Do you want to get more exercise and target your whole body with holistic workouts? Do you want to buy your own home cross trainer or are you planning to use one when you’re at the gym? In this article, we talk about the benefits of using a cross trainer, also known as an elliptical trainer.
Some elliptical trainer benefits are probably obvious, in the sense that any sort of physical activity is a good start in a world where sedentarism has become such a poignant issue. But some of these advantages have to be analysed very thoroughly, so you can understand how a cross trainer can actually be useful.
Luckily, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll take a look at some of the main advantages that a cross trainer can bring, explaining each one in detail. After that, we’ll also tell you a bit about the downsides it can entail, which particularly arise from improper use.
Without further ado, let’s see what a good cross trainer can help you with:
1. Burning Calories
Getting or staying in shape is a goal for many people, you can easily do it with a cross trainer. The elliptical bike will also get rid of enough body fat, which is a problem for those who prefer to diet in order to lose weight. The problem here is that they lose body water and/or muscle mass which translates into a lower number on the scale.
But with a cross trainer, you’re actually burning calories and fat. At a lower intensity, you can say bye to about 200 calories in 30 minutes, reaching a good 400 calories when you’re training at a higher intensity. So that’s like one or two extra slices of pizza that won’t cozy up on your hips.
Besides, if you want to burn 1 kg, you need to get rid of 7000 kcal, so you need approximately 10 hours for that. If you’re using the cross trainer for 1 hour, 3 times/ week, you can do that in three weeks. That’s without any changes in your diet. Pretty neat, eh? Still, don’t overdo it. Start small, take your fitness level into account, and don’t try to spend your whole next weekend on the elliptical.
2. Joint Protector
An elliptical is way better than running or using a treadmill for people who have joint problems. Even if you don’t, you should still know it’s way better to use the cross trainer than running on concrete. So the elliptical is great, both for people who have had an injury, prior other joint issues or who only have the other option of jogging on concrete.
But this joint protector is a good idea for back problems as well. Some backaches are caused by the fact that we’re always slouching in front of a computer or on our desks and that we don’t exercise our back muscles well. And an elliptical trainer can be a God-sent for making your back muscles stronger, thanks to the rotation movements of your upper body.
3. Customise Your Workouts
Most cross trainers allow you to change the intensity of your workouts, so you can accommodate your fitness level or even the sort of day you’ve had. That means you can mimic things like brisk walking or rapid stair climbing.
This is done by adjusting the resistance and speed, mostly. However, some machines on the market have pre-set workout programs, while others allow you to customize your own workouts depending on your preferences and fitness level.
4. Injury Prevention
Some other machines at the gym are quite difficult to use, but a cross trainer is really quite intuitive. You can learn how to use one by reading the instructions and watching a few videos, and the risk of getting injured is almost zero.
So you can confidently get one for your apartment, or use one at the gym. Besides, you’re totally eliminating the risk of falling off a treadmill or knocking off the weights stand on your head.
Working on a cross trainer can easily get your muscles stronger, so you’re getting important toning benefits. If you’re using a higher resistance, your muscles will work harder to match that force, so that will increase your strength.
Besides, if resistance training is your game of choice, you can easily use an elliptical trainer on your recovery days. However, in this case, you’ll need to use a lower intensity to make sure you’re actually letting your muscles recover.
If you don’t have the time to get to the gym, an elliptical trainer in your home is great. The advantage is that there are plenty of affordable machines on the market, you just need a bit of room for them.
Besides, even if you’d rather work out outside, rainy, windy or cold days really make it hard for you to do that. And don’t forget you can get on your cross trainer even on your PJ’s or while you’re watching your favorite TV show, which you can’t do outside or at the gym.
7. Getting a Full-Body Workout
We’ve talked about toning your muscles in the section above, but now let’s see exactly what those muscles are:
- Glutes and hamstrings when you’re reverse pedaling
- Quads when you’re front pedaling
- Calves are the most targeted
- Biceps and lats when you’re pulling the handles
- Triceps and pecs when you’re pushing the handles
- Core when you’re striding because you’re not using the handles to hold your balance
With that in mind, here are a few tips to make the most of your workouts:
- Vary the exercises, the intensity programs and the way in which you’re using the elliptical.
- Increase the resistance if you want more toning.
- Don’t slouch on the bike.
- Keep your eyes forward, not on your feet.
So if you’re doing all that, you’ll see results as fast as one month, depending on how regularly you’re exercising and how much time you’re spending on the elliptical. After three months, everybody will be able to see the difference in your body shape, so don’t give up!
8. A Healthier Heart
A cross trainer offers you a low impact cardiovascular training, meaning it has all its benefits for a healthier heart, like:
- Making your heart stronger.
- Having a better cardiovascular capacity.
- Lowering your blood pressure.
- Decreasing the risk for a number of cardiovascular issues, including heart attacks.
That way, your heart will be better at its job of pumping blood into your body, meaning your organs will be healthier too.
9. Healthier Lungs
If your heart works better, then your lungs will work better too. Since cardiovascular training improves lung capacity, your organs will get a higher influx of oxygen, which also helps keep them on a healthy track.
But having a good lung capacity is a strong asset for dealing with issues like asthma, or sleep apnea. But even if you don’t have actual difficulties breathing, you will still find that you’re sleeping better and feeling more refreshed throughout the day thanks to a bigger lung volume.
10. Lower Risk of Diabetes
Your pancreas secretes insulin to get rid of sugar in your blood, by transforming it into fat. But if you already have a lot of fat deposits, your brain will get the message that your body doesn’t want any more of that.
Basically, your body doesn’t respond to insulin any longer, which makes your pancreas secrete more so your body gets the message. Long story short, you end up with a lot of unprocessed glucose in your bloodstream, which equals type 2 diabetes.
But using a cross trainer means you’re burning body fat and using up the glucose reserves in your body. Therefore, insulin can do its job so you’re less at risk for type 2 diabetes.
11. It Relieves Stress
Working out helps us disconnect for a while from our daily problems, which gives our subconscious the chance to process new solutions to them. It also gives us some time alone, which is great for relaxing.
Using a cross trainer makes you feel happier because physical activity is linked to an increased production of endorphins and serotonin, also known as the hormones of happiness. You’ll also feel more accomplished for the day when you finish your workout session, which helps a lot with your opinion about yourself and the problems you can tackle.
12. You’ll Live More. And Better
Having an elliptical trainer in your home means that you’re getting in more physical activity, so you’ll be able to live longer and have a better quality of life, according to all sorts of studies.
Apart from the cardiovascular improvements, you’re reducing your bad cholesterol level since you’re melting through your fat deposits. That can help you fight obesity, as well as giving you the chance to squeeze in some extra cheat meals.
But most importantly, you’re actually exercising your brain too, every time you get on that cross trainer considering you always have to be present in your workouts to maximize your results. Thanks to that, you’re decreasing the risk for Alzheimer, as well as other such degenerative brain diseases.
Elliptical Cross Trainer: Your Questions Answered
Now that we’ve seen all the amazing benefits of a cross trainer, let’s tackle some of its issues as well.
Is it Really Better to Lower your Blood Pressure?
If you have a high blood pressure, sure, it’s good to bring that down to a normal level. But if you have a good blood pressure, lowering it too much might be dangerous. That means your heart has to pump less blood to make your body work, so you’re burning fewer calories even when you’re resting.
That translates to a lower basal metabolic rate, or a decreased metabolism, which has different consequences. For instance, you will require fewer calories each day, so you might feel increasingly hungry. It will also affect the results of various diets you may try or lead you to gain more weight.
So what’s the deal here? All this can only happen if you’re overdoing it. So 30 – 60 minutes on the elliptical a few days each week is really beneficial and can bring you all the cardiovascular benefits discussed above. But if you’ll spend hours on end on the elliptical on a daily basis, you’re just self-sabotaging.
Isn’t HIIT Better?
We all heard the benefits of High-Intensity Interval Training by now. This is a workout that combines short spurts of very intense activity when you’re giving 100% of what you have, with 10-second breaks. This can be better in the long term because it accelerates your metabolism, so you can get away with eating more calories each day.
However, this sort of training isn’t for everyone, particularly for people who have joint issues. And since cross trainers offer a form of moderate intensity cardio training, they help you burn more fat in the long run. That’s not to say cross trainers are better than HIIT or vice-versa. On the contrary, you can combine these two tools very effectively, doing HIIT 2 or 3 times per week, and using a cross trainer the other 2 or 3 days.
Isn’t Strength Training Better?
Sure, strength training has lots of benefits like building more muscle mass and improving your bone density so you can avoid joint or bone problems in the future, which a cross trainer can’t provide. It’s also a great way to increase your basal metabolic rate, which actually decreases with age, so you won’t have to eat fewer calories when you’re older.
And we already know that doing just cardio slows down your metabolism so you’ll need fewer calories every day to maintain your body weight. Hence our question.
But things aren’t always black and white. You can do both strength training to improve body mass and increase your metabolism, combined with cross trainer workouts. So days 1, 3 and 5 can be HIIT + strength training, while days 2, 4 and 6 can be a cross trainer workout.
Is it Really Good for the Joints?
Of course, this benefit has a caveat too, and we really advise you to discuss any fitness machine you’re planning to use with your GP. For instance, people that have hip dysplasia or a hip replacement might not find benefit from using a cross trainer with fixed foot pads because that means they turn their feet out.
Still, that doesn’t mean a cross trainer is bad for any hip issue you might have. You just need to talk to your doctor first.
Will You Really not Get Injured?
There are some training experts who caution us about cross trainers not providing a natural stride like walking, cycling or jogging. That means you’re restricting your mechanical movements, so you’re more at risk of injury.
However, the increased risk of injury is only correlated to an abusive use of the elliptical. Again, with 30 – 60 minutes/ day, you’ll be more than fine.
What about the Weight Loss Progress?
Granted, a cross trainer offers a low-impact activity, so you’re burning fewer calories than you would with a high-impact activity like running or step aerobics. So aren’t you better off burning more calories if you want to lose weight faster?
Sure, but that only works in theory. High-impact is very tiring and you can’t do it every day. Besides, since a cross trainer can help you burn at least 200 calories for 30 minutes of work, it still burns more than other low impact activities. Just consider that strength training only gets you about half of that.
We’ve taken you through a series of advantages entailed by using a cross trainer, and we also answered some of the most usual questions about its benefits. So now you can make an informed choice about if, how, and when you can use one.
Still, it’s better to remember this one thing: vary your workouts. Don’t just settle for one activity, and don’t use your cross trainer in just one way.