Exercising on an elliptical trainer is an effective form of cardio for all fitness levels and ages. It’s also a highly useful and effective tool for those who are nursing a knee or hip injury and are seeking a low-impact form of cardiovascular exercise to add into their routine.

That said, it’s useful to know that there are a few different approaches to using the elliptical trainer, given a 30-minute time frame.

Calories burned

According to Harvard Health, the amount of calories burned on an elliptical depends on the exerciser’s weight.

Your weightCalories burned in 30 minutes
125270
155335
185400

Keep in mind that every individual and every unique body sheds weight and uses energy slightly differently. Calorie expenditure is mainly based upon current body weight and body composition.  For instance, a 185-pound individual can expect to burn more calories than a 125-pound individual while exercising at the same intensity in the same amount of time. This has to do with a heavier body requiring more energy and calories to perform the same movements.

The intensity of your elliptical workout can play a big role in this as well. Given an equal amount of time, you will burn more calories at a more intense pace than you will at a less intense pace.

Low-intensity pace

Hopping onto the elliptical trainer at a snail’s pace is a habit that too many of us have fallen into at times, just to check exercise off the list. The truth is that this is perhaps not the best use of your time. If you have 30 minutes to an hour to exercise, you’ll burn calories and boost your metabolism more effectively if you keep your body guessing throughout your workout.

There are times, however, when utilizing a low-intensity pace is best. If you have a heart condition or an injury that limits you, or if this is a recovery day for you, then finding a comfortable pace on the elliptical trainer is a good choice for you. Some perks and benefits of this type of exercise include:

  • improved insulin sensitivity and blood lipid levels
  • the ability for those with certain heart conditions to stay active in a manner that does not threaten their health
  • an opportunity to read or study while you are cruising along on the trainer

High-intensity intervals

Interval training sounds like a daunting task, but the principle is quite simple. The idea is to alternate short bursts of high-intensity activity or movement with segments of lighter activity. A good example of this is sprinting on the elliptical for 30 to 60 seconds, slowing your pace for two to three minutes, and then repeating the sequence.

The benefits of integrating high-intensity intervals include:

  • burning more calories in a given period of time
  • increasing the afterburn, meaning that you will burn calories for a longer time after exercise
  • improving your aerobic and lung capacity
  • keeping you stimulated and preventing exercise boredom

The takeaway

Ultimately, the amount of calories you burn while using an elliptical depends on your weight, the intensity of your workout, and the time. Use the above as a rough guide to determine how many calories you may burn on an elliptical, but keep in mind that everyone expends energy differently.

While exercise machines will provide you with an estimate of calories burned if you enter your weight, they may not be very accurate. Consider a heart rate monitor or other device that monitors your heart rate to get a more accurate idea of calorie expenditure. You can also talk to a personal trainer about this.