I don't really know what I would do for my cardio without the elliptical. Elliptical machines let me get exactly the type of aerobic workout I want without taking the pounding my legs use to get by running day after day.
You can do a long slow exercise to burn calories and have a good cardio exercise. Or you can change the incline and resistance levels to add extra intensity.
On your own or with a little help from a professional, choose a low resistance setting (1 or 2 on most machines). I would not activate the incline for your first session or two. Set the timer for 15-20 minutes for your first time using elliptical machines..
Once you get used to the machine, try adding some resistance or raising the incline levels to make the exercise more challenging. Many of the elliptical machines offer a variety of pre-programmed workouts that are designed for weight loss or more challenging fitness exercises.
Elliptical machines and treadmills are both very effective for a quality aerobic workout with limited impact involved. There is less stress on your knees, hips, and back using the elliptical than there is running on the treadmill.
The ellipticals tend to offer more exercise choices than the treadmill. Some have upper body handles that are similar to ski poles, these allow you to work your upper body. You can also pedal the elliptical in reverse which will work your calf and hamstring muscles.
If you are a serious runner, obviously the treadmill will provide you with a better cardiovascular exercise platform, especially if you are training for a competitive race like a 5k.
As far as high-level cardiovascular workouts, the elliptical is an excellent choice for efficiency and results.
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I will continue to share ideas about diet and exercise that have helped me along the way. If you have any questions I can help you with, or if you have any ideas you want to share, feel free to contact me or visit our Q&A forum.