The Elliptical Trainer: A New Walking Alternative

If you love walking but want to kick up your workouts a notch without sacrificing your joints and without having to bounce, try an elliptical trainer. Elliptical trainers provide an effective cardiovascular workout, work all the major muscle groups in the leg, and do so with low impact upon your joints. They can be programmed to move in forward or backward motions. The backward motion emphasizes the gluteal muscles (buttocks), but since the legs aren't meant to move in that direction at a fast pace, stick with a forward motion, as if you're walking or running.

Leaning on the handles or using moving arm poles on the elliptical trainer won't increase your calorie burning or workout intensity. In fact, leaning on the machine will actually decrease the intensity of your workout. Let go of the handles and, if you can, move as if you're walking or running (i.e., swing your arms naturally).

There are two important things to know about elliptical trainers. First, you can adapt almost any walking and running program to these machines. While you can't exactly match a treadmill's speed in miles per hour to the elliptical trainer's pace measurements (done in steps), you can incorporate intervals and resistance on the elliptical trainer. Also, most people do about 130 steps per minute on an elliptical trainer, so you can push yourself to higher speeds — 150 or 160 steps per minute — that are the equivalent of walking faster.

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