How Elliptical Training Can Strengthen Your Joints
One of the best ways to strengthen joints is to strengthen the surrounding muscles around those joints, offering both support and strength. Healthy joints are essential for almost any daily task, from biking to picking up the laundry, so keeping joints not only healthy but also strong is quite important for everyone, not just athletes.
Other than maintaining the ability to complete daily tasks, there are other reasons why we should strengthen our joints. As we age, we lose bone. It’s a fact. But strengthening exercises and weight bearing movements can help to prevent osteoporosis and further bone loss while also building up the joints. Essentially, what protects bone and joints is muscle, so having strong and well-toned muscles is a direct way to protect your joints and build your bone mass. While all exercise is good for the body, not all exercises are created equally. Biking is not a weight bearing activity, running is very hard on the joints, and weight training lacks that aerobic component, but elliptical training gives you the best of all worlds, with the ability to tone muscles and work your cardiovascular system at the same time, while preventing additional strain on the joints that can lead to injury.
A study conducted by the University of Missouri measured oxygen utilization, lactic acid formation, heart rate, and the rating of perceived exertion on an elliptical trainer compared to a treadmill. The researchers found that the elliptical trainer exercise was nearly identical to the treadmill exercise in pretty much every aspect, except that the elliptical trainer created far less joint impact than the treadmill. The elliptical trainer also worked several muscle groups while also offering a cardiovascular exercise, so more calories were burned in a shorter amount of time, especially from some of the best ellipticals available. According to WebMd, our goal should be to get in at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week, which also includes some weight-bearing exercise as well. An elliptical training can knock out both of these requirements, but in less time since elliptical trainers work muscles and the cardiovascular system at the same time.
So how can you specifically target muscle groups and get the best out of using an elliptical trainer? Elliptical trainers strengthen muscles specifically in the lower body, including the quadriceps and hamstring muscles, so to strengthen and target these muscles set the incline fairly high and try to keep the resistance as high as you can maintain while keeping a fairly steady pace. Elliptical trainers can actually work these muscles much greater than even walking or biking, and in a shorter amount of time. Another way to work these muscles is to go backwards on an elliptical, targeting specifically the quadriceps muscles. But elliptical trainers don’t just work the muscles of the lower body, but also the upper body. Elliptical trainers are built with movable handle bars that become hard to push and pull when you push up the resistance. This resistance works all of the muscles of the arm as well as the upper back and shoulder. Overall, a great benefit to working out on an elliptical trainer is the ability to really work multiple muscle groups at the same time, while also getting in that cardio component. There’s really no other exercise like it.
In addition to strengthening the quads and hamstrings, elliptical trainers can equally strengthen the ankles. Typically, problems begin at the ankles and radiate upward to the knees and lower back, but elliptical trainers are not only easy on the ankles since there is no hard pounding of a surface, they also strengthen the small muscles surrounding the ankles to protect the joints from twisting or straining. Think about it. When you use an elliptical trainer, you balance yourself on oversized pedals so your feet are always firmly planted. The pedals are almost always cushioned and quite large too so you don’t have to worry about slipping off the pedals or injuring your feet. This motion will also help you when running or biking since the muscles around the ankle joint are essential for maintaining balance and keeping the entire body in alignment.
If you are healing from an injury and want to stay active, or if you simply want to build up your muscles to protect your joints from any damage, elliptical training is the idea way to do it. Many runners or bikers get discouraged when an injury strikes, but elliptical training allows these athletes to continue to work out, getting in their cardio workout as well as a muscle building exercises that are easy on the joints and known to help strengthen and protect. If you can maintain muscle mass and continue to work out, injuries will heal much quicker and joints will stay protected.