6 Benefits of Elliptical Machines

woman on an elliptical

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Ellipticals are widely used both in homes and in health clubs. Ellipticals offer the benefit of a low-impact workout while exercising both your upper and lower body.

Elliptical trainers are particularly appealing to the aging baby boomer generation. Not only are they forgiving to aging joints, but they also give you a good aerobic workout, helping you burn calories for weight loss. If you've never used one of these machines there are a few good reasons to give it a try.

Elliptical Machine Benefits

Explore these benefits of using elliptical machines. Keep in mind that there are many different brands of ellipticals and several different styles. Each machine provides slightly different benefits.

  • Low impact
  • Mimics walking
  • Weight bearing
  • Whole body workout
  • Versatile
  • Low-maintenance

Impact Free

Elliptical 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 comparison, when you walk or run, every step causes a jolt to your body.

It is suggested that a typical runner experiences an impact up to 2.5 times their body weight during their workout. This affects not only the joints in your legs but also your lower back. While a walking workout provides less impact than running, the elliptical provides less than both.

An "impact free" or "no impact" workout simply means that both feet are always in contact with the ground and/or your body is supported—by water or a machine—during the exercise. You can still work at high intensity with no impact.

Mimics the Natural Motion of Walking

The shape of the elliptical movement mimics the natural path of the ankle, knee, and hip joints during walking, jogging, or running. To further reduce the strain on your joints, many elliptical trainers are equipped with articulating foot pedals that conform to your stride. Not only do your feet never leave the pedal, but the pedal also 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.

Works Out the Whole Body

What makes an elliptical trainer special is the combined upper and lower body workout. That is why many refer to an elliptical as a cross-trainer. When used properly, an elliptical trainer can engage the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, chest, back, triceps, and biceps.

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. To get the full benefit of the dual-action workout, it is important that you distribute the resistance between your upper and lower body. This means letting go of those moving handlebars.

With proper form, you may be able to engage more muscles throughout the body and burn more calories in less time than you would on a lower-body-only machine.


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.

Low Maintenance

A benefit of an elliptical 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.

Potential Drawbacks of Elliptical Machines

Is there a drawback to an elliptical trainer? Yes, some people find the dual-action elliptical exercise awkward and are more comfortable simply jogging or walking on a treadmill. Some models of elliptical trainers have a set width for the pedals that may be a wider or narrower stance that feels comfortable.

A Word From Verywell

For many people, it is the dual-action workout that 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. Then stop and consider everything you want in a model before you buy an elliptical trainer. Research the top picks for elliptical trainers to find good models for your home gym.

2 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Hohmann E, Reaburn P, Tetsworth K, Imhoff A. Plantar Pressures During Long Distance Running: An Investigation of 10 Marathon RunnersJ Sports Sci Med. 2016;15(2):254–262.

  2. Damiano DL, Norman T, Stanley CJ, Park HS. Comparison of elliptical training, stationary cycling, treadmill walking and overground walkingGait Posture. 2011;34(2):260–264. doi:10.1016/j.gaitpost.2011.05.010

By Wendy Bumgardner
Wendy Bumgardner is a freelance writer covering walking and other health and fitness topics and has competed in more than 1,000 walking events.