The elliptical trainer was designed to simulate the movements of walking, running and climbing without the lower extremities impacting the ground. In doing so, repetitive trauma to the lower extremities is vastly reduced.
Among the most limiting factors in the careers of runners is a lower extremity injury. Chronic inflammation of the knees, hips and ankles eventually leads to arthritis.
Sometimes referred to as a cross trainer, the elliptical trainer incorporates the use of multiple large muscle groups in the lower extremities. The cardiovascular or aerobic portion of the workout allows for sustained elevation of the athlete’s heart rate.
Most elliptical trainers now have the option of adding a component where the arms can push and pull levers that alternate with the lower extremities. This adds an upper extremity component to a workout. The ability to increase the resistance of the mechanism adds the ability to build muscle.
Many experienced athletes find the workouts to be best at burning calories.
“If there was one piece of equipment to buy for a combined cardiac and strength workout, the elliptical is the best choice,” said Jeff Ehlers, manager of the Total Fitness store in Newington. Elliptical trainers have become the most popular fitness items sold.
The newest iteration of the elliptical — the suspension trainer — has no wheels or tracks. Although not inexpensive, elliptical trainers, like many other types of athletic equipment, are a worthwhile investment as long as they are regularly used.