and the bicycle barely moves. I pedal at a moderate pace at the highest resistance setting to go fast. Increasing the resistance on an elliptical can slow down your movements but it can help you burn more calories. Gradually increase the resistance as your strength improves. It should not feel like you are running downhill the whole time. Combine speed and resistance.

Most people that have lots of fat to lose should be able to lose 1 to 2 pounds of fat per week but losing 1 pound of fat does not always mean that you lost weight. To lose an inch from my waist I need to lose around 10 pounds of belly fat. I expect to be able to lose 1 inch of belly fat in 5 to 6 weeks.

Before and after I lost 0 pounds. I lost fat not weight.
Before and after I lost 0 pounds. I lost fat not weight. | Source


Weight Loss
burn calories
strengthen & tone legs
reduce stress
reduce junk food cravings
strengthen heart
feel more energetic
crave healthy food
improve endurance
protect your knees
drink more water
improve breathing
improve mood
lose fat
improve balance
sleep better
maintain a healthy weight
strengthen immune system
improve mental abilities


I improved my endurance, lost fat and gained some muscle. My weight did not change but I lost enough belly fat to fit into my summer clothes. Last year at the start of cycling season I had trouble biking up hills. The endurance training helps with the distance but my legs were not strong enough. That is why I did endurance training on my elliptical and strength training for cyclists this year.

While using my elliptical trainer to lose fat it stops working eventually. My body adapts to the exercise. Most workout routines stop changing your body after a few months. You experience diminishing returns and go from changing your body to maintaining it. Your progress slows down even if you increase the intensity or duration of the workout. After 3 months it becomes a normal activity like walking my dog. The same thing happens with my long distance bike rides.

Elliptical machines are good for weight loss as part of a workout routine. Using one could be a good start or you could include it with other exercises. After 2 or 3 months you may need to switch to a different cardio workout like cycling, rowing or cardio boxing. To slim down for summer I mostly use my elliptical until I can run 14 miles. Then I switch to long distance biking. Two is better than one. When your weight loss exercise stops working replace it with a different activity.

I highly recommend using an elliptical trainer to reduce your weight if you are overweight. You could use one at a gym or get one for your home. It is worth buying a good one if you are going to use it. I expect to get 20 years out of my elliptical. Use it to lose fat then use it to stay lean and fit. You could lose fat but not weight like I did. Some people should not be trying to lose weight. They should only be trying to lose fat.

When I could easily last for hours it was time to switch to a different exercise.
When I could easily last for hours it was time to switch to a different exercise. | Source

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2019 Michael H


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