Getting a good sweat with an elliptical machine is one effective way to lose weight and stay healthy. But most of us can only squeeze a 15-minute elliptical workout into our busy schedule. Is that enough?

Depending on your body weight and exercise intensity, 15 minutes on the elliptical can burn 112 calories on average. Since we need to burn 400 to 500 calories five days each week, this routine is not enough. You probably won’t see results fast, too.

Don’t be disheartened, though. A 15-minute workout on the elliptical trainer can still deliver health benefits.

Moreover, intensifying your workout or slightly stretching your exercise time can work wonders, especially if your fitness goal is to lose weight.

Keep reading to find out how you can do just that.

What Can I Get from a 15-Minute Elliptical Workout?

15 minutes elliptical workouts are too short to achieve the ideal calorie deficit per day.

But, it is a good starting point towards a more active lifestyle, better stamina and healthier physique.

This exercise time is also enough to warm up your body and gain the following benefits.

1. Gain stronger leg muscles

Ellipticals are excellent for full-body workouts, but your legs do more of the hard work. That’s good, considering your legs have the largest muscle groups.

And the more muscles involved in the exercise, the more calories you burn, even while at rest.

It helps you perform better in moderate sports activities like running and cycling.

Also, keeping your legs active for a short time lets you do daily activities without immediate soreness while gaining the benefit of losing weight.

2. Perform active recovery

If you have an injury and cannot do your usual activities, a 15-minute elliptical workout can help you get back on track.

Of course, you need to consult a medical professional beforehand. But an elliptical is generally best for low-impact exercise.

It can prod your body to move again and speed up recovery without straining your joints. You get to warm up your muscles and burn calories, too.

A friendly looking young man exercising on an elliptical machine, with a female companion doing the same thing in the background

3. Keep the excess weight off

Quick elliptical exercises are better than no physical activity at all. And as I’ve mentioned, a 15-minute elliptical workout can burn about 112 calories.

If you complement this routine with exercise consistency and a healthy diet, you can avoid gaining too much weight and unhealthy belly size.

Try increasing the resistance of your elliptical machine and pedalling faster for better effects.

It also helps to wear a heart monitor and stay within your calorie-burning zone the entire workout.

4. Increase cardio capacity

A short 15-minute elliptical exercise can put your heart and lungs to work, which is a great cardiovascular exercise. It’s crucial for maintaining a healthy well-being.

It can boost your endurance, too. Increasing aerobic capacity early in life also lessens cardiovascular disease risks during your senior years.

5. Gain better balance

Poor posture can make you prone to muscle stiffness and body pains.

In worst cases, it can also lead to reduced productivity, breathing difficulty and digestive issues.

Regular physical activity, no matter how short, can help avoid these. An elliptical machine, in particular, is ideal for proper posture training.

It involves your upper and lower body during exercise plus keeps you upright.

Try letting go of the handles while pedalling. This way, you focus more on maintaining a straight body, which helps improve your balance.

An elliptical machine is also an excellent variation to strengthen your back muscles and backbone.

How Long Should I Use an Elliptical?

A 15-minute elliptical exercise may be ideal for keeping yourself active and healthy.

But you’ll need to level up this routine if your goal is weight loss.

If you exercise for 15 minutes five days weekly, you’ll be doing 75 minutes of physical activity.

However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week for adults.

That means your workout should be at least 30 minutes for better health outcomes.

Later, you can adjust this to 45 minutes to 1 hour (or 250 minutes of weekly exercise) to boost weight loss results.

Now, if 15 minutes is all that you can spare, you can do high-intensity interval training (HIIT) instead.

Young athletic woman checking her smart watch

How Can I Add HIIT to My 15-Minute Elliptical Workout?

High-intensity interval training comprises short bursts of vigorous moves followed by lower-intensity exercises or rest periods.

The goal is to reach a maximum heart rate of 70-90%, then bring it down to 55-65% during recovery.

But how can HIIT and heart rate monitoring help optimise your workout?

When we increase the intensity of our exercises, our body will begin demanding more oxygen.

And the more oxygen we take in, the higher the metabolic process.

The best part is this increased metabolic rate continues even after your workout, also called resting energy expenditure (REE).

This effect further stresses why regular exercise is crucial to successful weight loss.

You can perform HIIT without exercise equipment. But if you have an elliptical trainer, you can incorporate it into your 15-minute routine with these ideas.

Adjust the resistance

  • Begin your elliptical workout at your starting resistance level for 1 minute. If you’re a beginner, you can start with zero resistance. For future sessions, shift to low intensity when you’re ready.
  • After 1 minute, switch to higher resistance. Start pedalling as fast as you can. If you have a monitor, ensure your heart rate is within the HIIT goal.
  • After a few seconds, switch back to your original resistance setting to give your heart time to recover. When ready, start pedalling on high intensity again.
  • Alternate between periods of high and low-intensity pedalling for 15 minutes.

The duration of each interval is up to you.

What’s important is to stay within the target heart rate, warm up first, and then cool down after your workout.

Alter the incline

  • Begin your elliptical workout on a comfortable incline for 1 minute. Ideally, start with any incline level except on a flat plane.
  • After 1 minute, double your starting incline level. Continue pedalling for 1 minute before increasing the incline again.
  • Continue doubling your incline level for every 1-minute mark for the first 5 minutes of your workout.
  • After 5 minutes, lower the incline level to your starting position for recovery.
  • Repeat the 4-minute incline adjustment and 1-minute recovery until your 15 minutes is up.

It’s okay if your elliptical does not have an adjustable incline. You can always stick to the resistance adjustment option.

But if you’re looking for an elliptical trainer with an incline feature, check out the NordicTrack Elliptical 9.9.

Woman training with an elliptical machine in the gym


A 15-minute elliptical workout may be too short for fast and successful weight loss. But it is enough to keep yourself active, healthy and productive.

Squeezing in even minimal exercise per week to your schedule is always better than zero physical activity.

But if you want better benefits, consider doubling your moderate-intensity exercise time or doing high-intensity workouts.

Choose the workout option that suits you best. Your best choice should keep you exercising and make the most of your elliptical trainer.

Are you looking to buy or upgrade your current machine? Check out my list of the best elliptical cross trainers you can find in Australia.

1. How long does it take to see results from an elliptical?

You burn about 200-400 calories in a 30-minute elliptical session. If you do this for 3-5 days weekly as a weight loss routine, you might start seeing workout results in a month. The results are more evident on the 6th or 8th week. Stay motivated by adding more challenging variations or doing other forms of exercise. Healthy eating will give you a positive impact too.

2. What else can I do to make my elliptical workout more effective?

Make sure not to slouch or lose focus to avoid reducing the rewards of your elliptical session. Master the proper form while on the elliptical to achieve the best results and minimise post-workout soreness. It’s also vital that you know how to use your cross trainer correctly. Adjust your speed, resistance or incline to make your exercise time fun yet challenging.