Running is good exercise, but it can damage knees and hips.

The Effects of Elliptical Trainers

by Barrett Barlowe

People who switch from treadmills to elliptical trainers sometimes liken the change to suddenly exercising in water--the freedom from high impact stress on knees and ankles is liberating. Elliptical trainers have pedals that move, as the name suggests, in an elliptical motion. The machine absorbs the impact normally associated with running or jogging. Using an elliptical trainer gives you the benefits associated with running or jogging without the risk of injury from stress to joints.

1. Extra Endurance

Elliptical trainers provide cardiovascular exercise for people with different fitness levels. Exercise novices use the machines to increase endurance gradually, while protecting untrained legs from injury. Veteran users can push themselves harder by increasing speed, or effort. Advanced elliptical trainers offer different levels of resistance--the user can go as fast or as low as she pleases, and most machines have synchronized arms. You use arms to advance the pedals in conjunction with legs, pushing or pulling to burn more calories with less exertion. Choose long work-outs of moderate-intensity, or short bursts of intense exertion. Either form of exercise increases heart and lung health. Habitual exercise lowers blood pressure and can help lower cholesterol levels. Any exercise burns more calories than you do just sitting watching television. When you burn more calories than you take in, you lose weight. Elliptical trainers allow you to burn calories while minimizing risk of injury.

2. Sculpting Curves

Using the pedals in a forward motion is good for tightening the gluts and firming the backside. Varying exercise position slightly distributes exertion and prevents muscle strain. Forward pedaling also tones quadriceps. Reverse, or backward pedaling, exercises the hamstrings. The quadriceps are the large muscles, on the front side of the thigh, and the hamstrings are the large muscles on the backside of the thigh area. Using pulling and pushing motions develop biceps, and tones the triceps on the upper arm. Many elliptical trainers feature resistance levels controls. The harder the resistance, the harder you have to work to move legs and arms to overcome it. Increased workload leads to greater strength.

3. Physical and Mental Balance

Exercising while standing upright on the trainer helps build symmetrical muscle control. Posture improves and balance also gets better. Cardiovascular exercise on an elliptical trainer makes you feel better mentally as well as physically. According to the Merck Manual, the body releases chemicals called endorphins following exercise. Endorphins reduce pain sensitivity and increase a feeling of wellness. People call endorphins nature's natural high. According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise can be effective in improving mild to moderate depression as well as anxiety. When you look better, and feel better physically, you probably will eat better and continue to develop more healthy habits. Just like the elliptical trainer, health is a cyclical proposition.

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