An elliptical trainer, or cross trainer, is an exercise machine that simulates running, much in the way that a treadmill does. The difference, however, is that the elliptical trainer was designed with the natural movements of the human body in mind. You walk or run just as you would normally, but there’s no hard, flat ground putting strain on your joints. As jogging is often seen as the path to knee problems, this is a problem well worth addressing.
The machines have two foot pads that move in an approximately elliptical path when seen from the side, rising and falling with the feet as you walk or run. The movements of the leg are said to resemble a cross between running and cycling, meaning you exercise more muscle groups at once than you would by doing just one form of exercise at once. There are handles in front of your chest to hold on to for balance, but many people recommend exercising hands-free in order to improve natural balance and to improve posture. The handles also move in sync with the pedals, allowing you to tone your arms using the same machine and also to take some of the burden off your legs.
The normal way to use an elliptical trainer is to stand on the pads with a straight back. You then take hold of the handles and begin moving your legs as if you are walking. The motion is natural and you feel the machine move with you. And that’s essentially it — elliptical trainers are extremely easy to use and comfortable during even extended periods of exertion.
Of course, the aim is still to do some hard work, and the machines have different resistance settings to allow you to choose your level and style of workout — some people like to take it slow and easy to improve their cardiovascular fitness, while some prefer to work hard for short periods of time to improve muscle definition. There’s even the occasional user that wants to work hard and for a long time. It’s all possible with the elliptical trainer — assuming you’re up for the challenge!