An elliptical trainer is an exercise machine that minimizes stress to your joints while providing an aerobic workout. The fluid motion of an elliptical is ideal for people who want to build strength without putting too much pressure on their hips, knees, and ankles.

You can use an elliptical to do low impact workouts that burn calories and boost cardio fitness.

Exactly how many calories you burn depends on several factors, including your age, weight, and gender. The intensity, pace, and resistance level of your workout can also influence calorie burn.

Read on to learn more about how many calories you likely burn during an elliptical workout, types of elliptical workouts, and tips for elliptical training.

A 30-minute elliptical workout may burn 270–378 calories depending on your body weight (1).

Based on body weight, a 30-minute elliptical workout burns around (1):

  • 270 calories for a 125-pound (56.7 kg) person
  • 324 calories for a 155-pound (70.3 kg) person
  • 378 calories for a 185-pound (83.9 kg) person

Additional factors that affect how many calories you burn include your age, gender, and body mass index (BMI). For example, people who have more muscle mass and weigh more usually burn more calories.

The intensity of your workout also plays a part. If you do a high intensity interval training (HIIT) routine or other high intensity workout using more resistance at a higher speed, you will burn more calories than if you do a low or moderate intensity workout.

How much time you should spend on the elliptical depends on your exercise goals, your body’s response, and your weekly workout routine. If the elliptical is your only source of aerobic exercise, you’ll spend more time on it than if you vary your workouts throughout the week.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic exercise each week (2).

For example, each week you could do one of the following:

  • 5 sessions, 30 minutes each, at a moderate intensity
  • 3 sessions, 50 minutes each, at a moderate intensity
  • 5 sessions, 15 minutes each, at a high intensity
  • 3 sessions, 25 minutes each, at a high intensity

You can change up your elliptical routine to keep your workouts fresh, target different muscle groups, and continue to give yourself a challenge. Always start each session with a warmup and finish with a cooldown.

Long, slow distance workout for endurance

Long, slow workouts are ideal for people who need to reduce joint stress or keep their heart rate below a certain range due to a heart condition or another medical condition. They are also a good choice if you are recovering from a surgery, injury, or vigorous workout (3).

A low intensity, steady state workout performed at a low to moderate intensity can also help to build endurance and encourage your body to burn fat as fuel, though you’ll have to exercise for a longer time to meet your calorie burn goal (4).

High intensity elliptical workout

If you opt for a high intensity elliptical workout, you can spend less time on the machine. Increasing the incline and resistance will also boost the intensity and target different muscles.

You can either sustain a high intensity throughout your routine or do a HIIT workout that alternates brief bursts of strenuous activity and low intensity periods. This allows you to burn more calories in a short amount of time (5).

Plus, some research suggests you may continue to burn more calories even after you finish exercising (6).

To make the most of your elliptical workouts, here are a few tips to keep in mind.

  • Do a warmup and cooldown. Ease into each session with a warmup to get your blood flowing and prevent injury. Finish each workout with a cooldown to bring your temperature and heart rate to their usual levels.
  • Keep it fresh. Adjust the stride length, pace, and resistance levels to change up your routine. Another option is to pedal backward, which will target different muscle groups. You can do workouts that focus on calorie burn, hill climbs, or interval training.
  • Play it safe. To minimize injury, wear appropriate footwear, use proper form, and maintain alignment. Balance your weight evenly between both sides of your body.
  • Use a heart rate monitor. To make sure you’re exercising within your target heart rate range, wear a heart rate monitor or watch. Some devices may also track metrics such as pace, distance, and calorie burn.
  • Be consistent. Stay focused on your goals and stick to a plan. To hold yourself accountable, keep a fitness diary or use an app to track your progress. Reward yourself when you meet your goals and be easy on yourself if you get off track.

Elliptical training is a fantastic way to burn calories, gain strength, and improve cardio fitness. To calculate how many calories you will burn during an elliptical workout, consider your body weight and the intensity of your workout.

Decide if you want to do low, moderate, or high intensity workouts or a combination of these options. Create and stick with a fitness plan, remembering to switch up your routine to give your muscles new challenges.