Cardio is great for your health as it strengthens your heart, helps control your appetite, and burns calories.
When it comes to cardio, you have plenty of options including:
- Rowing machines
- Stair climbers
However, a lot of people find themselves gravitating toward elliptical machines. They’re less intimidating than other machines and can be kind of fun to use.
But what kind of results can you actually get from using the elliptical? How will the elliptical change your body in 30 days, 6 months, or longer?
The results you get from working out with an elliptical will depend entirely on how often you use it and the intensity of your exercise. Generally speaking, you should notice an immediate improvement in your mood and energy levels after just a few workouts.
It may take two or three months to see other improvements in your health and physique. You’ll definitely notice a massive improvement in your endurance and conditioning. You can see some improvement in strength and muscle tone (though the elliptical won’t make you jacked) and you can lose weight and get quite lean assuming your nutrition is on point.
Losing 1-2 pounds per week is a realistic goal for most people.
I spoke with several experts to get their thoughts on using an elliptical regularly as part of your exercise regimen. See what they have to say to determine if you should start incorporating an elliptical more often into your routine.
As with any other cardio exercise, you can burn a lot of calories in a relatively short amount of time on an elliptical.
According to Healthline, a person who weighs 155 pounds can expect to burn about 335 calories in a 30-minute session on an elliptical. Of course, the intensity by which you train will also impact this number.
Ellipticals have various settings. You can alter the resistance you experience, and the higher the resistance, the more calories you will burn.
You want to be careful not to go too hard too quickly, or you could end up injuring yourself.
As long as you don’t find yourself replacing all of those burnt calories with extra snacks, you should expect to see some weight loss within the first month or two.
This is according to personal trainer Tim Bigknee, who says, “Whether or not you see significant weight loss from an elliptical is highly individualized based on the resistance and speed that you’re exercising. Alongside a healthy, balanced diet, most people can see improvements in their weight and overall health within a month or so.”
Again, the elliptical is an awesome way to burn calories, but without the right diet, you won’t see results.
Try to fuel your body with nutritious whole foods (whole grains, lean proteins, vegetables) without giving yourself carte blanche to eat whatever you want just because you worked out.
(Here’s my general guide to a healthy diet for most people.)
Stick with the plan and you’ll start to see the pounds come off. 1-2 pounds of fat loss per week is generally considered safe and realistic.
As with any new workout, you need to watch out for delayed onset muscle soreness.
You can expect some soreness in your thighs shortly after getting off the machine throughout your first several workouts. This is normal.
Some soreness is good, but you want to watch out for genuine pain and discomfort.
You want to avoid slouching on an elliptical because this can lead to shoulder and back pain.
But for the most part, ellipticals are great machines for people worried about injuring something. They place far less strain on your joints than treadmills.
Of course, the best way to avoid soreness as much as possible is to start slow. This is particularly important if you’re new to exercise in any form.
Start slowly and gradually work your way up to higher intensities. You want to give your body a chance to adjust to this new regimen. If you can avoid soreness, then you can sooner commit to working out more often every week.
This will allow you to see the results you want in a shorter amount of time.
If you’re looking to build endurance, then an elliptical is one of the best machines you can start utilizing.
A 2004 study showed how the more fluid exercise offered by ellipticals provided a reduced rating of perceived exertion. That means the more you exercise, the less you realize how hard you’re actually working.
You build up endurance so that you can do more intense exercises later.
Plus, you’ll take that endurance into your everyday life.
For instance, you’ll have more energy the next time your friend asks you to help them move!
The best part is that you should be able to see the benefits in about 30 days.
Dr. Nicole Lombardo, a physical therapist and CrossFit Level 1 coach says, “After using an elliptical for one month, your endurance will improve.”
It won’t be long until you feel better and can do more throughout the day.
Muscle & Strength
Cardio equipment is great for people who want to lose weight.
But what if one of your workout goals is to build up muscle?
You’re in luck! Elliptical machines are great for building up specific muscle areas.
Dr. Lombardo had this to say, “You can also expect improvements in strength. It takes about 6-8 weeks for muscles to get stronger. The elliptical is driven primarily by your legs, making your quads, hamstring and glute muscles work. You also need to stabilize your body with your trunk muscles, making your core stronger as well.”
It may take a couple of months to see some improvements within your muscles. But as long as you stick with it, you’re bound to notice greater definition and increased strength.
And while your legs play a major role during your time on an elliptical, you should see some improvements in your upper body strength, too.
After all, an elliptical has handles for your arms to operate.
Don’t expect a bodybuilder physique from only using the elliptical (you’ll need to incorporate weight training for that), but this machine is a solid overall strength builder.
Mind & Mood
Engaging in any type of exercise is going to massively benefit your mental health.
Even just 20 minutes of exercise will give you an endorphin boost that puts you in a better mood.
Celebrity trainer Joey Thurman, says as much — but only if you give it your all when you get on your machine of choice.
He writes, “Now starting an exercise program can be a great mood booster and if the elliptical is your machine of choice, get after it as hard as you can!”
You only get out of your workout regimen what you put in. It’s natural to start slow, but you want to continually challenge yourself.
You don’t want to become complacent, or you’ll begin to see a dropoff in the benefits you’re supposed to reap.
Since an elliptical has a lower impact rate, it’s easy to become lazy.
Thurman pointed this out when he said, “Too often people get on it, grab a magazine, phone, and sometimes a cookie… I’ve seen it; and they half-ass use this machine thinking they are getting a good workout!”
As you get accustomed to your workout, you should find ways to continually challenge yourself. On an elliptical, you can increase the intensity, so your muscles don’t get used to the same old workout.
An elliptical is a great machine to incorporate into your regular workouts.
As long as you’re committed to exercising regularly and gradually ramping up the intensity, you should start to see some results between one and three months.
Expect to see the biggest improvements in your endurance and your waist line (if you get your diet in check). Ellipticals are an awesome low-impact choice for burning tons of calories, pushing your heart and lungs, and building overall athleticism.
Your arm and leg muscles will improve over time, but don’t expect Arnold’s biceps or massive quads just from the elliptical. You might want to supplement with weight lifting if that’s your goal.
And, of course, your everyday mood and energy levels are likely to improve quite quickly once you start using the elliptical.
What did I miss? Do you love working out on the elliptical, and what kinds of results have you noticed?
And before you go, check out these experts tips for your first time on the elliptical machine.
(If you’re still not sure, check out my guides to what to expect from using the rowing machine or doing HIIT. I also have a detailed guide to the pros and cons of using an elliptical!)