Have you noticed how many elliptical trainers are at your local health club? Elliptical machines are growing in popularity and are gaining on treadmills in overall sales. Ellipticals offer the benefit of a low-impact workout, while exercising both your upper and lower body. They are particularly appealing to an aging baby boomer generation. Elliptical trainers can be forgiving to aging joints.
Low Impact Exercise with Elliptical MachinesElliptical trainers reduce the stress and strain on your legs through an elliptical motion. Your feet never leave the pedals. It is like walking in midair. In addition, there is no reverse action. The shape of the elliptical movement mimics the natural path of the ankle, knee and hip joints during walking, jogging or running. In comparison, when you walk or run, every step causes a jolt to your body. It is suggested that runners impact up to 2.5 times their body weight. This affects not only the joints in your legs, but also your lower back.
Foot Pedals: To further reduce the strain to your joints, many elliptical trainers are equipped with articulating foot pedals -- pedals that conform to your stride. Not only do your feet never leave the pedal, but also the pedal adjusts to the angle of the elliptical stride.
Weight-Bearing Exercise: In comparison to a fitness machine like a stationary bicycle, an elliptical trainer provides a weight-bearing exercise. Weight-bearing exercises are important to inhibit the onset of osteoporosis.
Dual Action WorkoutWhat makes an elliptical trainer unique is the combined upper and lower body workout. In fact, there is no other fitness equipment that simultaneously works as many muscle groups. That is why many refer to an elliptical as a cross-trainer.
With an elliptical trainer, you get a workout that utilizes the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, chest, back, triceps and biceps. The obvious benefit from exercising more muscles is that you tone more of your body. Furthermore, you also optimize your energy expenditure. You end up burning more calories and fat in less time. It is also suggested that there is a reduced perceived rate of exertion with an elliptical workout. You are actually exercising harder then you would normally perceive.
Of course, to get the full benefit of the dual action workout, it is important that you distribute the resistance between your upper and lower body. Many people who exercise on an elliptical trainer place most of the resistance on their lower body and only go through the motions with the upper handlebars.
Programs: Like a treadmill, elliptical trainers are equipped with a variety of challenging exercise programs. These programs mimic hill climbing or interval training through alternating resistance. Many ellipticals are also equipped with wireless heart rate control, which allows you to optimize your workout by letting your heart rate control the resistance level.
Lower Maintenance with Elliptical TrainersA benefit of an elliptical trainer over a treadmill is reduced maintenance. Due to the low-impact elliptical motion, and because of fewer moving parts, an elliptical trainer is less likely to require service. You do not have to worry about belts, motors, rollers and bearings burning out.
Drawbacks for Elliptical TrainersIs there a drawback to an elliptical trainer? Yes! Some people find the dual action, elliptical exercise awkward and are more comfortable simply walking or jogging on a treadmill. In fact, several of Precor’s models offer only the lower body exercise. However, it is my opinion that the dual action workout is what makes an elliptical trainer so appealing.
If you have not tried an elliptical trainer, get to your local fitness equipment store and give it a test. Better yet, pay for a day pass at a health club, and put one through a strenuous workout. See if you notice a difference.
Before You Buy an Elliptical Trainer: How to find the best value in an elliptical trainer.
Fred Waters is author of reviews and ratings on popular elliptical trainers.