The basic motion of an elliptical trainer is a smooth, flowing … well … elliptical motion. The low impact nature of these machines greatly reduces stress on the joints of the lower body (ankles, knees, and hips).
Since it is a weight-bearing exercise, elliptical training promotes cell growth in the bones of the lower body and spine thus helping ward off the debilitating effects of osteoporosis. This is a distinct advantage that elliptical trainers have over other exercise devices that are not weight-bearing such as rowing machines and stationary bikes.
The other great advantage that elliptical trainers have over other exercise machines is that most models work the muscles of both the upper and lower body. These results in a cardiovascular efficiency that produces an equivalent training effect as other forms of exercise, but over a shorter period of time.
Joggers for example, will sometimes swing small dumbbells while jogging in order to achieve this training efficiency. This was popular during the height of the jogging craze during the 1980s, but is now rarely observed in the wild. Perhaps joggers decided it was not worth the hassle. Maybe they also finally realized how goofy they looked in the process. Remember, no one ever looks goofy while gracefully striding away on an elliptical trainer!
Cross Training with Elliptical Trainers
Cross training has come to mean several different things over the years. The original definition of cross training was the use of exercise moves that benefited an athlete's performance in a given sport. LaTely, the definition has expanded to mean doing a variety of cardio exercises, which also may include working out with weights.
If you're looking to maintain your condition for a sport, then elliptical trainers can get your heart rate up quickly and keep you in good cardiovascular condition. For non-athletes that just want to stay fit and lose a few pounds, then alternating training days between lifting weights and 20 minute sessions on an elliptical trainer will get you to your goal.
Whatever definition of cross training you go with, you can be sure that cross training with an elliptical trainer will fit your definition!