There has been considerable controversy over which of the two most popular cardio exercise machine burns calories more efficiently treadmills or elliptical trainers. Various studies have come to different conclusions. Having read several of these studies, and considering my own experience on working out on both machine, I would conclude that they offer a comparable workout. However, there are two benefits of an elliptical trainer that actually may reduce your perceived rate of exertion. And if you feel less exertion you are more likely to exercise harder and burn more calories
Benefits of the Low-impact Workout
First, elliptical trainers provide a low-impact workout in comparison to treadmills. Obviously with a treadmill you are either walking, jogging or running. There is the continual pounding that shocks the body, and literally wears on you. In fact, it is suggested that runners impact the surface at approximately 2.5x their body weight.
With elliptical trainers your lower body is working in an elliptical motion. Your feet never leave the pedals and there is no reverse action. It is almost like running on air. Consequently there is less stress and strain on your body, which potentially impacts your perception of your exertion. In fact, when comparison studies were done between treadmill and elliptical users, the majority of the treadmill users undoubtedly responded that they worked out harder because impact registered as work, which elevated the perceived level of exertion.
Benefits of the Upper and Lower Body Workout
The other benefit of an elliptical trainer that is often sited is the ability to exercise both your upper and lower body. With elliptical trainers you are getting a body workout that utilizes the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, chest, back, triceps and biceps simultaneously. There is no other machine that offers this benefit. And by exercising more muscle mass you improve fat mobilization, and logic would suggest that you build better muscle endurance, burn more calories and fat in less time, and reduce your perceived rate of exertion. Of course, to achieve the full benefit of the dual action exercise of an elliptical trainer, it is necessary that you equally divide you resistance between your upper and lower body. You will often notice that people who exercise on a cross-trainer tend to place the emphasis of the resistance on the lower body, meanwhile the upper body tends to go through the motions.
Precor, one of the most respected names in elliptical trainers, does make the claim their ellipticals do reduce the perceived rate of exertion . When I recently visited the Precor headquarters in Washington state, I had a chance to talk with their Chief Innovation Officer, Jim Birrell. He mentioned that the Precor ellipticals with their patented CrossRamp technology, allows users burning more calories, while feeling less exhausted. And that this claim is backed up by University studies that they had conducted. The CrossRamp allows you to incline the elliptical motion, similar to the incline feature on a treadmill. You will find similar incline features on many of the newer elliptical models.
So should you buy a treadmill or an elliptical trainer if you want to burn calories most efficiently? I would suggest you first want to buy the cardio machine that you are most inclined to use. I personally have both and typically divide my workout equally between the two. However, if you are looking for a machine that will be easier on your joints and will work more muscles groups, the elliptical trainer comes out the winner. And it just may be that you will burn more calories than a treadmill and feel less exhausted.
About the Author? - Fred Waters has worked in the fitness equipment industry for over 16 years, and currently reviews fitness equipment full-time.
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