In gyms and health clubs around the country, ellipticals are quickly replacing treadmills as the most effective and efficient way to do cardio. Unlike a treadmill, where running can place painful pressure on your joints, an elliptical provides a low-impact workout while also strengthening your torso and upper body.
Where running on a treadmill can feel unnatural – many people complain about the give on the running surface or the forced pace of the exercise – working out on an elliptical is much smoother. An elliptical machine mimics a body’s movements during running, jogging, or walking without the impact that comes with each step on a treadmill. After placing your feet in the pedals, the swinging of your arms and legs provides an elliptical motion, greatly reducing the amount of stress on your legs compared to running.
It is estimated that with each step, a runner places nearly three times their weight on each leg – over time this impact not only affects a runner’s ankles, knees, and hips, but can damage a person’s lower back and spine as well. Some elliptical machines have articulating foot pedals that rotate with the foot and ankle to further reduce stress and provide an even more natural movement.
What really sets apart elliptical machines from treadmills is their ability to work out the arms and torso as well as the lower body. In fact, ellipticals are also known as “cross-trainers” because no other machine simultaneously exercises as many muscles as it does. By utilizing handlebars that offer resistance, an elliptical tones and works out the glutes, biceps, triceps, back and shoulders, in addition to the quadriceps and hamstrings. One of the obvious advantages of this, besides getting a more complete workout, is that by spreading out an exercise across your body you end up burning calories quicker – and in turn, look better, faster.
Because ellipticals take less abuse in the workout process and have less moving parts than treadmills do, maintenance is often much less of a hassle. With no need to replace rollers, belts, motors, and bearings, elliptical machines also tend to last longer than treadmills.
Of course, an elliptical machine isn’t for everyone. Some find the dual-action of handlebars and running too cumbersome than being on a treadmill. In my opinion, however, once you see the effects of a workout on an elliptical, you might never go back!