How Many Calories Does an Elliptical Machine Burn?

By Contributing Writer

  • Overview

    How Many Calories Does an Elliptical Machine Burn?
    How Many Calories Does an Elliptical Machine Burn?
    Elliptical machines have become incredibly popular at gyms around the country. They are especially beneficial for people who want a high-intensity cardio workout without the high impact of running or jogging. Unfortunately, it is impossible to know exactly how many calories an elliptical machine burns without lab testing, but there are online calculators that can give you a general guideline.
  • About Elliptical Machines

    Elliptical machines can be found at all major fitness centers and many home gyms. Large elliptical machines may include a number of features, such as incline levels, interval programs and arm poles for a full body workout. Major health organizations, including the Mayo Clinic, recommend using elliptical machines for 30 minutes at least a few times a week to satisfy your aerobic workout requirements.
  • Calorie Burn

    The only accurate way to know how many calories you burn on an elliptical machine is to undergo testing in a medical lab that measures the amount of oxygen you use while exercising. Since this is not feasible for most people, there are some online calculators that can give you a rough estimate. These calculators use your weight and exercise time to provide your calorie burn. A 130-lb person burns 212.7 calories in 30 minutes exercising on an elliptical at a moderate intensity, while someone weighing 175 lbs. burns 286.3 calories in the same amount of time.

  • Manufacturer Estimates

    Most elliptical machines will provide you with a handy estimate of how many calories you have burned, but they are usually not very accurate. A study conducted by Barry University tested 26 men and women as they exercised on an elliptical trainer and found that the manufacturer's estimate of calories burned was too high for all participants. The study also noted that the participants had very different rates of calorie burn because of differences in fitness level, gender and body composition. Martica Heaner, an exercise physiologist, estimates that most exercise machines may overestimate calories burned by as much as 10 to 30%, so only use them as a general guideline.
  • Comparison to Treadmills

    There is a widespread misconception that exercisers can burn more calories on a treadmill than an elliptical machine, but that may not be the case. A study at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland tested 22 women and found there were similar fitness gains for users of both machines, as long as the volume and intensity were the same. The women in the study trained three days a week for 30 minutes and used their heart rate to measure intensity. This indicates that you can burn roughly the same amount of calories on the elliptical or the treadmill as long you maintain a similar heart rate.
  • How to Increase Calories Burned

    The Barry University study found that exercisers burned more calories when they used elliptical machines with arm attachments, rather than relying solely on leg movements. You can also burn more calories in the same amount of time by increasing your speed and using the higher resistance levels. Interval programs are also very effective in burning calories by bringing your heart rate up. Finally, don't lean on the elliptical handles because this will make your workout easier and decrease your calorie burn.
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