These days there are a wealth of devices out there on the fitness market that monitor activity, count steps, measure heartbeat, and track distance. From FitBits to Apple Watches, increasing numbers of people are using live data in order to keep an eye on their health and physical wellbeing.
If you’re someone who uses steps as a reliable measure of activity, you might be keen to ensure that any new exercise machine you use accurately records steps so that they can be added to your daily total. Do elliptical machines do this reliably, and how exactly do they measure steps?
So do cross trainers count steps? Cross trainers do have a function for counting steps, usually marking each step as a single foot travelling from the foremost position to the rearmost position on the machine. As the stride length of each machine can differ, the length of a ‘step’ on any machine can often vary too.
How Many Steps is 30 Minutes on a Cross Trainer?
If you’re looking to calculate steps on an elliptical machine for the purpose of adding them to your daily total, how can you do this accurately?
Stride lengths for machines can vary and can also frequently be altered to suit the size of the user, so in terms of distance your elliptical steps might not accurately match your usual walking stride. However, the effort you need to exert in order to take one elliptical ‘step’ is also not the same as a single walking step.
An elliptical step will usually take more energy, particularly when resistance is involved. In this sense, the steps taken on an elliptical can not necessarily be equated in terms of energy expended through other traditional forms of walking or running.
Does Elliptical Count as Steps?
The elliptical doesn’t count as steps per se. But counting steps is typically used as a measure of daily activity. However, this does not mean that you can’t add them to your daily total. If the elliptical itself does not count steps for you, there are a number of ways you can calculate a total yourself.
One of the easiest ways would be to take your own measurements. Set a timer for one minute and count how many full strides you take on the elliptical during this time, going at a pace and resistance level that roughly matches your average workout rate.
You should then be able to multiply this number by however many minutes you workout for to get a relatively good step estimate. Of course, the more you vary the speed and intensity of your workout throughout a session, the less accurate this will prove.
There are also a number of pre-made calculations available that try to equate different exercises with a certain number of ‘walking steps’, for people looking to incorporate different activities into their total daily step count.
One such step conversion chart, put together by Albemarle Regional Health Services, equates 1 minute of elliptical workout with 203 walking steps. This would equate 30 minutes of elliptical workout with 6090 steps.
We’ve seen this number being quoted quite widely across various exercise websites and articles. However, this seems like a bit of a high estimate.
You only need to visualise the number of steps per second (more than 3.38!) and then picture the pace of this to get a sense that this may not be entirely accurate. Alternatively, try putting 203 into a metronome and listen to how fast this is. Imagine your legs moving at this rate!
Another health website has used measurements based on Metabolic Equivalent Rate to try to workout rough step estimates for ellipticals.
I would suggest that the rate quoted here – 132 steps per minute for moderate intensity elliptical training – is probably more accurate. Using this calculation, 30 minutes of elliptical would equate to 3960 steps.
Alternatively you can purchase a smart watch, I recommend using a fit bit which will count your steps accurately:
Does Cross Trainer Count as Steps on Apple Watch?
If everything is functioning properly, then your Apple Watch should be able to count steps on the elliptical and include this in your daily total.
The Apple Watch is designed to record steps automatically throughout the day, including during workout sessions, and to incorporate them accordingly into your daily activity measures.
However, some people on forums have complained that their Apple Watch does not always pick up or accurately measure steps when they are using the elliptical. This is not necessarily an issue unique to the Apple Watch. Other fitness trackers and smartwatches can suffer from the same issue.
With the Apple Watch, steps and activity are usually calculated via a mixture of movement sensing, GPS, and heart-rate. The watch sensing the swinging back and forth of your arm is usually the primary factor determining step count.
As a result, elliptical workouts involving handles and upper body should, in theory, measure steps relatively accurately. As you will be taking a step for each arm swing, the watch shouldn’t have too much difficulty counting as it usually would.
If your elliptical machine is lower body only, some people try attaching the watch to their shoe or their ankle, to mimic the movement of a swinging arm. It is also worth checking that wrist detection is turned on via the settings of your smart watch.
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!