The cardio section of a gym is usually packed with people either running or walking on treadmills, while the rest try their hand (and legs) at the elliptical machine close by. 

The elliptical machine is more commonly known as a cross trainer in our part of the world, and if you tend to find the treadmills packed (which is most often the case), the elliptical trainer is a great way to get your share of aerobic exercises.

The cross trainer is a machine that involves the use of the arms and legs simultaneously. It was invented by fitness company Precor in 1995, and has since become a staple in gyms and fitness studios all around the world.

But as with most fitness equipment, the efficacy of a cross trainer in exercise is debated, and it can be largely down to personal preference. Read on to find out about the various benefits of exercising on an elliptical trainer.

  1. How does a cross trainer work?
  2. Benefits of a cross trainer
  3. Cross trainer is good for losing weight
  4. How long should I go on the cross trainer to lose weight?
  5. Can you lose belly fat on a cross trainer?
  6. Is a cross trainer better than a treadmill?
  7. How much does a cross trainer cost?

A stationary piece of equipment, the cross trainer is a common workout machine that can be found in any gym or fitness centre, pretty much anywhere in the world. It has two handles and two foot pedals. To begin, a person is required to get on the machine, place their two feet on the pedals and hold on to the handles.

The cross trainer, as the name suggests, is a mix of different movements put together for an efficient workout. The movements one performs when walkingrunning or climbing stairs are infused together in this odd-looking machine that helps you get a workout for the entire body.

Many cross trainers allow you to adjust the stride length, height and tension or load, to workout different parts of the legs, hips, back, core, chest, shoulders and arms. You can also pedal forward and backwards on the cross trainer to exercise different muscle groups and break the monotony.

While you are on a cross trainer, it is a good idea to try and get into a rhythm. Take care to mind your posture throughout, though: adjust the machine before you get on, make sure your back is straight and not hunched over the handles and try not to lift your heels.

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There are several queries that concern the legitimacy of an elliptical trainer, especially against a treadmill or other cardio-centric exercise machine that one can easily find in a gym.

All said and done, a cross trainer is easy to use. It offers a full-body workout that is also low-impact—so if you have arthritis or weak knees, you might want to skip running on the treadmill and spend a few minutes on the cross trainer instead.

Just 20 minutes on the cross trainer can help you work up a sweat. You can go slow on the machine, to warm up. Or you could go full throttle to achieve weight loss. Cardio exercises increase the heart rate, improve lung capacity and build endurance—working out on a cross trainer also ticks all these boxes.

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The machine can be quite versatile, once you become familiar with all its features. What's more, it is easy to change the settings from low to high intensity. You can even purchase an elliptical machine for your home gym and hop on to get your heart rate up. One big advantage of the cross trainer over a treadmill is that a cross trainer also involves the arms and shoulders in a way that can 

Here's an in-depth look at the benefits of using a cross trainer:

A cross trainer is an efficient calorie burner: half an hour on the cross trainer can help you torch between 270 and 400 calories, depending on your body weight. (The more your body weight, the more calories you will end up burning.)

Of course, you could end up burning more calories by intensifying your workout on the elliptical trainer too.

Moreover, since the cross trainer is a low impact exercise, people who are overweight or obese can exercise safely on it without putting to much strain on their joints.

Someone with a body mass index (BMI) of 25 - 29.9 is categorised as overweight and someone with a BMI of 30 - 39.9 is considered obese. BMI is a ratio of weight to height.

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According to an article published in the Harvard Health journal that enumerates the calories burnt while performing different exercises, using an elliptical trainer can burn anywhere between 270 and 400 calories in 30 minutes, based on an individual's body weight. However, how many calories one can burn in a single session is also determined by the intensity of the workout.

Because the cross trainer involves the use of both the upper and lower half of the body, it is a great exercise to lose belly fat as well. However, it is important to perform the exercises at a moderate to high intensity, as this helps to burn more calories faster.

In addition to burning body fat, an elliptical trainer can also help in muscle development, with many muscle groups working together at the same time. Your arms, buttocks, thighs (both front and back thigh muscles), chest, back as well as the core muscles get a solid workout on a cross trainer, thereby promoting additional fat loss and muscle tone.

It is, however, important to mix up your training routine and switch from moderate to intense exercise patterns.

(If you are a beginner, take it slow. A cross trainer can leave you feeling breathless in a few minutes. You may also experience lactic acid build-up in the legs if you pedal too quickly, too soon. Rest for a few minutes, if this happens to you. The leg pain and the breathlessness should pass in a few moments. And keep at it—you will quickly see an improvement in your performance if you stick with the exercise. Your goal should be to reach 50-85% over your maximum heart rate during the exercise: to calculate your maximum heart, simply subtract your age from 220 beats per minute.)

It depends. Any person, whether new to exercise or someone who is used to working out, especially in a gym, is used to a certain kind of movement, or in other words, some movements come naturally to them as opposed to others. 

The treadmill is a favourite of people who love to run or walk long distances. While those who may be new to exercise or those who do not enjoy running as much may opt to workout on a cross trainer more.

One of the advantages of using a cross trainer over a treadmill is that a cross trainer is a low-impact exercise, while treadmill training involves constant pounding of the feet (to be sure, the strain of running on a treadmill is less than running on the open road), which may take a toll at some point. (Read more: Shin splints: symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment, prevention)

It is advisable to use both the machines on rotation on the same or alternate days to reap the benefits of both and to become stronger as a runner as well as on the elliptical trainer.

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Like most electronic exercise machines, even a cross trainer is an expensive piece of equipment. The cost starts from Rs. 10,000 and can go into lakhs of rupees. 

If you are considering buying one for home use, consider these things first:

  • Space: Make sure that you have enough space to keep such a large piece of machinery indoors.
  • Power bill: Ask the seller about the consumption of power to run the machine, as using it could run up your electricity bill—you must be prepared to pay extra on your monthly electricity bill.
  • Who will use it and how regularly: It is also important to ensure that you use the equipment regularly—it needs to be used to keep running smoothly and efficiently. So whether it's just you or you and a family member or friend, make sure you keep running and servicing the machine to prolong its life.
  • Maintenance cost: This should be minimal if you use the machine regularly. Additionally, because it involves less moving parts as compared to a treadmill, an elliptical machine can be more reliable and require less maintenance.
  • New or pre-owned: You can also consider buying an elliptical machine in the second-hand market, as you can easily find an advanced model for a lesser price. However, be careful about the wear and tear on a second-hand machine and run a thorough check of the parts before proceeding to put your money down.

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