The latest Men's Health magazine comes down on elliptical machines hard. I know elliptical machines are often the only option for people with bad knees, but if your knees are healthy, think twice before using the elliptical machine for these three reasons.
First, on page 52 of the December, 2008 issue, Men's Health warns, "Never trust elliptical machines". They quote a study that found elliptical machines over-estimated the number of calories burned in a workout by 31%!
So if your "elliptical cardio workout" burned 400 calories, the truth is you really burned closer to only 300 calories.
Second, later in the Dec. issue, Men's Health magazine interviewed Biggest Loser contestant Ed Brantley. Ed lost 73 pounds on the show, but had this to say about elliptical machines, "I hated the elliptical. It was too easy, I didn't feel like I was doing anything."
Exactly. I couldn't have said it better myself.
But that's EXACTLY why elliptical machines are so popular... You see, the third reason elliptical machines are inferior for fat loss is because they fail my "human nature" test.
Put it this way... Take 100 people and put them in a gym with 100 treadmills and 100 elliptical machines. Tell them they have to exercise for 30 minutes at a hard pace, and they have the choice to use either the treadmill or the elliptical.
Guess where 90% of folks are going?
Why? Because it is human nature to take the EASY WAY out. And that is why elliptical machines are so busy at the gym and you rarely see anyone doing intervals on a treadmill or bodyweight circuits in the corner of the gym.
Often I see folks using the elliptical machine only to say they "worked out", but without getting any REAL work done. So if you are stuck at a fat loss plateau, and you've been counting on the elliptical machine to help you out, then forget it.
Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS