Burn more calories than you consume.
The elliptical machine is an effective tool for weight loss as well as cardiovascular health. It's your personal fitness goals that are going to dictate what setting you choose to use. The difference between the fat-burning and the cardiovascular settings root in the intensity of your performance, which in turn affects where your body is pulling from as a source of energy.
It may sound counter-intuitive to move at a slower pace in order to burn fat but that's exactly what the fat-burning mode is there to monitor. With this setting you'll be moving at a pace where you can still have a conversation. If you start to move too fast, your heart rate will increase and the machine will let you know to take it down a notch. You'll be getting plenty of oxygen, which is what your body needs to burn fat. In fact, more oxygen is required to burn fat than carbohydrates.
When in Cardio Mode
Your muscles are getting less oxygen in the cardio mode because you're working at a much higher intensity to maintain a higher target heart rate. While this doesn't allow enough oxygen to burn a lot of fat, it's blasting calories, which is essential to overall weight loss. Most of what's being used in this mode is carbohydrates. The higher intensity is also going to improve cholesterol levels, strengthen your heart and lower your blood pressure.
Target Heart Rate Explained
Your target heart rate is a percentage taken from your maximum heart rate and it reflects the desired intensity of your workout. If you're striving for high calories shed in the cardio zone, then you'll need your heart rate to be between 70 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate. If you'd like to stay in the fat-burning zone, you'll need to maintain a heart rate that's between the 60- to 70-percent range of your maximum heart rate. To get these numbers, you'll have to first calculate what your maximum heart rate is. There are activity calculators available, but there's a formula you can apply to figure it out for yourself. Simply subtract your age from 220.
Your Workout Mode
If you're new to working out, moderate intensity is what you should start out with. You can work your way up to higher intensity gradually as your endurance increases. Both settings are going to allow you to burn calories and fat, it's simply a matter of which will be dominant. If losing weight is your goal, you need to create a calorie deficit. You do that by burning more than you consume. There are 3,500 calories in one pound of fat and the cardio setting is going to blast calories much faster.