Wondering how long it’s going to take to see results with your elliptical workouts? Here’s a rough timeline, some tips for speeding up results, and how long to use the elliptical on day one of your fitness journey.
The elliptical trainer is easily one of the best cardio machines in the gym, whether it’s your local studio gym or your garage gym.
Think about it: not only does it work more muscles than any other machine, but you can use it for more workouts, burn more calories, and see faster results.
Talk about a game-changer!
But let’s get real for a minute…
Before you start training on the elliptical machine, you might have no idea how long you’re going to have to keep training in order to see results.
Will it be weeks, months, or years before you start losing weight, building muscle, and improving your cardio conditioning?
That’s what we’ll find out in this article.
Below, we’ll look at the benefits of elliptical machines, why they’re a great option for improving your fitness, what kind of results you can expect, how long it takes to see results, and how to make the most of your elliptical training.
By the end of this post, you’ll have a much clearer idea of what the elliptical machine will do for you!
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Elliptical Machine – Overview
Let’s examine the elliptical machine itself, to look at what it is, how it works, what benefits it offers, and why it’s such a monster when it comes to delivering results with health and fitness goals.
The elliptical machine is a curious one. It’s designed with pedals that mimic a natural stride, but there’s a bit of a rolling gait to it that reduces impact on your joints in a way a flat treadmill just can’t.
Many types of elliptical machines include a feature that will raise the incline on the pedals, turning it from a “flat walk” into a movement similar to climbing stairs or pedaling a bicycle.
Add to that, the machine comes with two moving handles that you grip and push/pull against as you stride.
This delivers an upper body workout and engages your core (to maintain your balance) in a way few other cardio machines can.
Thanks to its design, you’ll find the elliptical offers a lot of benefits:
⭐ Greater muscle engagement.
The list of muscles worked on the elliptical is far longer than any other cardio machine.
In fact, it engages all of your body muscles—upper body, lower body, and core—so your cardiovascular system has to work harder than ever to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the activates muscles.
⭐ Faster fat-burning.
The fact that you’re using so many muscles means all those muscles are burning through their stored energy.
Over the course of your 30 to 60-minute session, you’ll burn more calories than any other cardio machine in the gym.
This translates into better weight loss and fat-burning because all of your muscles are working together.
⭐ Low-impact training.
With the elliptical, you never lift your feet off the pedals, so there’s no impact on your joints. It’s also why we highly recommend the elliptical as one of our favorite cardio machines for people with bad knees.
This makes it very good for anyone with knee, hip, ankle, and lower back problems who feel pain when doing high-impact workouts like running or stair-climbing.
The elliptical trainer is one of the best cardio machines for weight loss thanks to its low-impact nature and workout functionality.
How Long It Takes to See Results on the Elliptical Machine
I’m going to be clear about this from the beginning: there is no “one size fits all” approach to quantifying fitness or fat-burning results.
Some people naturally have more efficient bodies and will see lightning-fast weight loss or improvements in their cardiovascular conditioning, while others will have to struggle harder for every bit of ground they gain.
But for the sake of this article, we can quantify the “average” results the “average” trainee can expect.
Your mileage will definitely vary—depending on how hard you train, how well you eat, your metabolic rate, activity level, and a number of factors—but at least you can have a rough idea of what to expect.
According to Harvard Medical School1, 30 minutes spent on the elliptical machine will burn:
- 270 calories (for a 125-pound person)
- 324 calories (for a 155-pound person)
- 378 calories (for a 185-pound person)
However, this is for a “general” elliptical workout. If you increase the intensity, add resistance, squat-walk, or push harder, you can increase the number of calories you burn in that 30-minute session. Of course, training for longer (45, 60, or even 90 minutes) will increase the calorie-burn, too.
Now that we know how many calories (roughly) the exercise burns, it’s time to translate that into results.
It’s estimated2 that every pound of body fat contains roughly 3,500 calories.
That means you have to burn 3,500 calories above and beyond what your body needs in order to burn that one pound of body fat.
Putting that into terms you can understand:
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the average man will burn between 2,000 and 3,000 calories per day, while the average woman will burn 1,600 to 2,400 calories per day.
Let’s say you’re an “average guy” who burns 2,500 calories per day. That means that before you do any exercise, just through your activities of daily life, you burn those 2,500 calories.
If you eat 2,500 calories in a single day, you’ll burn no extra fat and gain no extra fat. However, if you cut your calorie intake to 2,000, you’ll burn 500 calories of fat (i.e. 1/7 of a pound).
Or, if you add an extra 500 calories of energy expenditure through your exercise and still eat 2,500 calories, you’ll be at that same 500-calorie deficit.
The “safe” rate for weight loss/fat burning is roughly 1 pound of body fat per week, which translates into a 500-calorie deficit per day (x 7 days). That means you either cut the amount of food you eat, or you increase the amount of exercise you do.
Using the numbers above, if you did a 30-minute elliptical workout per day (as a 155-pound man) and still ate 2,500 calories, you would need 11 days to lose a single pound of body fat.
However, to hit that one pound of body fat per week, you’ll need to spend about 50 minutes on the elliptical per day for a 500-calorie deficit.
This is where things get a bit tricky, and why it’s so hard to quantify results.
People who eat right and regulate their caloric intake while also adding exercise into the mix will usually see good weight loss/fat burning, while those who use exercise as an excuse to eat more won’t.
It’s not only about how you move and how many calories you burn, but what you put into your body to fuel your exercise.
Seeing results on the elliptical trainer comes down to a combination of proper diet and consistency. Maintaining a caloric deficit and showing up to the gym regularly will pour jet fuel on your progress.
How Long You Should Use the Elliptical Machine on Day One
If you’re getting into elliptical workouts for beginners, you should always start off taking it easy on Day One.
Your body isn’t yet accustomed to the exertion, the strain on your joints caused by repetitive motion, or activating calories and body fat to burn for energy. You’ll likely find that you tire quickly initially, but with repeated training sessions, you can usually improve your fitness in the space of 1-2 weeks.
For your first day on the elliptical, set a goal to reach 20 minutes. That’s a 5-minute warm-up at a slow pace, 10 minutes at a moderate to fast pace (adding incline or increasing resistance if you can), and a 5-minute cool-down.
If you’re hitting the end of that 10-minute faster-paced timeframe and you think you can go for longer, aim for 30 minutes.
Usually, within 20-30 minutes, your body will burn through all of its easily available sugar-based energy (stored in your bloodstream and liver), and will have to tap into stored fats.
On your first day working out, your body will be less efficient at activating and utilizing fats, so it will tire more quickly.
Hitting the 30-minute mark is definitely an achievement you can be proud of on your first day of training.
Set realistic goals when starting out training with an elliptical. It’s always better to give yourself more runway to clear when starting your fitness journey.
How to Speed Up Results on the Elliptical Machine
Here are some beginner-friendly tips that will help you to not only make the most of your training, but ensure that you’re set up for long-term results through your daily or weekly elliptical workouts:
⚡ Get your posture and stance right from Day One.
If you slouch, you’ll feel the pain in your neck, shoulders, back, and legs. Leaning forward onto the handles will increase the strain on your upper body joints and decrease the engagement in your leg muscles.
Stand upright, keep your head up and back straight, and use your core muscles to maintain your balance. Mastering this form from Day One will make it easier to sustain the effort long-term.
⚡ Mix it up.
Ellipticals are surprisingly versatile.
Variety is the spice of life and it’s also the flavor of more consistent and enjoyable workouts!
⚡ Target the right zone.
For a low-intensity, steady-state workout, your target heart rate should be around 65% MaxHR.
For high-intensity exercise, that number rises to 85 to 95%.
Make sure that you’re hitting the right zone by pushing as hard as you can for the duration of the training/interval.
Getting your heart rate up high enough is the key to both increasing cardiovascular conditioning and burning serious fat.
⚡ Warm-up and cool down.
Give your body time to adapt to the exercise by starting off slow, doing “light” exercise to warm up your muscles and limber up your joints.
After 5-10 minutes of warming up, you’re ready to hit it hard. The same goes for the end of your workout—spend 5-10 minutes cooling down to give your body a chance to stretch out your tired muscles and replenish depleted energy.
⚡ Track your progress.
The only way to know you’re improving is to track your progress—everything from speed to distance to calories burned.
Keep a log of your efforts in every workout, as well as the perceived stress and exertion of that workout. The more detailed you are in your tracking, the easier it will be for you to see the visible progress you’re making.
⚡ Put in the time.
The only way to improve in your cardio is to spend the time training.
Try to spend at least 2-3 hours per week on the elliptical, and set yourself the goal to push yourself harder each session.
The more you work, and the more consistently you show up, the more results you’ll see!
The Bottom Line
Cardio training on the elliptical can be absolutely game-changing, and a great way to see real, quantifiable results in terms of fat-burning and weight loss.
Like all cardio machines for weight loss, though, it will require a commitment of time and effort.
Use the advice above to help you make the most of every training session, and keep coming back every week to put in those minutes and hours on the elliptical.
Within a few weeks, you’ll see real results, and sustaining your efforts is the key to long-term fitness and fat loss!
More Elliptical Training Guides and Articles
4 Killer 30-Minute Elliptical Workouts (HIIT, Building Glutes, and More). The elliptical machine is a killer tool for getting in shape. And the good news is that you don’t have to spend hours on it to see results. Here are four 30-minute elliptical workouts, including HIIT, glute-focused, steady-state, and more.
3 Beginner Elliptical Workouts (and Why Beginners Should Use the Elliptical). The elliptical machine is one of the best cardio machines for beginners. Here are three beginner-friendly elliptical workouts to get you started.