Can Elliptical Training Replace Running?

Elliptical machines are ubiquitous at gyms these days, and are popular thanks to offering a whole body workout and being fantastic for getting that heart rate up and the oxygen flowing around your body. But keen runners, or those new to the sport looking to learn more, might wonder whether an elliptical machine can replace running as a form of exercise. Let’s take a look.

Why Use An Elliptical Instead Of Running?

The first question is, why might you want to use an elliptical instead of running? There are a few answers to that question:

  • You want variety: Depending on your goals, you might not want or need to make running your primary focus. The elliptical provides variety in your workout.
  • You want to lose weight: Because it’s lower impact, some people prefer to use an elliptical to help with weight loss before commencing a running regime.
  • You’re injured. New or seasoned runners who fall foul of an injury might find an elliptical workout is easier than a run.
  • You don’t have access to good terrain. Not everyone has a running track or good outdoor space nearby.
  • You’re constrained by the weather. No matter how much of an all-weather runner you are, some climes and locales will get the better of you.
  • You prefer the elliptical. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of preference. Just like some people prefer spinning and others enjoy Zumba, some people prefer the elliptical.

How Does The Elliptical Compare To Running?

The key thing to understand is how the elliptical compares to running.

A study by the National Center for Biometric Information suggested that using an elliptical compares fairly well with using a treadmill. The study found that oxygen use and energy expenditure were similar for both machines, and indeed heart rate was slightly elevated on the elliptical compared to during a similar workout on the treadmill.

However, a straight heart rate or oxygen use comparison isn’t the whole story. Part of the benefit from running comes not just from the heart rate or level of exertion needed during a run. Running also hones the runner’s muscles and strengthens their skeleton in a specific way.

An elliptical can boost heart rate, burn muscle and improve overall condition, but it can’t replicate the impact of a proper run. This is particularly important for runners who are training for a specific event or who want to focus on building up their running skill and stamina, as opposed to getting a general work out.

When To Use An Elliptical Instead Of A Run

The elliptical can be used instead of a run:

  • If you’re looking for a good cardio workout without specific impact training.
  • If you usually run but you’re nursing an injury and need something a bit lower impact while you heal.
  • If you have weight issues and are worried about the impact of running on your joints – the elliptical can help you get in condition before you start running.
  • To provide variety in your workout.

When Not To Use An Elliptical Instead Of A Run

There are times when an elliptical isn’t a useful substitute for running:

  • If you’re training for a specific running event. Your body needs to be trained to run without injury or pain, and an elliptical can’t do that.
  • If you’re looking to build up your running strength and stamina. An elliptical can help you get fit, but it can’t replace the specific impact training you’ll get from running.

An elliptical will provide you with a full body workout that will get your blood pumping. An elliptical session is a fantastic building block of any overall fitness regime, and can be used to supplement running training once or twice a week.

For those aiming for excellent overall fitness, this is ideal. For serious runners who need to train however, an elliptical can provide a great supplemental workout, but shouldn’t be used as a replacement for running.

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