picture of more than anyone ever wanted to know about ellipticals

As a relative newcomer to the fitness world, Ellipticals (also known as cross trainers) appeared in the market in the early 90’s. Contrary to popular belief, while they were one of the first companies to build and market the product, they did not invent the category.

On September 30, 1992 inventor Larry Miller filed for a United States Patent named Stationary Exercise Device. Patent Number 5,242,343 was issued September 7, 1993. Precor later bought his design and started making products.

Today every fitness company in the world has their own version of the elliptical with only one company (Octane Fitness) focusing exclusively on the category.

To decide if an elliptical is the right piece of equipment here are a couple of things to think about:

Do adding arms really make a difference?
In order to maximize caloric expenditure you need to increase the amount of muscle mass that the equipment uses. Typically, the more muscle engaged in the activity, the more calories burned. Using more muscle mass during exercise also increases energy expenditure after exercise, as the post-exercise metabolic rate (as measured by the excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) has been found to be significantly greater and take longer to return to resting values following lower body exercise (stationary cycling) than following upper body exercise (arm cranking) performed at the same relative intensity. [source]

Is it better than running?
It can be. I know this seems to counter some of what was said in the last blog. While running does not cause harm in the average person you are still creating impact every time your foot strikes a surface. The elliptical is a great way to get your heart rate up without that pounding. Many people who are unable to run due to joint pain will switch to the elliptical to continue to get their cardiovascular activity.

How high is your ceiling?
Some ellipticals raise you off the ground as much as 18 inches. Be sure to measure and then go somewhere and try it out before you buy.

How does it feel?
Every elliptical is built differently and every brand has its own unique feel. Make sure you get on it and try it for at least 10-15 minutes using different speeds and resistance levels to make sure it works for you.

Weight of the machine
In general, if it weighs more it means that there’s more linkage, steel and overall durability built into the machine. If the machine weighs 150lbs and you weigh 180lbs, it probably won’t feel as solid nor will it hold up to the pounding of heavy use.

What is a flywheel and why do I care how much it weighs
The flywheel is only one of many components that impact the “feel” of the machine. There are bearings, linkage, gear ratios, braking systems and other components that make up the drive system of an elliptical machine. A heavier flywheel does not mean that the motion will be better. The proof is in the smoothness of the ride—and you need to ride machines more than 5 minutes to feel the differences.

Next week: Look for information to help you sort through the fun and exciting world of exercise equipment warranties. (I know this sounds stupid but there is a lot of deceptive marketing and this upcoming blog article will help - I promise!)