Side effects of elliptical machines

Side Effects of Elliptical Machines: 5 Little Known Risks Not To Ignore!

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Hi HealthPot friends! It’s Kathleen again, and today’s topic is ellipticals.

I think that nearly every adult in America has used or is using an elliptical machine, and why not? They offer a full-body workout that is low impact (looking for other options see low impact treadmills ), so what’s wrong with that?

Actually, I was surprised to find that an elliptical can and do cause damage that most people are unaware of.

Let’s have a conversation about ellipticals, what they do, what they don’t do, and what you should be aware of before you use them regularly.

The Top 5 Disadvantages of Ellipticals

Let’s dive headlong into this subject, shall we?

Disadvantages of Ellipticals

  1. They Can Make an Injury Worse

If you’re using an elliptical machine because you were injured in some way – whether it was from an exercise routine or from something like a slip and fall, you may have thought that using this for low-impact workouts would be the answer. The truth is that, in some cases, using an elliptical can make your injury worse.

This is especially true if you have a knee injury or elbow injury, or you are trying to recover from a broken bone. The movement of an elliptical can cause tendonitis or excessive pressure on the knee joint.

If you feel any pain in your joints when using one, stop immediately and consult with your physical therapist or your doctor.

  1. The Unnatural Movement Can Cause Back Pain

While most elliptical machines try to imitate walking, the elliptical motion is really not very natural. Some ellipticals have pedals that go round and round like a bike, with handlebars that go back and forth, causing you to twist at the waist or the upper back. This can cause low back or upper back pain.

The best ellipticals are the ones that mimic a walking gait, with the pedals going back and forth as opposed to going in a circle, and machines that allow you to adjust the height of the handlebars.

If you’ve thought about a recumbent elliptical machine for your back pain, you might find this article interesting.

  1. You Won’t Gain Muscle

If you had hoped that using an elliptical machine would give you new muscle, you’ll want to try another type of cardio machine, such as rowing.

Ellipticals are mostly cardiovascular equipment for improving the heart and lungs. This low-impact workout will NOT build new muscle, even if you use the machine correctly.

lady stretching muscles on a cross trainer

  1. It Won’t Improve Bone Density

Ugh! You would think that standing on an elliptical machine would help with bone density since you are doing a weight-bearing exercise, right? Not in this case. Improving bone density is not so much about standing. Your body needs that “feet pounding on the ground” movement to add to bone density.

Unfortunately, all that feet pounding is pretty hard on the knees and hips, right? Try using a trampoline (also known as a rebounder). Jumping will improve bone density, and the springiness of a trampoline will prevent you from doing too much damage to your joints.

  1. Ellipticals Can Teach Poor Workout Habits

Watch people using an elliptical machine at the gym. You’ll see plenty of people slouching over the handlebars, leaning on the handlebars to avoid using their legs too much, and some people don’t use the handlebars at all!

Elliptical machines do not work the entire body (read more on what muscles does an elliptical work ) – quite a bit of it, but not the entire thing. This means that if you use an elliptical machine for the majority of your workouts, some muscle groups will become weaker over time.

Did I mention that, personally, I find elliptical machines boring?! Using the iFit app helps a lot, but without it, I completely understand why people watch soap operas or movies while using one!

This isn’t to say that elliptical machines are bad. I think every machine in the gym offers some benefits when used correctly.

What Are the Benefits of Elliptical Exercise?

I’ve done plenty of elliptical machine workouts in my time, and I think as far as cardio exercise goes, these are terrific pieces of workout equipment.

In fact, despite the side effects of elliptical machines, I can list a great many benefits right off the top of my head:

Benefits of Elliptical Exercise

  • Terrific calorie burner – Elliptical machines burn calories like mad! An “average” person working out on an elliptical can burn about 375 calories in 30 minutes.
  • Works upper and lower body – Elliptical workouts use both the upper and lower body.
  • Low impact – Elliptical machines offer a low-impact exercise routine that is easy on the joints in most cases.
  • Easy to use – This piece of exercise equipment is simple to learn and use – just get on it, hold the handlebars, and start walking.
  • Works for most people – An elliptical workout is perfect for beginners and advanced athletes.
  • Great cardio – If you want some much-needed cardiovascular exercises, an elliptical machine can give you that and more.

For all the negatives, it’s easy to find benefits when speaking of an elliptical trainer, so which is correct?

Are elliptical machines the devil in disguise, or are they better than a treadmill workout?

So Are Elliptical Machines Good or Bad?

Woman Training On Elliptical Trainer

Elliptical machines are good but can also be bad.

You’ll find that this is true of nearly everything in life, right? We need water to live but too much or too little water will kill you. Same with sunlight. Heck, the same with nearly everything you come into contact with!

Elliptical trainers are great as a part of an overall healthy exercise routine. I don’t think anyone should use one exclusively, but if you’re looking for aerobic exercise, improving your overall physical fitness, and burning some extra calories while you watch TV, I think there are a lot of health benefits to elliptical trainers!

How Long Should You Use an Elliptical Machine?

man working out on an elliptical

That would depend on what you want to accomplish.

For the majority of people who are simply looking for a cardio workout and burning calories, a half hour works just fine. Depending on how hard you are working out, 30 to 45 minutes should be a long enough workout to get that upper and lower body sweaty and burn some serious belly fat!

The same is true whether you use a stationary exercise machine, do some aerobic exercises on the floor, or use a treadmill. You need to get your ticker working hard and work up a sweat for at least 20-30 minutes.

I highly recommend using a HIIT workout, which is usually 30 minutes in length, every other day. Do other forms of exercise, such as using a stationary bike, weight training, or rowing to be sure that you work all the muscle groups and so that your body doesn’t become used to doing the same old exercise every day.

Are There Any Dangerous Side Effects of Elliptical Machines?

No, elliptical machines used properly won’t kill you, but they can worsen an injury or pain and even cause overuse injuries, so I suppose it depends on your definition of “dangerous”.

For anyone who has a tendonitis or leg injury, you might find elliptical machines give you some pretty intense pain. Is that dangerous? Well, it won’t kill you, but you may find that you have to undergo physical therapy if it gets bad enough.

legs of a male shown working out on an elliptical at the gym

The same is true with knee pain. If you have arthritis and doing an elliptical workout doesn’t bother you, then go ahead and continue. However, if your elliptical machine makes your knees throb like a son of a gun and the pain feels like you’re dying, you should stop using it right away!

No, I can’t think of anything on an elliptical trainer that will kill you or maim you, but they can cause some serious joint pain, and if you don’t use one correctly (no slouching, no lazy workouts) then it really isn’t doing you much good, is it?

At the End of the Day Thing to Consider About Ellipticals

Consider both sides of the elliptical machine coin.

On one side, there are side effects of elliptical machines that can irritate your joints and cause you more pain.

On the other side, you can burn more calories and get in some serious cardio exercise using an elliptical trainer.

For the majority of people, I believe that adding an elliptical machine to your workout routine is a good idea, especially if you don’t have access to a lot of other exercise choices.

If one of the side effects of elliptical machines means that you have joint pain, stop using it!

As part of an overall exercise equipment choice – I think elliptical machines are a good choice.

As my physical therapist used to tell me – It’s all about moderation. Use your elliptical machine in moderation with other cross-training devices, and you should be just fine and dandy!

Happy Elliptical Workout, friends!