Why elliptical machine workouts are great for your back as well as weight loss

Elliptical machines and cross trainers are great for lumbar support, in addition to being good cardio workouts

Elliptical machine workouts are great, but how do they benefit your back?
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The best cross trainer is a great way to workout that can help you build muscle in addition to losing weight. Because you use the handles in addition to the pedals, and you have a variety of resistance settings to choose from, it's capable of delivering many different types of workouts. It's low-impact, which makes it an easy, joint-friendly workout for seniors, and others who don't want to pound the pavement as part of their weight loss journey. 

All this is well-known and is well-trodden ground: the unique combination of resistance training, cardio and perpetual motion makes it one of the best exercise machines to lose weight you can possibly buy. However, there's another, much-less talked about benefit: it's great for your lower back. 

if you work sitting down all day, you'll know good lumbar support is essential to staying fit and healthy. The best office chair and posture correctors can help if you're having back issues as a result of too much desk time, but you can activate the muscles around your lower spine by jumping on the elliptical. 

Man using one of the best cross trainers

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The study, published in the journal Clinical Biomechanics, looked at the muscle activations on an elliptical machine compared to the motion of walking. The researchers found "average lumbar flexion angles and lumbar rotation were generally greater on the elliptical trainer, whereas walking produced more frontal motion.

"Total lumbar flexion/extension was similar between the two activities. Muscle activation patterns of the gluteal muscles were consistently higher on the elliptical."

Flexing and rotating the muscles around your spine produced more muscular activation, working the muscles in your lower back and core. Your glutes, which you're sitting down on all day and therefore are not engaging, are also getting a great workout – especially if you crank up the resistance. An hour on the elliptical is the perfect antidote to an otherwise sedentary day.

More work from home tips

To solve some of those spinal issues and correct your posture, make sure the top of your monitor is raised up to eye level. Remember to take plenty of screen breaks – walk around, stretch – and have proper lighting in your working environment in order to protect your eyes. Our guide to the best desk lamps is a great place to start. 

Matt Evans

Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and is currently Fitness and Wellbeing Editor at TechRadar, covering all things exercise and nutrition on Fit&Well's tech-focused sister site. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.