PT on the Net Research

Caloric Expenditure on Elliptical Machine


I have a couple of members who use the Life Fitness elliptical machines and stride to burn as many calories as they can. I was wondering what metabolic equation I would have to use to determine their caloric expenditure during their workout. Would I use the leg ergometry, arm ergometry, both? I would appreciate any advice. Thank you.


Research on elliptical trainers is limited, but in reviewing the available literature, it appears that the average oxygen consumption of elliptical trainers is similar to treadmill running, contrary to research performed in the past. In one study, the VO2 for the elliptical trainer was 32.9 ml/kg/min while treadmill running elicited a VO2 of 31.5 ml/kg/min. The calories expended per minute were 11.9 and 11.5 for elliptical training and treadmill running, respectively. The VO2, heart rate and calories expended were not significantly different between the elliptical trainer and treadmill running. It is important to note that the intensity was not controlled. However, there was a significant difference in these variables from the elliptical trainer and treadmill running versus treadmill walking, biking and a step machine.

In a published research study, 22 moderately active females were randomly assigned to treadmill running, elliptical trainer or stair climber and trained three days per week at 70 to 80 percent of maximal heart rate for 30 minutes, progressing to 80 to 90 percent of maximal heart rate for 40 minutes. The study found significant post-training increases in VO2max, but the increases were not significantly different between groups. The authors concluded that similar physiological improvements were observed using the three modes when training volume and intensity were equivalent.

In conclusion, from the most current yet somewhat scarce data published on elliptical trainers, it appears that energy cost between treadmill running and elliptical training is much more similar than data found several years ago. It could therefore be recommended to use metabolic equations used for treadmill running for the associated energy cost of elliptical training.


  1. Porcari, Zedaker, Naser & Miller. Evaluation of an elliptical exerciser in comparison to treadmill walking and running, stationary cycling and stepping. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 1998, S168, abstract.
  2. Egana, M & Donne B. Physiological changes following a 12-week gym based stair climbing, elliptical trainer and treadmill running program in females. J Sports Med Phys Fitness, 2004; 44(2): 141-146.
  3., Exercise science research is just beginning to catch up with using elliptical-motion cardiovascular training machines. John Porcari, Carl Foster, Pat Schneider