Is an elliptical good for losing belly fat?

Many people strive to lose belly fat for aesthetic reasons and to improve health. Excess fat around the abdomen is linked to diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Aerobic exercise is excellent for burning calories and body fat. Using an elliptical trainer can be an effective way to lose belly fat through aerobic exercise. In this article, we’ll look at the evidence on using elliptical machines for belly fat loss.

What Is Belly Fat and Why Do People Want to Lose It?

Belly fat, also called abdominal or visceral fat, is the adipose tissue that surrounds the abdominal organs. It’s different from subcutaneous fat which lies right under the skin. Belly fat is considered especially unhealthy because it’s metabolically active and produces hormones and other substances that can negatively impact health.

Carrying excess belly fat has been linked to:

  • Heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Fatty liver disease

Many people aim to lose belly fat for vanity reasons as well. Excess fat accumulation around the midsection and stomach can be unappealing aesthetically. Getting rid of belly fat can help create a flatter, more toned appearance.

Can You Spot Reduce Belly Fat?

Spot reduction is the idea that you can target fat loss from a specific body region through exercises that work the nearby muscles. For years, people believed that you could do crunches to specifically shed abdominal fat. But spot reduction has been debunked by research.

When you lose fat, it disappears from all over your body—not just the one spot you may be targeting with exercise. Where your body stores and loses fat is largely based on genes. So while core exercises like crunches strengthen abdominal muscles, they don’t specifically burn belly fat.

The only proven ways to lose fat from the midsection is through proper nutrition, aerobic exercise, and resistance training. Creating a calorie deficit by eating fewer calories than you burn is required for overall fat loss to occur. The good news is that belly fat is usually very responsive to weight loss efforts. When people lose fat, it often disappears quickly from the midsection.

Do Ellipticals Help Burn Calories and Body Fat?

Elliptical trainers are a type of low-impact cardiovascular exercise machine. Also called cross-trainers, they simulate motions like walking, running, and stair climbing. Using an elliptical machine has several benefits:

  • Burns calories and body fat
  • Works major lower body muscle groups
  • Low-impact and joint-friendly
  • Adjustable resistance for varied intensity
  • Can be done at a high intensity

Research has confirmed that ellipticals are an efficient calorie and fat burner compared to some other cardio machines. In one study, people burned about 13 calories per minute on the elliptical versus 10 calories per minute on the stationary bike and 11 on the treadmill. The elliptical works both the upper and lower body, so more muscle groups are engaged. This can ramp up calorie expenditure.

The elliptical is low-impact so it’s gentle on the joints. But you can also dial up the resistance and ramp for high intensity. This allows you to burn more calories by working out at a higher rate of perceived exertion. Short, intense elliptical sessions are effective for boosting metabolism and fat burning.

Overall, research shows that the elliptical is an excellent option for torching calories and body fat when used properly. The key is exercising at a high enough intensity and duration to achieve a calorie deficit.

Tips for Maximizing Fat Loss on the Elliptical

To optimize belly fat burning with elliptical exercise, there are some strategies you can use:

Vary Incline and Resistance

Changing up the incline and resistance during your elliptical workout will help you burn more calories while working different muscle groups. Start by doing a 5-minute warm up at an easy resistance.

Then increase the ramp incline to around 10-15% and resistance to your target effort. Vary the resistance levels throughout your workout. Standing up periodically also engages new muscle groups.

Use Intervals

Interval training means alternating between higher and lower intensity. Spend 30-90 seconds at a challenging resistance pushing to an RPE of 7-8 out of 10. Then back off for a minute of easier effort.

Repeating these bursts maximizes calorie burn by stressing your cardio system. It also triggers more fat loss through excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC).

Workout for 30-60 Minutes

Longer workout duration allows you to burn more calories per session. Aim for at least 30 minutes and up to an hour if possible. Research shows intervals between 30-60 minutes of daily cardio exercise are ideal for fat loss.

Maintain Proper Form

Using proper form puts more work into your legs to ramp up calorie burn. Push off firmly with each leg and bring your knees up high. Engage your core to avoid leaning on the handles too much. Keep your body upright instead of hunching over.

Add Upper Body Motion

Use the moving handles to engage your arms and upper body while striding with your legs. Pump your arms back and forth vigorously. Or do short intervals of arm-only elliptical exercise. This enhances calorie expenditure by using more muscle groups.

Monitor Heart Rate

Using a heart rate monitor helps you gauge workout intensity. Aim to keep your heart rate in your target fat burning zone which is about 60-70% of your maximum heart rate for 30-60 minutes. Adjust resistance to maintain an elevated heart rate and calorie burn.

Nutrition Tips to Enhance Fat Loss

Exercise alone isn’t enough to lose stubborn belly fat. Your nutrition and diet play a huge role in fat loss success. Here are some dietary strategies to complement your elliptical training:

Maintain a Calorie Deficit

You must burn more calories than you consume to drop fat from all over, including your midsection. Use a calorie tracking app and aim for a daily deficit of 500-750 calories through diet and exercise. This equates to about 1-2 pounds of fat loss per week.

Eat More Protein

Consuming more protein can help trim abdominal fat. Protein is the most satiating macronutrient, so it keeps hunger at bay. Several studies link high protein diets to significant reductions in belly fat. Aim for 0.7-1 gram of protein per pound of body weight daily.

Cut Back on Refined Carbs

Minimizing intake of refined grains and sugars reduces abdominal obesity. These foods cause blood sugar spikes and crashes which drive up belly fat storage. Limit sweets, sodas, white breads, etc.

Increase Fiber Intake

Soluble fiber supplements like glucomannan have been shown to lead to substantial decreases in belly fat. Fiber from foods can be beneficial as well. Eat more fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains.

Stay Hydrated

Drinking more water is linked with reduced belly fat. Aim for at least eight 8-oz glasses per day. Substituting water for sugary drinks assists with fat loss.

How Much Belly Fat Can You Lose on an Elliptical?

Research has found elliptical exercise can produce significant reductions in total body fat and abdominal fat. But results will vary based on several factors:

  • Exercise duration and frequency
  • Elliptical workout intensity
  • Starting weight and body composition
  • Caloric intake
  • Genetics and metabolism
  • Other lifestyle habits

For optimal fat burning, use the elliptical for at least 30 minutes 4-5 days per week while maintaining a calorie deficit. One study had overweight adults follow this routine while cutting calories for 8 weeks. On average they lost 3 pounds, including 1.3 pounds from their midsection.

With more intense elliptical sessions and greater calorie restriction, you may lose belly fat faster. Losing 1-2 pounds per week that includes substantial abdominal fat loss is a reasonable goal. Just don’t expect miracles from the elliptical alone without also addressing your diet and other exercise.

Additional Benefits of Using an Elliptical for Fat Loss

Using the elliptical trainer provides several other benefits beyond fat burning.

Low Impact

The smooth, gliding motion of elliptical exercise is very joint-friendly compared to weight-bearing activities like running. It puts minimal stress on the knees, hips and ankles, reducing injury risk. This makes elliptical training very accessible for beginners and people who are significantly overweight.

Cardiovascular Benefits

The elliptical is effective at conditioning the heart and lungs when done at sufficient intensity. In studies, elliptical training has been shown to improve key markers of cardiovascular fitness like VO2 max. This also lowers the risks of heart disease and stroke.


Elliptical machines are widely available at gyms but can also be purchased for home use at a reasonable price. They provide a convenient, weather-proof way to burn calories year-round. Most ellipticals also have workout program options to add variety.

Arm and Core Training

The upper body motion of elliptical training engages the arms, back, chest and core muscles. This enhances total body fitness, muscle definition and calorie burning. Dynamic upper body movement also increases the challenge.

Low Learning Curve

The elliptical has a very low learning curve compared to equipment like treadmills and stair climbers. The smooth motion is easy to mimic right from your first session. This makes it ideal for those who are new to exercise.

Sample Elliptical Workouts for Fat Loss

Here are some sample elliptical workout plans you can follow for dropping belly fat:

Interval Training

5 minute warm up
30 seconds fast effort at intense resistance
1 minute moderate pace with low resistance
Repeat intervals 15 times
5 minute cool down

Incline Intervals

5 minute warm up at level 5 resistance
5 minutes at 10% incline and level 8 resistance
5 minutes at 15% incline and level 10 resistance
5 minutes at 12% incline and level 12 resistance
Repeat sequence twice
5 minute cool down

Constant Motion

5 minute warm up
Maintain 70 rpm pedaling pace and level 10 resistance for 30 minutes
Pedal backwards for 1 minute
Increase resistance to 12 and pedal forward for 15 minutes
Pedal backwards 1 minute
5 minute cool down

Pyramid Intervals

5 minute warm up
1 minute fast pedaling with high resistance
1 minute moderate pace
2 minutes fast pace
1 minute moderate
3 minutes fast pace
1 minute moderate
2 minutes fast pace
1 minute moderate
1 minute fast pace
5 minute cool down

Experiment with different elliptical workouts to find what challenges you and keeps you motivated long-term. Just be sure to maintain proper form and vary your body position periodically.


The elliptical machine can definitely play a role in helping you lose stubborn belly fat. However, this low-impact cardio machine isn’t a magic solution on its own. Optimizing nutrition and using other exercise modalities is key for long-term fat loss success.

Aim for a weekly elliptical regimen that includes four 30-60 minute interval sessions. Vary your speed and resistance to keep your body guessing. This will ramp up your metabolism and calorie burn while lowering impact. Combine elliptical training with a consistent calorie deficit, strength training, and adequate protein intake. Practicing patience and persistence will maximize your chances of unveiling those six-pack abs.

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