Let go of the handles to burn more calories on the elliptical.
If you're looking for a machine that can help you slim down your lower body, the elliptical trainer can definitely be on the list. The machine's gentle movements are ideal you suffer from joint pain or other issues that prevent you from doing high-impact exercises such as running, but as you'll see, you'll burn almost an equal amount of calories as you would on a treadmill.
The Basics of Cardio
When you want to lose fat anywhere on your body, you have to do exercise that burns calories and helps reduce overall body fat. That's the way to lose fat -- not doing "spot-reducing" exercises such as leg lifts, for example. Because the elliptical trainer is primarily a piece of cardiovascular equipment, it can help lean out your legs, as well as the rest of your body.
The American College of Sports Medicine likens the elliptical trainer to a workout that uses your muscles in a way that is similar to cross-country skiing with stair-stepping -- both big calorie-burners. When you compare the elliptical to other cardio exercises, you'll see that it has a calorie-burning effect that is similar to running, bicycling or swimming. A 185-person can burn about 400 calories in 30 minutes using the elliptical trainer -- the same number of calories you could burn running a 5.2-MPH pace.
To lose 1 pound of overall body fat, you have to create a caloric deficit of 3,500 calories. On the elliptical, you'll be able to monitor the approximate number of calories you're burning by watching the computer monitor on the machine. Be sure to enter your weight into the machine as you start to get the most accurate reading, though keep in mind that the estimate you're seeing is just that -- an estimate. Elliptical trainers often overestimate the number of calories you're burning during a given workout, reminds the National Council on Strength & Fitness.
Add Some Resistance
So long as you're sweating and it's difficult to say more than a few words at a time, you're probably working out at an intensity that is going to give you beneficial calorie-burning results. Your biggest allies in your quest to slim down your legs are time and intensity; the more time you spend and the harder you work, the more calories you'll burn. The elliptical also has muscle-building benefits, but don't be so concerned about "bulking up" that you neglect to add resistance to the pedals. You don't need to increase the resistance setting to a 7 or 8 -- that's going to be challenging for anyone -- but you shouldn't work out at a zero or one, either. Aim for a moderate level of resistance, such as a three or four, that will intensify your workout and force you to push down and pull up on the pedals.