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Safety Tips for Using an Elliptical

When I came up with the idea of writing a blog about safety tips for using an elliptical, several people in the office looked at me with a strange stare. They then asked why anyone would need safety tips for an elliptical. They are relatively straightforward machines without, they surmised, much room for needing safety tips. I simply replied, don’t underestimate the stupidity of those special people who walk among us. I’ve personally seen people, whom I assume in normal situations are pretty intelligent, do incredibly stupid things on exercise equipment in general and ellipticals in particular. So, I decided to come up with a list of things not to do while on an elliptical.


Do not let children use an elliptical or be around the elliptical while it is in use. First, let's discuss children on the elliptical. Elliptical machines are designed for adult sized humans, not mini-humans. Children’s legs are not long enough to reach the 18” stride length that most ellipticals have at a minimum and certainly not for 21” which many ellipticals can reach. Kids feet begin to slip back and forth on the footpads when attempting to use their natural gait and that is inherently unstable for their ability to balance on the machine. It is common for kids to fall off when attempting to use an elliptical machine and either cause a muscle or joint sprain or in more serious circumstances, to hit their heads and cause head trauma.

The second part of this is not to let children around the elliptical when in use by an adult. Ellipticals have articulating arms and wheels rolling on tracks. A curious child can attempt to lean against the arms while moving and get caught up in their movements. Broken arms, legs and fingers can be the result. Fingers and moving wheels are another way to get your child to the emergency room. Also you’ll have the added problem of explaining that the child got the injuries from the elliptical and not from child abuse. These cautions also apply to your pets.

Going Fast or Stopping Suddenly

Another big no-no on an elliptical is over speeding the machine. Time and time again I’ve seen people try to do a virtual sprint on and elliptical. These machines are not designed for that! Typically when people try to do this, bad things happen. If they are using a wheel and ramp design it is common for the wheels to jump the track and the user to get thrown off of the machine with the corresponding injuries that you would assume would happen when a person goes flying through the air and hits some hard surface.

The other side of this type of misuse is attempting to stop quickly on an elliptical when moving at a speed greater than a slow walk. Remember this statement: ELLIPTICALS HAVE FLYWHEELS! Because of the flywheel, ellipticals in motion have a property that a physics professor would call inertia. Inertia is the property of an object that is motion to stay in motion. So when you try to stop the machine suddenly, and the machine has more inertia than you have force to stop it, one of you will lose the battle. In my experience that is usually the user of the machine with the corresponding actions of being thrown off the machine and hitting hard objects that we discussed previously.

Just remember that ellipticals are perfectly safe machines to use when they are used properly and they are a great form of cardiovascular exercise. Just avoid the items that I’ve mentioned before to avoid some of the ways to hurt yourself or people that you love.