Do Elliptical Machines Need Power?

Thinking of getting an elliptical machine for your own home gym set-up, but unsure whether it needs electricity to run?

Whenever you’re considering investing in some new workout equipment for the home, you’ll want to know whether or not you need to plug it into the mains in order for it to function. 

But do elliptical machines need power? Different elliptical machines have different requirements when it comes to power. Practically speaking, it is possible to build elliptical machines that run entirely off human motion, and there are a number of models out there which do just this.

However, there are also many elliptical machines with electronic features that rely on some form of external power supply, either mains or battery. 

Today, we’re going to take a look at the different ways elliptical machines can get their power, and whether electricity supply is something you need to think carefully about before investing in a cross trainer of your own.

Do Elliptical Machines Need Power?

Can You Use an Elliptical Without Electricity?

Confusion often arises when trying to answer this question, so let’s try to break it down. 

It’s perfectly possible to have a fully-functioning cross trainer that doesn’t need electricity to run. Indeed, there are a range of models from budget to higher-end that boast of being entirely ‘self-powered’.

However, in practice, many models out on the market do require some form of external power supply in order to have full functionality.  

The range of motion afforded by the elliptical, unlike that of a treadmill but similar to an air bike is frequently driven by human energy. The vast majority of treadmills use a motor to operate the elliptical drive belt that you then run along, but this is not the same as cross trainers.

With cross trainers, you provide the power that drives the machine. This can lead some people to think that cross trainers are inevitably ‘self-powered’ and therefore require no mains plug-in or battery.

However, in practice, many elliptical trainers in fact rely upon a mains supply or battery in order to have full functionality.

Many models boast a range of digital functions, including multimedia screens, bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, LCD displays, audio speakers, and more, that require some form of steady power supply to work. 

Sunny Health & Fitness SF-E905 Elliptical Machine Cross Trainer with 8 Level Resistance and Digital Monitor , Gray, White, 28 L x 17 W x 57 H

There is also the matter of resistance, a key aspect of any decent cross trainer that will allow you to ramp up the toughness of your workouts by making it more difficult to pedal.

Different machines manage this in different ways, but the most effective usually involve some form of magnetic resistance.

This involves magnetic force being applied in greater or lesser degrees to the rotating flywheel. Some elliptical trainers ramp up the resistance by moving the magnetic material closer to the flywheel, thus exerting more force.

Others increase an electromagnetic current, in turn exerting a greater amount of ‘drag’ on the wheel. 

In both instances, a steady electrical supply may be required in order to function, though it is also possible to alter resistance manually on some models.

For example, manual levers or dials can mechanically move a magnet closer or further away from the flywheel. On other machines, fans that are driven by the motion of the user can be used to add wind resistance, so the faster you pedal, the harder you have to push. 

In short, there is no ‘one size fits all’ answer to the question. In theory, even machines that say they need a mains supply should be able to function in some form without it.

However, it may be that you will be unable to vary resistance or control the machine in the way it is designed. 

Always check with the manufacturer and look through the user manual prior to purchase. Reputable retailers will allow you to do this for free and many websites allow you to download manuals for prospective purchases. 

As with any piece of gym equipment (like a glider), it is always worth going in-person to a knowledgeable gym provider in order to try out and view the kit yourself.

Ask questions about whether the machine still retains functionality when it is unplugged, or whether you have to have it hooked up to the mains in order to workout at all. 

How Much Electricity Does a Cross Trainer Use?

We’re all looking for ways to stay green and eco-efficient, particularly with rising energy bills! The good news is that, even if your cross trainer does require a mains supply to function, the effect on your electricity bill isn’t likely to be catastrophic. 

Because the main motion of the machine does not require electricity to drive it (unlike the majority of treadmills) the actual energy drain of your elliptical is likely to be low.

Schwinn Fitness 470 Elliptical

The power needed to operate a digital display or wireless connectivity is probably relatively modest compared to what’s needed to power a treadmill conveyor belt, or other household appliances. 

If electricity is required to generate electro-magnetic resistance, this may increase the drain on your supply. Furthermore, like other large home appliances, ellipticals can draw quite a lot of amps, meaning they may require their own dedicated circuits. 

Always check the manufacturer requirements before installation. If in doubt, have a certified electrician assess and fit any dedicated circuits required. 

How Do Elliptical Machines Get Their Power?

If your cross trainer is not an entirely ‘self-powered’ model, then it is likely to get its power from one of two ways.

Many, if not most, cross trainers on the market rely in some way on mains connectivity. They will usually come with an AC adaptor that you can then plug in to mains sockets.

The advantage of mains supply machines is that you won’t need to replace batteries and, as long as you have a reliable energy supply and decent surge protection, you shouldn’t have to worry about your machine suddenly losing functionality. 

Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Elliptical Trainer Machine w/Device Holder, Programmable Monitor and Heart Rate Monitoring, 330 LB Max Weight - SF-E3912

Some machines may require batteries, either rechargeable or disposable. The obvious downside to battery powered equipment is that batteries at some point need replacing or recharging. However, this can also give you more flexibility in terms of where you place your machine.

It also avoids you having to deal with extra wires, connections, or worrying about whether you’ve plugged too many things into one side of the room. 

Self-powered machines rely on human energy to run! There are some higher end machines that store the energy generated by the user, before using this to power a range of functions, including LCD displays and more.

Some self-powered machines don’t have the same broad functionality, operating instead with magnetic resistance that can be adjusted manually or wind-resistance powered by human motion. 

Final thoughts

Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer as to whether your new elliptical machine will require electricity to run. It all depends on the machine you go for!

It is certainly possible to get entirely self-powered models, though in practice many cross trainers on the market rely on mains or battery power for full functionality and range of resistance.

Your best option is always to check out your prospective purchase in person, to see how it functions both plugged in and otherwise.

Local gym managers and technicians should also be able to advise you on how they power their equipment and whether or not certain models have certain advantages in this regard. 

Manufacturer models should also outline in detail any power requirements and safety considerations for specific builds, so it is always worth checking the documentation before installation. 

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An ex-triathlete, fitness coach and writer with a Masters in Sports Physiology. Fitness is my passion and I've had my fair share of home fitness equipment tried and tested!