You may have noticed that one of the most used exercise machines in the gym is the elliptical trainer. Elliptical trainers are relatively new on the fitness scene, but are quickly overtaking the treadmill and stationary bikes in popularity.
So what exactly are elliptical trainers and how do they work? Elliptical trainers simulate the motion of walking or running, but without the usual impact involved. Walking and running can cause considerable stress on the joints, particularly the hip and knee joints.
Each step causes an impact to the whole body which can equal as much as 2.5 times your body weight. The elliptical machine greatly reduces the risk of joint injury as the feet are supported by the pedals at all times so the joints are not subjected to impact.
Although elliptical trainers offer a low impact workout, they can still provide a very effective cardiovascular training session. Most come equipped with heart rate monitors so you can monitor your heart rate and how hard you are working.
Athletes recovering from sports related injuries find using the elliptical trainer allows them to maintain their fitness levels whilst reducing the risk of aggravating the injury. Many runners 'cross train' by building sessions on the elliptical trainer into their workouts, as this allows the body to take a break from the pounding caused by running.
Elliptical trainers are still classed as 'weight bearing', meaning that the workout they offer is still effective at reducing the risk of developing diseases such as Osteoporosis.
Elliptical trainers generally have moveable handrails, designed to give an upper body workout as well as exercising the lower body. Most also have a range of settings so that workouts can be varied in intensity or special training programs may be selected; these programs alternate the resistance to mimic interval training, climbing hills or to maximize fat burning.
The cardiovascular workout is comparable to that gained from using a treadmill, and is believed to burn a greater number of calories. As more of the muscle groups are used, including the glutes, quadriceps, triceps, biceps and hamstrings, a much more intense workout is achieved with less perceived effort.
Elliptical trainers can also be used effectively without using the hand rails; in fact, this can improve core strength as the core muscles are tensed in order to keep the body balanced. There is evidence to suggest that working out this way can improve balance and co-ordination as well.
If you do decide to use the handrails, make sure you are working your upper body as much as your lower body for the best effect, as it is easy to just grip the handrails and forget about your arms.
Elliptical trainers for use in the home can be purchased. This will allow you to exercise in the comfort of your own home, which is useful if you don't like going to a gym. As having your own machine in easy reach is convenient, you will be more likely to use it regularly.
Many people place them in front of the television and exercise whilst watching their favorite programs, which can help take your mind off how hard you are working!
Many of the gym models have a built in television and radio nowadays which makes your workout experience a little more comfortable.
Although the motion of an elliptical trainer may feel rather awkward at first, it is very easy to get used to. If you have never tried using an elliptical trainer, put one through its paces and see why they are so popular.