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Treadmill vs elliptical has always been a source of debate among fitness enthusiasts. In this treadmill vs elliptical article, we offer a comparative analysis of their advantages and disadvantages to help you pick the best cardio machine for you.
Both stimulate natural movement and have the ability to improve cardiovascular fitness. Treadmills are for walking or running on the moving belt. Also, you can control the speed and incline. In elliptical trainer, on the other hand, you keep your feet on the platform and move in ellipses or elongated circles.
There are similarities and differences but in the end, it boils down to fitness goals, health conditions, and other criteria. Both the treadmill and elliptical have their pros and cons when it comes to basic aerobic workouts.
So without further ado, let us find out more about this treadmill vs elliptical debate.
A. Treadmill vs Elliptical: Lower Body
A treadmill is a device that has a conveyor belt on which you walk, jog or run. You can control the speed, the incline, track how much distance you have covered, pace, and also program interval training.
The treadmill mimics running, jogging, and walking. It is basically for lower body workouts. By sprinting on it, your cores will tighten. Hitting a tough treadmill workout can help in exercising your calves, glutes, hamstrings, quads, and abs.
Therefore, for the treadmill vs elliptical debate, the treadmill benefits avid runners and race training. You can also track mileage, monitor your pace, and accordingly set your goals.
If you don’t prefer hour-long runs, you can create shorter HIIT workouts by selecting your intervals and rest intervals. A high-intensity interval training can last 10-30 minutes and can be useful for someone who has set endurance or weight loss goals.
B. Treadmill Pros
1. Having Control
Treadmills can help in controlling your pace and increasing your speed. It will help in focusing on running. One of the main benefits of exercising on a treadmill is the versatility you can have. Whether you want to do a brisk walk or an uphill run, you have the option to dial in the exact speed and incline of your workout.
Most treadmills also allow you to choose from a variety of training programs. Having more control over your workout may make it easier to reach your fitness goals.
Because you can easily control the speed and incline, treadmills are well-suited to high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts. Studies suggest HIIT workouts are effective for burning calories, reducing body fat, and improving cardiovascular fitness in a short period of time.
2. Leg Strength
Treadmill running helps you focus on your running form without the impact of running on the ground.
Although your natural running is limited because the conveyor belt is doing all the work to make you go forward, your leg muscles and feet don’t have to participate that much.
If you can switch from time to time, outdoor running helps in doing drills and working on your running as treadmills can cause some people to have a shorter gait.
C. Treadmill Cons
1. Cause Injuries
In Treadmill vs Elliptical, running or jogging on a treadmill can put as much stress as running on a surface. It could lead more to joint pain as compared to working out on an elliptical trainer.
Some of the running injuries are shin splints, knee injuries, joint injuries, and stress fractures. So to avoid such injuries you can start your fitness routine on the treadmill with a warm-up and end it with a cool down. Also, don’t forget to stretch after the treadmill workout.
If running becomes difficult on the treadmill you can switch to other cardio machines as they are less stressful on your bones and joints. Also, try to reduce the number of miles you run per week or switch between running and walking. Wearing running shoes might provide support and reduce injuries.
2. Fewer Muscles
In Treadmills vs elliptical, treadmills will help you in strengthening your leg muscles, hip flexors, and glutes. An elliptical aims at your arm muscles, shoulders, back, chest, and lower body muscles. Also by reversing, an elliptical will isolate specific muscles which can be harder with a treadmill.
If you don’t like running, treadmills can still be effective in strengthening your lower body. It will work if you are running on an incline. The treadmill will help you in strengthening your legs’ endurance.
You must avoid treadmills if you have an ankle, knee or hip injury. Although treadmill reduces the stress on your joints compared to running on the sidewalk. So you could still go for biking, swimming or elliptical as they all have less impact.
D. Treadmill vs Elliptical: Upper Body
The elliptical machine has two-foot holders where you can place your fees and two poles to hold on to. When your arms pull the handles back and forth your feet exercises in the shape of ellipses and that’s where the word elliptical is originating from.
In elliptical trainers, you go forward and backward. Also, you can increase the resistance settings, and that in turn will make your muscles work harder. Also, some ellipticals allow you to change the incline.
The elliptical strengthens your hamstrings, quads, glutes, and lower body muscles. When you push and pull their handles, the elliptical helps you to exercise your arm and upper back muscles. The elliptical focus on the upper body and it does provide a full-body workout compared to a treadmill.
To make your core stronger you can use the machine hands-free.
E. Elliptical Pros
1. Easier for Joints
For the treadmill vs elliptical debate, one can say that elliptical machines have a low impact so it puts less stress on the joints. The elliptical is much safer if you are suffering from a musculoskeletal condition such as low-back pain, knee or hip pain or arthritis, or osteoporosis.
Although low impact exercise isn’t that strenuous it is still a good aerobic workout.
2. Works after Injury
The elliptical is a low-impact machine exercise equipment. If it’s hard for you to tolerate the jarring motion of walking or running, an elliptical may be a good option.
A 2017 study on aerobic exercise found that a 24-week program improved the body composition, physical fitness, and cardiovascular fitness of the research subjects.
If you just recovered from an injury, the elliptical offers a high-intensity workout. It is a low-impact exercise or active recovery and can help in maintaining fitness.
A peer-reviewed study has found that the oxygen consumption, heart rate and calories burned on elliptical and treadmill were similar. However, the researchers have concluded that elliptical exercise is much better compared to a treadmill.
3. Helps in Both Upper and Lower Body Workout
An elliptical gives you the option to switch direction and can be worked backward. This can change the targeting muscles. If you go backward, you’ll work out and strengthen your calves and hamstrings.
F. Elliptical Cons
Between Treadmill vs Elliptical, the elliptical is not suitable for functional training. If your fitness goal is to be good at what fitness experts call ” functional movements” like running, jumping, throwing, etc, then solely training on this machine is not effective.
Elliptical might not be very useful if you want to note your mileage especially if you are using different machines. Not all ellipticals are created equally. Also, the time difference to complete a mile on one device could be different from the other.
1. Learning Curve
If you aren’t used to working on an elliptical it will take time to get accustomed. Initially, your movement will be awkward and unnatural. It is better to consult a certified personal trainer if you are not used to the elliptical.
2. Limited Muscles Developed
Muscle development can be less while using the elliptical because it is a low-impact aerobic exercise. So if you want to gain more muscle strength and still continue with elliptical then you should add weight-bearing exercise to your fitness routine.
G. Treadmill vs Elliptical: Burning Calories
Many people have the misconception in treadmill v elliptical, that working out on a treadmill helps in calorie burn more effectively.
According to a study by the medical college of Wisconsin, an individual has a calorie burn of 705 to 866 by running on the treadmill. It depends on the individual, speed, and incline. Comparatively more calories are burned through one hour of elliptical which is 773 calories.
In the treadmill vs elliptical debate, an elliptical is better for cardio exercises that have a low impact on your joints. However, if you want to work out intensely and are not worried about any joint-related issues then the treadmill is the best deal for calorie burn.
In Treadmill vs elliptical, the treadmill has more in case of versatility whereas the elliptical is about using it at your own pace. Also, with incline and changing speed on a treadmill, it is a better option for weight loss and burning calories in a short duration of time.
H. Choosing the Correct Cardio Machine: Treadmill Vs Elliptical
Before you consider choosing the cardio machine, elliptical vs treadmill, for your home or gym, you should consider using different machines and then choose.
The best investment should be based on health, goals, and budget. Both machines can be equally beneficial for burning calories and getting a good cardiovascular workout.
Therefore, in the conclusion of the treadmill vs elliptical debate,
Upon choosing elliptical:
- You get a good workout on this cardio machine with less effort on your bones and joints
- It will prevent injury while you exercise.
- You can get both upper body and lower body workouts in a short duration of time
On the flip side, the treadmill is better if:
- You don’t have any joint issues
- You need to train for a 5k or 10 k race.
- You need to do strength training in your glutes and leg muscles.
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