When You Use The Elliptical Every Day, This Is What Happens

Amid gym closures and stay-at-home orders, the demand for ellipticals, stationary bikes, and other home exercise equipment has boomed. With some outlets seeing an over 600 percent increase in sales of home gym equipment in 2020 (via The Guardian). As working from home continues in 2021, it seems that the attractiveness of a home workout might be here to stay.

If you're thinking about setting up a workout space of your own and find the idea of a treadmill pretty boring, you might consider an elliptical machine. And that's not a bad idea. Ellipticals are some of the most popular pieces of equipment in the gym, and as it offers a cardio workout that has a much lower impact on your joints than many other traditional aerobic exercises, it's a machine that could do wonders for your body, according to Verywell Fit.

But if you've ever stared at an elliptical in a gym and thought "what does that thing actually do?'" you're not alone. Nevertheless, we've got you covered. Let's check out what happens when you use an elliptical every day.

Use the elliptical daily and your stamina and endurance will likely improve

Your first time on an elliptical could leave you a little tired out. Despite looking like a fairground ride crossed with an exercise machine, the elliptical can deliver a serious workout when used properly. Stick with it, though, and it'll get easier. If you fit in an elliptical workout each day, your stamina and endurance will likely improve. These two benefits are closely related, but there are differences.

According to Healthline, stamina refers to the ability to sustain energy and keep performing an activity for an extended period, whereas endurance refers to the body's physical capacity to sustain an extended period of exercise. It's useful to know that both can be increased by the performance of regular aerobic exercise — exercise that makes the heart beat faster and delivers oxygen to the muscles through the blood (via MedicineNet). Using an elliptical each day will not only give you a solid aerobic workout, but it'll allow you to exercise harder for longer, as Healthline highlighted.

Your legs will get stronger when using the elliptical every day

An elliptical engages the entire body. As such, many of your muscles could see improvements — especially your legs. Yes, if you hop on the elliptical every day, you might notice your lower limbs actually getting stronger.

Meghan Kennihan, an Illinois-based personal trainer and running coach, told Aaptiv, "[The elliptical] typically targets the glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and anterior tibialis. When your thigh moves backward during the gliding motion, you will feel your glutes and hamstrings." She continued, saying, "Your quadriceps get worked when your leg is moving forward. The calves and tibialis contract to stabilize the lower legs." With such comprehensive use of your leg muscles through elliptical training, it's a great way to tone up your lower half.

What's more, the settings on your elliptical machine allow you to target leg muscles specifically. As Alan Snyder, a licensed doctor of physical therapy told PopSugar, "A higher incline puts more emphasis on the glutes and hamstrings, whereas a flat level provides an overall lower-body workout, including the calves and quads" (via Yahoo Finance).

The elliptical machine can protect your joint health

Although running can offer you a chance to see the great outdoors and burn some calories while doing it, it's not the most forgiving on the joints. If you suffer the dreaded runner's knee, an aching pain around the knee joint which can be caused by the impact of running, it might be time to change cardio (via Healthline).

The good news is that using an elliptical machine every day is a form of aerobic exercise that's much kinder to your joints, due to the motion providing much less impact than running outside or on a treadmill. According to the Mayo Clinic, ellipticals can be less stressful to not just your knees, but also your hips and back when compared to using a treadmill. It can also be great for those who have arthritis.

Low-impact cardio workouts could even protect your knee joints by increasing the blood flow to the cartilage in the area and strengthening muscles around the knee, which could, again, be a bonus for those with arthritis, giving the knee extra support (via Healthline). If you're concerned about joint health, the elliptical could be a winner.

You'll burn a significant amount of calories when using the elliptical

If you've ever stared at an elliptical in the gym and thought "that looks easy", we've got news for you, friend: Using an elliptical can offer your body a solid workout and a chance to burn a good amount of calories — more so than a lot of other activities.

According to Harvard Health Publishing, a half-hour of general training on an elliptical machine can result in 270 calories burned for a person weighing 125 pounds, rising to 400 calories for the same amount of time for someone weighing 185 pounds. For comparison, a 125-pound person vigorously exercising on a rowing machine will burn 255 calories, and a 185-pound person would burn 377 calories. Elliptical training burns approximately the same amount of calories as cross-country running, pound for pound and minute for minute. 

Naturally, the more calories you burn, the higher your potential to lose weight. As the Mayo Clinic explained, burning off more calories than you consume results in weight loss. If a reduction in overall weight is your ultimate fitness goal, knowing how many calories you could burn using an elliptical could just have you using one every day.

Your heart health will improve from elliptical workouts

Regular exercise can have incredible effects on how your body looks. But it's important to remember that it starts from the inside out. Working out can also have astonishingly positive effects on your most important organs, including your heart.

As elliptical training is an effective cardiovascular workout, it causes your heart to work harder to provide your muscles with the blood and oxygen they need to continue performing optimally, according to Healthline. Through this, your heart can get stronger, more efficient, and healthier. And according to a 2018 study published in Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine, regular exercise — even at moderate levels — is frequently associated with lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease, and lower mortality from cardiovascular issues.

It should be noted, though, that the study also refers to evidence of detrimental consequences to cardiovascular health in situations where individuals are performing consistently high levels of exercise. So if you're using an elliptical every day, be careful not to overdo it.

Using the elliptical every day might lead to a fitness plateau

If you've worked out for what feels like forever and you're not noticing any discernible changes, you may just be experiencing the dreaded "fitness plateau." And unfortunately, this can even happen on the elliptical. According to Sweat, a fitness plateau occurs when your body acclimates to how much your workout is demanding, meaning that you're no longer challenging it enough to continually make improvements. A plateau can result in a sense of a lack of progress, as well as a lack of motivation to exercise.

Plateaus often happen when a person does the same exercise over and over again. If you're using an elliptical every day, you're taking part in the same activity, meaning that your body will adjust and stop seeing gains if you don't switch things up. As Ryan Halvorson, a personal trainer in San Diego, California, told The Healthy, by using an elliptical daily "you're making yourself good at one thing. Eventually, your body will adapt to that specific movement and you'll plateau." Avoid plateauing: Mix up your workout routine, and keep challenging yourself.

Your arms may get more toned when you start using the elliptical daily

Unlike on a treadmill, your arms are invited to the party on the elliptical. While elliptical training is primarily cardiovascular exercise — meaning that it's not typically performed to increase muscle strength or tone, and is instead notable for raising your heart and breathing rates for extended periods — your arms get a workout through the constant flexing and extending that's occurring at the elbow, according to LivestrongDoing this activates and strengthens your biceps and triceps in your arms — and your shoulders get a good workout too.

Additionally, ellipticals can be adjusted to increase their resistance, meaning, as Nordic Track stated, you're able to concentrate on your arms (or other areas of your body), giving them a more intense, specific workout, should you so desire. That's right, your elliptical is good for more than just a pure cardio workout.

Your balance will improve thanks to a regular elliptical practice

With the focus on gym equipment often being on helping you achieve the perfect bod, it's easy to forget that a greater level of fitness — as can be achieved through regular use of an elliptical — gives you a host of other benefits. And one of these, interestingly, is an improvement in balance. An elliptical does this by activating, and therefore strengthening, your core muscles — the group of muscles that are located in your torso and hips (via Harvard Health Letter).

As Kailin Collins, a physical therapist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital, pointed out when speaking with the Harvard publication, a strong core directly affects balance in relation to your other body parts, as "you need good stability at your core to have safe and effective movement at the hip, knee, and ankle". Additionally, she explained, "If your core isn't strong or stable, it will be impossible for the arms and the legs to move well." You can strengthen those parts and more by — you guessed it — hopping on the elliptical daily.

Your lung capacity will improve when you use the elliptical every day

Among the myriad of health benefits cardiovascular exercise (aerobic exercise) brings is an increase in lung capacity, according to Harvard Men's Health WatchThis is a result of your lungs having to work harder during exercise, meaning that they become stronger over time. "As your physical fitness improves, your body becomes more efficient at getting oxygen into the bloodstream and transporting it to the working muscles," the American Lung Association explained. "That's one of the reasons that you are less likely to become short of breath during exercise over time."

As elliptical training is aerobic exercise, it can give your lungs as much of a workout as your muscles. Of course, to increase lung capacity through exercise, it's important to support your body by making healthy choices, too. This includes quitting smoking, which will allow you to exercise for even longer in as little as two weeks after giving up, an article in Breathe revealed. So put down the cigarettes, and jump on the elliptical — your lungs will thank you!

Using the elliptical every day might have you feeling the effects of overtraining

Using an elliptical every day could have you seeing some pretty great health benefits, but you should know that daily training doesn't always equate to better results. In fact, you risk overtraining if you go hard on the elliptical each day. According to Livestrong, intense elliptical training without a rest day once a week or so could result in you feeling burned out or having trouble getting to sleep at night — both signs of overtraining.

While feeling a little tired after working out is fairly common, overtraining is not something you should aim for. According to Men's Journal, it could result in symptoms ranging from extended muscle soreness to more profound mental issues like depression, personality changes, and lowered self-esteem.

It's important to remember that exercise, and the results we get from it, is a marathon, not a sprint (if you'll excuse the exercise-related adage). Make sure to give yourself time to rest when using the elliptical.

You may see an improvement in your abs from using the elliptical

While an elliptical machine is operated using your arms and legs, a lot of this energy is generated through the center of your body. As your abs are engaged during an elliptical workout, you could see a stronger six-pack emerge with this daily practice.

The effect on your abs is even more evident if you keep proper form while working out on the elliptical (as you should always aim to do). According to Livestrong, standing up straight and tall on an elliptical machine will activate your abs even more, leading to a stronger stomach. 

Adding resistance to your machine can also help increase the activation in your muscles. Additionally, you could even try, as Healthline suggested, performing a workout by using just your legs and letting go of the handles. This move will challenge your core. Yes, there are several ways this versatile machine can be altered to focus on specific muscles.

Your mental health can improve through regular use of the elliptical

The elliptical can have some pretty impressive benefits to your physical health, but it also provides pretty substantial benefits to your mental health. By using an elliptical every day, you could wind up seeing some excellent improvements to your mood and self-esteem. You may also notice improvements regarding anxiety and depression. This is according to a study published in The Primary Care Companion to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, which examined the link between aerobic exercise and mental health benefits, finding that regular aerobic exercise contributes substantially to a better mental state.

The study also cited the potential for improved sleep, improved sex drive, and a reduction in stress. The authors asserted that mental health professionals should reinforce the benefits of regular exercise to their patients. Through daily exercise using an elliptical machine — which is, after all, aerobic exercise — you may well see a range of these mental benefits.

You could improve your posture, as long as you're using the elliptical machine correctly

We all want to stand up a little taller, right? Well, luckily, by using an elliptical trainer daily, you may be able to shake off the slouch you've developed through endless Zoom meetings. As an elliptical is a machine you operate upright, it can be great for your posture. As Ryan Halvorson, a personal trainer in San Diego, California, said in an interview with The Healthy, "Elliptical machines allow you to stand nice and upright to help improve posture, promote better circulation, and work muscles more efficiently."

However, it's important to remember that you get out what you put in. By using an elliptical with poor posture, you likely will not improve your posture — and you may even get an ineffective workout (via Fitness). Take the opportunity to stand up tall while using the elliptical. As Halvorson said, "We already spend a lot of time slouched, so why reinforce it while you exercise"?

Don't expect stronger bones from your daily elliptical routine

Although an elliptical can supply you with a huge number of benefits through daily training, your bone density may not change all that much. According to the Mayo Clinic, elliptical training is a low-impact exercise. This means that, because there's no continual impact of your feet on the floor as there is through jogging or running, it's better for those who have joint issues or arthritis.

However, these impacts have a direct effect on your bones. When you regularly make contact with the ground, particularly during exercise, your bones respond by building more density, leading to stronger bones that can withstand fracture more effectively (via WebMD).

If you're looking to build bone density, training on the elliptical daily might not be the best way to go. Instead, as the Cleveland Clinic suggests, running on the treadmill might be a better option, due to the stimulation of bone growth caused by repetitive impact.