By Lucy Gornall
Using one of the best elliptical machines can provide the body with a wealth of benefits, which are especially prevalent to the over 50s. Elliptical machines and cross trainers are better than treadmills for this: as treadmills have your feet pounding the road simulated by a fan belt, the elliptical machine also mimics a walking motion.
However, your feet stay glued to a ‘pedal’, and move around in the shape of a flattened circle. It’s lower impact than even the best treadmill, making it ideal for anyone suffering from joint or muscular pain. Meanwhile, hands can hold onto handlebars, which not only offers support, but also means the upper body is also getting a workout too.
Tim Andrews, as Head of Fitness Product at Fitness First, is a man who knows the benefits of ellipticals inside and out. Here, he shares seven reasons why elliptical machines are a great workout for the over 50s.
Elliptical machines are a full body workout
‘Lots of cardiovascular exercise can be very leg dominant,’ says Tim, who explains that thanks to the handles on elliptical machines, you’re using both your upper body and lower body simultaneously.
‘If your technique is on point, it really is a full body movement; chest, shoulders, back, biceps and triceps, glutes, quads and hamstrings, as well as the all-important core, are all worked.’
Plus, as it is a cardiovascular machine, your heart and lungs are also getting a workout.
It helps to build muscle
As we age, we naturally lose muscle mass. In fact, one study found that after the age of 30, we naturally lose 3-8% of our muscle mass every decade. After the age of 60, this decline increases even more.
Resistance is essential in building muscle and thanks to the ability to increase resistance on the elliptical machine, the preserving of muscle mass is achievable without lifting actual weights.
It’s a low impact exercise
‘Your back, hips, knees and ankles can take a bit of a bashing during high impact cardiovascular exercise like running and jumping,’ explains Tim. ‘An elliptical is low impact; your feet won’t lift off the pedals.’
There’s even research that backs this up. In 2014, one study concluded that exercise on an elliptical machine ‘significantly reduces weight-bearing as compared to other common functional and sporting activities.’
They said that this is useful to know for rehabilitation teams when recommending activity for previously injured individuals.
Elliptical machines give your joints some respite
Running can really wreak havoc on your knees over time. In the over 50s, osteoarthritis - a degenerative joint disease - becomes more common, so it’s important to protect joints and provide them with ‘kinder’ exercise.
Over 2000 runners were studied at a clinic, and it was knee injuries that won the award for most common runner's injury.
Tim explains that although the elliptical doesn’t actually replace running, it can still be a real benefit for runner wanting to maintain their fitness, especially if your knees do need a break.
The UK’s NHS says that if you’re suffering from osteoarthritis, avoiding exercise that puts strain on your joints and forces them to bear an excessive load, such as running and weight training, is a good idea. If this is a concern for you, you should also check out our best supplements for joints, which can help to reduce inflammation.
It's an ideal exercise for injury recovery
Been unable to exercise thanks to an injury? The elliptical machine is ideal if you’re hoping to get back into movement, safely.
In fact, Tim reveals that Technogym - creators of a range of gym equipment -actually state: “Our line of cross trainers also caters to users with additional medical requirements and people who might be at greater risk of injury.”
Elliptical machines are good for weight loss
It’s a cardio activity that works the full body, so naturally, the elliptical machine will help burn serious calories. This can then help to put you in a calorie deficit which leads to weight loss.
Tim explains that not only does the elliptical machine work for steady state longer duration exercise but it can also be used for higher intensity interval workouts. As your feet are on the pedals, you can decide how quickly you go. You could even do intervals of fast and slow on a low resistance setting, and then mix up the resistance to incorporate slower, higher resistance intervals with quicker, lower resistance intervals.
Plus, Tim adds: ‘You won’t need to worry about straddling treadmills; you can shift intensity levels from maximal to minimal in the blink of an eye.’
Yup, no more waiting for the treadmill to reach the speed that you’ve selected on the screen; with the elliptical machine, it’s all down to you!
You are in control
‘Because you have so many options and variations on an elliptical you can challenge so many elements of fitness,’ says Tim.
‘If you don’t hold onto the handles you can target your core muscles and work on your balance and you can set your resistance to specifically target muscular endurance.’
In fact, even the direction you move the pedals can alter the muscles used. If you move the pedals forward, your hamstrings - the muscles at the back of your legs - will reap the rewards, however, if you move the pedals backwards, it is your quads- at the front of your thighs - that will feel the burn!
Why wait to get an elliptical machine?
The elliptical evidently is up there in the top cardiovascular workouts. Not only does this stationary machine provide the heart and lungs with a workout, but it also provides a low impact way to train muscles.
The over 50s can benefit greatly from using a machine that places less stress on the joints whilst also helping to maintain strength and fitness.
While we’re all waiting for the gyms to reopen, there are over 70 on-demand classes available 24/7 on Fitness First FitX Player. Make sure you check them out on https://www.fitnessfirst.co.uk/fitx-player/
This killer rowing machine workout adds bodyweight exercises to torch fat AND build strength
Workout Our 20-minute calorie-burning rowing machine and bodyweight workout will make you sweat
By Lucy Gornall •
Hooked on the look: Meet two people who've spent $2million on plastic surgery
Fitness This man and woman have spent a combined $2 million overhauling their bodies, including artificial muscles
By Fit&Well •
Fitbit Luxe: Fitbit's all-new stylish fitness tracker has just been announced
Fitness The new Fitbit Luxe is a premium fitness band at an affordable price, all wrapped in a jewellery-inspired design
By Matt Evans •
Best heart rate monitors: Keep track of your ticker with these smart devices
Buying Guide We check out the best heart rate monitors on the market, from chest-straps to watches
By Pete Dreyer •
Best running watch: Maximize your runs with these top GPS watches
Buying guide Our pick of the best running watches to track everything from 5k runs to marathons - and beyond
By Jennifer Allen •
Best Fitbit: Our picks of the best smartwatches and fitness trackers for you
Buying guide We round up the best Fitbit wearables for day-to-day life, walking, working out, and looking good
By Jennifer Allen •
Jaybird Vista vs Beats Powerbeats Pro: Which workout earphones are worth your money?
Versus We compare two top-rated earbuds, the Powerbeats Pro and Jaybird Vista, to see which is most worthy of a spot in your gym bag
By Lee Bell •
Fitbit Versa deals: Great offers on Fitbit's top multi-model smartwatch range
Deals Get Fitbit Versa 3, Versa 2 and Versa Lite – the ultimate fitness watch for style and features - at the best price
By Rob Clymo •
Best workout earbuds: Top beats to soundtrack your runs & gym sessions
Buying Guide Give your workout a better soundtrack with our best workout earbuds to soundtrack your sweat session
By Lee Bell •
Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2 deal: Save $$ on our award-winning fitness watch
Deal This Best Buy deal shaves $50 off the price of the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2, a Fit&Well award winner
By Matt Evans •