The Pros and Cons of the Elliptical Trainer

Treadmill and Elliptical
Elliptical Trainer. Getty Images/ gilaxia

Next to treadmills, the elliptical trainer is probably one of the most popular cardio machines for exercisers, both at the gym and at home.  In fact, when setting up a home gym, the question often pops up - Should you buy a treadmill or an elliptical trainer?

Both would be nice, but most of us don't have the budget or space for that.  So, if you have to choose, why would you choose an elliptical trainer?

The Basics of the Elliptical Trainer

An elliptical trainer, unlike the treadmill, offers a low impact workout, meaning there's no jumping involved.  It works like a stand-up bike with pedals that allow you to move forward and backwards and many include handles so you can get a total body workout.

There's no motor an elliptical trainer, but a flywheel that allows you to adjust the tension and increase the resistance, making it harder to pedal.

Treadmill or The Elliptical Trainer?

For many people, this often comes down to the weight issue, namely, which one will help you lose weight the fastest? The short answer here is: The one you actually use. And, for exercise, not as a Royal Throne for your cat (or, perhaps that only occurs in my house).

The longer answer is that elliptical trainers can help you lose weight...if you work at it. The 'work at it' part is where the elliptical trainer and the treadmill often diverge.

A treadmill is usually more comfortable from the beginning - You're used to walking, so it doesn't feel like you're doing something weird when you try it (if you ignore the fact that you're actually walking to nowhere).

On the elliptical, you push into the pedals (much like a bicycle) in order to move, something our bodies don't normally do.

This no-impact movement is a plus for those with joint problems. It can be a minus, however, when you consider that, in order to get your heart rate up, you have to work against the resistance of the pedals...and it sometimes takes quite a bit of resistance to really get your heart going.

The act of pushing against resistance can really tax the legs, making it more uncomfortable than walking on a treadmill (a movement our bodies are used to doing every day). That doesn't mean the treadmill is better, just that you should take that into account as you're making your choice. Your legs may need extra time to gradually build endurance. Eventually, this will allow you to work at the level of intensity you need to burn calories.

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