Do Elliptical Trainers Defy The Law of Gravity?
By Rich Rojas
There are many misconceptions regarding elliptical trainers. I believe this is a result of the large number of elliptical trainer reviews Websites popping up on the Internet each and every day. In an effort to tout the benefits of elliptical training, Webmasters post the usual laundry list of the well-publicized advantages of elliptical trainers. In the process, like the old game of “Telephone”, each time the message is repeated, it gets slightly or sometimes significantly garbled in the retelling.
To make matters even worse, sometimes medical and fitness professionals along with the manufacturers of elliptical trainers will give out unproven or even incorrect information. This article will address the most common misconceptions and inaccuracies regarding elliptical trainers.
1. Elliptical trainers are zero impact fitness machines -- Since back here on the planet Earth where all mass is subject to the Law of Gravity you will still experience some impact when using an elliptical trainer. There’s just no way around this. Not even in the zero gravity environment of outer space, since an elliptical requires gravity in order to work. I’m sure Sir Isaac Newton would be spinning in his grave if he knew how many times this misconception gets propagated.
Yes, elliptical trainers are LOW-impact machines and the impact is noticeably less than running on a treadmill, but there is still a small degree of impact. People who have knee injuries or chronic tendonitis in their knees may find that even the low impact forces of an elliptical trainer to be uncomfortable.
2. Elliptical trainers are not weight bearing -- This is a corollary to Misconception #1. The fact that you are standing up on the foot pedals when using an elliptical trainer makes it a weight bearing exercise. Again the force of gravity is acting upon the mass of your body, which is supported by your legs. It’s not the same as when you are seated on a stationary bike or rowing machine. Weight bearing exercises such as elliptical training are a good way to strengthen the bones in your lower back and hips.
3. You need to workout longer on an elliptical trainer than on a treadmill because the higher impact of the treadmill causes you to expend more energy -- The goal of any aerobic exercise is to get your heart rate into an elevated state -- either in a fat-burning or cardio-conditioning zone and keep it there for the duration of your training session. Subjecting your joints to excessive impact in order to get there is just plain crazy! The way to do this is to get the large muscles of your lower body in motion and if you can also involve the muscles of your upper body by using the moveable handles of an elliptical trainer then so much the better.
4. The upper body handles of an elliptical trainer are meant to build up the muscles of your upper body -- There is actually a small bit of truth to this belief, but the thing to remember is that cardio machines are aerobic in nature and are not very effective at building muscle. Save muscle building for your weight training sessions.
The real benefit of upper body handles on an elliptical trainer is to involve the muscles of your upper body in the exercise in order to get your heart rate up quicker. The more pieces you get working at the same time the more efficient the whole process becomes.
5. It’s possible to build a high-quality elliptical trainer using cheap components and cheap labor -- This is hands down the biggest misconception out there. It’s mostly put forth by the fitness equipment manufacturers, but unfortunately many consumers fool themselves into believing it’s true.
People certainly can’t be faulted for wanting to save money and when faced with better quality ellipticals that sell for upwards of $800 and beyond, they settle for the $150 special from Wal-Mart. In most cases this turns out to be a purchasing decision they soon come to regret. The machine is unsteady and creaky and then just self-destructs after a short period of time.
The best advice is to take your time, do your homework and make an informed decision after weighing all of the risks against all of the benefits.