In a recent post about how cheating on your workouts could mean you are cheating on your health, I used holding onto the handles while on a cardio machine as an example of cheating. One user didn't understand, so I wanted to clarify.
"I hold onto the elliptical handles . . . I mean, you have to move them. I'm a little confused by this."
Good point! And I think I can help you understand it better. To find out my answer, just read more.
I really meant this comment to be geared toward the folks who hold onto the machine for dear life by leaning their weight into the side bars of the treadmill, stair climber, elliptical, etc. Using the handles for balance is OK, it's when you start to use the handles to relieve some of the resistance that it becomes a problem. Plus, since you often have to lean over to hold on to the machine, you're putting yourself at risk for injury because your body will not be properly aligned.
On an elliptical machine specifically, try not to hold on to the machine for the purpose of making it easier. In fact, using your arms to move the movable handles is altogether different and is often part of the exercise; it may even lead to a greater calorie burn because you are enabled to get a fuller body workout. But think about letting go of the movable handles too, as this will add another element to your exercise by working your core (as you compensate using the rest of your body to stay balanced). Try this fun routine to get you used to letting go of the handles every once in a while.