Elliptical Workouts for Weight Loss: How Effective Are They?

    Updated 01 March 2021 |
    Published 26 April 2019
    Fact Checked
    Reviewed by Rodion Salimgaraev, MD, Therapist
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    Elliptical workouts are a great form of exercise because they offer weight-bearing movement with less impact on the joints than running. This type of cardiovascular exercise can help tone and strengthen muscles at the same time. Let’s take a look at using an elliptical for weight loss.

    Anyone who has ever stepped onto an elliptical knows that it’s a good workout for the whole body. Lots of people want to learn how to lose weight on an elliptical machine and if it’s possible to develop an elliptical weight-loss plan. 

    The basic key to weight loss is to burn more calories than you take in. To start out, the first steps will be calculating the daily intake of calories and the amount of exercise needed to lose weight.

    Are ellipticals good for weight loss? 

    There is a formula that estimates the number of calories burned on an elliptical machine during a 30-minute workout, based on weight. The approximate number of calories someone burns while exercising for 30 minutes on an elliptical is their weight in pounds multiplied by 2.16. 

    Remember that this is just an estimate. Each person exercises at a different level of intensity, and it’s impossible to determine an exact amount of calories that will be burned while doing this type of exercise. 

    The average daily caloric intake for a moderately active 26-year-old woman is 2,600 calories (to maintain their weight). Estimating a weight of about 150 pounds, a 60-minute workout would burn about 650 calories. Adding in any other activities, such as steps taken or flights of stairs climbed throughout the day, ellipticals for weight loss may be a viable option.

    Benefits of cardio training

    One of the biggest benefits of using an elliptical for weight loss is that it can incorporate cardio training into a workout routine. According to the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, in order to attain the most health benefits from physical activity, adults need at least 150 to 300 minutes each week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, like brisk walking or fast dancing. Adults also need muscle-strengthening activity, like lifting weights or doing push-ups, at least two days a week.

    An elliptical weight-loss plan can accomplish both of these suggested tasks.

    Studies have also shown that these forms of exercise can improve creativity in children; improve sleep, energy levels, hormonal balance, sexual function, and mental status in adults; increase blood flow to the areas of the brain that are responsible for cognitive functions (in all ages); and decrease the risk of Type 2 diabetes, stroke, and cardiovascular disease.

    Elliptical training tricks

    There are a lot of myths about the benefits of exercise as well as how and when to do it. As with any other exercise, it’s important to allow for time before and after the elliptical workout for stretching and cooling down. 

    Certain phases of the menstrual cycle can increase susceptibility to heat-related conditions. Taking extra steps to keep cool and hydrated during a workout can be a good preventative measure. This can be accomplished by working out during the cooler part of the day or by having air conditioning or a fan nearby. However, exercising at any time during the menstrual cycle can be beneficial, including during your period, to relieve cramping and bloating. Listening to the body’s signals and regulating workouts accordingly can help keep exercise sustainable and manageable.

    Elliptical machines are designed to simulate cross-country skiing. It is meant to be a smooth, gliding motion. When the legs and arms are moving forward and backward, the rest of the body should not be bouncing. This takes away the low-impact benefits and can actually cause harm to the joints if done improperly. Exercises should not cause pain or hurt in a particular area when performing them. This could be a sign of an injury or that the exercise is not being done correctly.

    Three easy exercises for elliptical machine weight loss 

    A number of different types of workouts on an elliptical machine can help with weight loss. Here are just a few.

    1. Forward and backward

    This exercise involves alternating between forward-moving sessions and backward-moving ones. These motions can be done for equal periods of time or one longer than the other throughout the workout session. Gradually build the amount of time or add other motions to the workout for a greater challenge.

    2. Incline challenge

    This exercise involves increasing the incline on the elliptical to add more resistance to the movements. Start out slow and gradually increase the amount of time at a particular incline before attempting the next level. This can be combined with the forward and/or backward motions. 

    3. High-intensity interval training

    This exercise incorporates short increments of intense training with longer periods of lower resistance and slower pace. With this, you might increase the incline and pace for 20–30 seconds and then slow down for 60–90 seconds and repeat. 

    Allowing plenty of time for rest can help avoid wearing out quickly. This form of exercise has been shown to burn more calories in a shorter workout session.

    With the first few workouts, the goal is to get used to the machine by going through some basic steps. It’s always great to work with a trainer (if available) to complete the first few sessions on an elliptical. This will ensure correct technique, which can help avoid any injuries. 

    From there, different types of movements and levels of intensity can ramp up the workout. Remember to stretch before and cool down after to avoid muscle strain and injury. This exercise combined with a healthy diet can help promote an active lifestyle and progress toward weight-loss goals.


    Glave, A. Page, et al. “Caloric Expenditure Estimation Differences between an Elliptical Machine and Indirect Calorimetry.” Exercise Medicine, Sapientia Publishing Group, 18 Apr. http://www.exercmed.org/journal/view.php?doi=10.26644/em.2018.008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, 2016. https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-09/Physical_Activity_Guidelines_2nd_edition.pdf Dupuy, Olivier, et al. “Higher Levels of Cardiovascular Fitness Are Associated with Better Executive Function and Prefrontal Oxygenation in Younger and Older Women.” Frontiers, Frontiers, 27 Jan. 2015, www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnhum.2015.00066/full. Åberg, N. David, et al. “Influence of Cardiovascular Fitness and Muscle Strength in Early Adulthood on Long-Term Risk of Stroke in Swedish Men.” Stroke, 9 June 2015, www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/STROKEAHA.115.009008.

    History of updates

    Current version (01 March 2021)

    Reviewed by Rodion Salimgaraev, MD, Therapist

    Published (26 April 2019)

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