Treadmill Vs Elliptical: Which Is The Best Cardio Machine?

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Treadmill vs elliptical has always been a source of debate among fitness enthusiasts. In this 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 an 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.

1. 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, and 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.

Treadmill vs Elliptical
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2. Treadmill Pros

2.1. Having Control

Treadmills can help in controlling your pace and increase 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 (HIIT1) workouts. Studies suggest HIIT workouts are effective for burning calories2, reducing body fat, and improving cardiovascular fitness in a short period of time.

2.2. 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.

3. Treadmill Cons

Treadmill vs Elliptical
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3.1. Cause Injuries

Running or jogging on a treadmill can put as much stress as running on a surface. It could lead to joint pain as compared to working out on an elliptical trainer.

Some 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.

3.2. 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 a 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.

4. Treadmill vs Elliptical: Upper Body

The elliptical machine has two-foot holders where you can place your feet and two poles to hold onto. 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.

Treadmill vs Elliptical
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5. Elliptical Pros

5.1. 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.

5.2. 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 the elliptical and treadmills were similar. However, the researchers have concluded that elliptical exercise is much better compared to a treadmill.

5.3. Helps in Both Upper and Lower Body Workout

An elliptical gives you the option to switch directions 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.

6. Elliptical Cons

Between treadmill and 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.

6.1. 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.

6.2. 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.

7. 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.

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.

When it comes to burning calories, a Treadmill is generally considered to be more effective than an Elliptical. Treadmill workouts can burn up to 10% more calories compared to Elliptical workouts. This is due to the fact that running on a Treadmill engages more muscle groups and requires more effort, resulting in a higher calorie burn.

However, the calorie burn on an Elliptical also depends on various factors, such as resistance, incline, and intensity of the workout. A high-intensity Elliptical workout with resistance and incline adjustments can still burn a substantial number of calories.

Ultimately, the calorie burn on both machines will vary based on an individual’s body weight, age, and workout intensity. It’s best to consult a professional for a personalized evaluation and workout plan.

In Treadmill vs elliptical, the treadmill has more in case of versatility whereas the elliptical 3is about using it at your own pace. Also, with an incline and changing speed on a treadmill, it is a better option for weight loss and burning calories in a short duration of time.

8. Choosing the Correct Cardio Machine

Treadmills and Ellipticals are two popular pieces of cardio equipment in gyms and homes. Both offer an effective workout and have their own pros and cons. Here is a comparison of treadmill vs elliptical:

8.1 Treadmill:

  • Pros: Provides a full-body workout, burns more calories, improves cardiovascular health, and can be adjusted to simulate outdoor running.
  • Cons: Harder on joints, requires good balance and can be more intimidating for some people.

8.2 Elliptical:

  • Pros: Low impact, easy on joints, engages multiple muscle groups, and allows for a full-body workout.
  • Cons: Does not mimic outdoor running, can become repetitive, and burns fewer calories than a treadmill.

Ultimately, the choice between a Treadmill and an Elliptical depends on personal preference, fitness goals, and physical limitations. It’s recommended to try both machines and see which one you enjoy and which benefits you the most. 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.

Treadmill vs Elliptical
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9. Conclusion

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
  • Need to train for a 5k or 10 k race.
  • Need to do strength training in your glutes and leg muscles.

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10. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. Is a treadmill or elliptical machine a better investment for cardio workouts?

It depends on personal preference and fitness goals. Both treadmills and elliptical machines offer cardiovascular 4benefits, but each has unique features. Treadmills allow for running and walking, while ellipticals offer low-impact workout options with the option to add upper body movement. It’s recommended to try out both and choose the one that you enjoy using more.

Q. What are the differences between an elliptical, a treadmill, and a stepper?

Elliptical, Treadmill and Stepper are types of fitness equipment.

  1. Elliptical:
  • Low-impact, gliding motion that mimics running without putting stress on the joints.
  • Workouts mainly target legs, glutes, and core.
  1. Treadmill:
  • Mimics outdoor running, provides a moving surface to run or walk on.
  • Workouts mainly target legs and cardio.
  1. Stepper:
  • Low-impact exercise that simulates the motion of climbing stairs.
  • Workouts mainly target legs, glutes, and core.

Q. What is the difference of an elliptical workout vs treadmill?

Elliptical and Treadmill are both cardio machines used for exercise, but there are differences between their workouts:

  1. Motion: Elliptical provides a low-impact gliding motion, while Treadmill provides a running or walking motion that is a higher impact.
  2. Joint Stress: The gliding motion of the Elliptical puts less stress on joints compared to the running motion on the Treadmill.
  3. Muscle Targeting: Elliptical workouts tend to target the legs, glutes, and core, while Treadmill workouts target legs and cardio more.
  4. Variety: Ellipticals usually offer adjustable resistance and incline, providing more variety to the workout, while Treadmills are limited to changing speed and incline.

Ultimately, the choice between Elliptical and Treadmill will depend on personal preference, fitness goals, and physical capabilities.

orkout if used regularly and with proper form and technique.

  1. Martin-Smith, Rhona, et al. “High intensity interval training (HIIT) improves cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) in healthy, overweight and obese adolescents: a systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled studies.” International journal of environmental research and public health 17.8 (2020): 2955. ↩︎
  2. Hall, Kevin D., et al. “The energy balance model of obesity: beyond calories in, calories out.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 115.5 (2022): 1243-1254. ↩︎
  3. Shafkat, Araf, et al. “Design and analysis of a single elliptical channel photonic crystal fiber sensor for potential malaria detection.” Journal of Sol-gel science and technology 98 (2021): 202-211. ↩︎
  4. Skalidis, Ioannis, Olivier Muller, and Stephane Fournier. “CardioVerse: The cardiovascular medicine in the era of Metaverse.” Trends in Cardiovascular Medicine (2022). ↩︎

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