When you have fitness goals to achieve, it can be beneficial to monitor the numbers. Body weight, body mass, and your resting and maximum heart rates are all important numbers to monitor at different times during your exercise routine. If the elliptical machine is your cardio machine of choice, you'll be able to keep track your heart rate using the sensors typically included on the machine -- though it's important to keep some things in mind before you rely solely on those figures.
When it comes to exercising using an elliptical machine, not all machines are created equal in terms of comfort, price and overall ease of use, according to a study conducted by the American Council on Exercise. Their electronic sensors may also be slightly off, giving you false readings for the number of calories you're burning, and possibly even mis-reading your current heart rate. But in spite of that, elliptical trainers will generally all give you a decent, low-impact workout. You just may have to use your own calculations and feelings to determine whether you're getting the workout you want.
Maximum Heart Rate
When you do cardiovascular exercise on an elliptical machine -- or any other type of machine -- you want to be within a certain range to get the most of your workout, while at the same time avoiding injury. The first step to knowing that range is calculating your maximum heart rate. An old-school way of doing that is to subtract your age from 220. Another way suggested for women is to multiply your age by .88 and then subtract that number from 206. According to a report in the New York Times, this may be a more accurate way to calculate maximum heart rate for women.
The next step is to determine your ideal range for exertion. Multiply your maximum heart rate first by .5 and then by .85, and write down the two numbers so you don't forget. The number you get by multiplying by .5 is the low end of your target heart rate during exercise; the .85 is the high end -- meaning you don't really want to go above 85 percent of your maximum heart rate or below 50 percent when exercising.
On the Elliptical
When you're in the middle of a workout on the elliptical, you have two options for testing your heart rate. One, you could place your hands on those metal bars on the handles of the machine and press the "Heart Rate" button -- though this may or may not be accurate. Another way is to place your middle and pointer fingers on the carotid artery, where your jaw meets your neck, and count the number of beats in 10 seconds. With the elliptical's easy circular motion, you should be able to take one hand off the handles for that amount of time. After 10 seconds, multiply that number by 6 to get the number of times your heart is beating per minute. If it's lower than your 50 percent of maximum heart rate, speed up on the elliptical or add more resistance. If your heart is beating more than 85 percent of max, slow down or reduce your resistance.