Health Benefits of Elliptical Machine Workouts

Medically Reviewed by Tyler Wheeler, MD on July 18, 2023
3 min read

Elliptical machines imitate running, with less impact to your joints. They can give you a great calorie-burning workout.

Your feet stay planted on the two footholds. Instead of an impact when your foot hits the ground with walking or running, you complete more of a gliding motion. 

Some ellipticals have hand bars. Moving your arms and legs on an elliptical machine gives you a full-body workout. You can pedal in reverse to challenge different muscle groups.

If you’re training for a future run, you can fill in workouts with an elliptical machine. It can help you keep your endurance while giving your joints a break. This lowers your chance for injuries.

Weekly activity. The CDC recommends that you get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week. A slow walk might not help you meet this goal, but an elliptical machine workout can.

Tracking your heart rate. Elliptical machines usually have hand grips that let you keep tabs on your heartbeat. This allows you to change your speed and intensity to reach your desired heart rate. Keep in mind that you can’t keep up a high-intensity workout for as long as a moderate-intensity one, so you may need to take breaks by changing the speed of your pace.

Helps protect your joints. If you have joint pain or arthritis, an elliptical is a great option. By easing your joint pain, you also lower your risk of getting an injury. With less impact to your joints, you may be able to work out longer and burn more calories in a single day, leading to more progress over weeks and months.

Variety. If you think an elliptical machine workout is boring, check the screen for workout modules. You can choose from pre-designed workout regimens that challenge you as if you were running outdoors with hills and changes in pace. If you feel tingling in your feet while using the elliptical, which is a common complaint, you can try pedaling backward. If that doesn’t help, talk with your doctor.

Bone density. The impact of your feet hitting the ground while running boosts your bone density. That is one benefit that an elliptical workout won’t give you. Bone density is extra important if you’re at risk for osteoporosis, or thinning bones.

Mistakes are easy to make. Since an elliptical does a lot of the work for you, it’s easy to develop poor workout habits that hinder your progress. Here are some pitfalls to watch out for:

  • Resistance remains at zero, giving you little challenge.
  • You slouch instead of standing up straight.
  • You don’t switch between forward and reverse to challenge different muscles.
  • Your workout never changes.
  • Pressure on your toes may make your feet go numb.
  • Noisy workouts mean you’re going too fast for what the machine can handle.

Not readily available. Elliptical machines can be expensive to buy. Gym memberships may also be more money than you want to spend, especially when walking or running outside is free. If you’ve never tried an elliptical machine and you want to, ask for a free week’s membership at a local gym so you can try one out before making a long-term commitment. 

Talk to your doctor before you start any new workout program. Even with an elliptical machine workout, there’s a chance you could get injured. Remember, exercising should challenge your muscles, but it should never be painful. If you do have concerns, let your doctor know so they can make recommendations to tweak your workouts.