When it comes to indoor workouts, two of the most popular pieces of fitness equipment are the treadmill and the elliptical. Both provide high quality cardio workouts and are ideal pieces of equipment to have in the home or a commercial gym.
While there are similarities between these two machines, there are also some key differences. If you’re looking to discern which one is better, there really isn’t a simple answer. It really depends on your workout goals, physical health, and other factors we’ll discuss below.
Both types of machines have their pros and cons when it comes to working out. Keep reading to learn whether the treadmill or elliptical is the better fit for you.
There are many advantages to using an elliptical machine. Here are some of the top pros of using an elliptical:
The elliptical is considered a low-impact machine. If the jarring motion of walking or running is difficult for you to handle, an elliptical may be a good option.
Low-impact exercises tend to put less stress on your joints than a high-impact exercise does. For this reason, the elliptical is a safer option if you have a musculoskeletal condition such as lower back pain, knee or hip pain, or other health issues such as arthritis.
While low-impact exercise sounds like it may not be strenuous, it still provides a great aerobic workout. Studies on aerobic exercise found that those who partook in low-impact workouts improved their overall body composition, physical fitness, and cardiovascular health.
As we mentioned, even though an elliptical is a low-impact machine, it still gives you a high-intensity workout. This can be especially beneficial for those who are recovering from an injury, and want to maintain a high level of fitness.
A recent study found that calories burned, oxygen consumption and heart rate were nearly identical on both the elliptical and treadmill. This means that an elliptical is an acceptable alternative to the treadmill when it comes to choosing a form of cardio exercise.
Some elliptical machines have arm handles which can enable you to get an upper and lower body workout simultaneously. The resistance of the handles helps to work the muscles in your shoulders, chest, and back. At the same time, the machine helps you strengthen the muscles in your lower body, including your glutes, hip flexors, and quadriceps.
An elliptical gives you the option to change direction and move backward. The benefit of this is that it can change up the muscles you work. If you go backward instead of forward, you can work out and strengthen your calves and hamstrings.
Here are some cons to consider about using an elliptical machine:
If you haven’t worked out using an elliptical before, it may take some getting used to and may even feel awkward or unnatural initially. Ask a certified personal trainer for help if you’re not sure what to do.
While an elliptical is a great option for low-impact aerobic exercise, it doesn’t offer the same level of muscle development as you can get from a treadmill. If you’re looking to gain more muscle strength, consider adding weight or strength training to your routine a few times a week.
There are many advantages to using a treadmill. Here are some of the top pros of using a treadmill:
One of the greatest benefits of using a treadmill is the versatility it offers. Whether you want to do an invigorating walk or an uphill run, you have the choice to move at the speed and incline you prefer. Many treadmills also allow you to choose from a variety of training programs. Having more control over your workout can make it easier to reach your fitness goals.
Treadmills are also great for high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts. HIIT workouts are effective for burning calories, reducing body fat, and improving cardiovascular fitness in short periods of time.
Running or walking on the treadmill is great for strengthening your leg muscles, which includes your quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves. A treadmill workout can also strengthen your hip flexors and glutes.
To further strengthen your legs and to prevent the risk of injury, including squats and lunges into your workout a few times a week in addition to your treadmill workouts.
Here are some disadvantages to consider about using a treadmill:
Running or jogging on a treadmill can place more stress on your bones and joints when compared to using an elliptical, which can lead to injuries. Some common running injuries include shin splints, knee injuries, and stress fractures.
To reduce the risk of injuries, it’s important to start your treadmill workout with a warm-up and end with a cool down. It’s also important to stretch before and after your treadmill session.
While the treadmill can help you build strength in your leg muscles, hip flexors, and glutes, it doesn’t target as many muscle groups as an elliptical does. With an elliptical, you can work the muscles in your arms, shoulders, back, and chest, as well as the muscles in your lower body, unfortunately the treadmill doesn’t offer that option to the user.
If you’re trying to decide between a treadmill or an elliptical you need to consider your physical health and fitness goals. Both machines can be equally beneficial for burning calories and getting a good cardiovascular workout.
The treadmill may be a better fit for you if:
The treadmill may be a better fit for you if:
Both the treadmill and elliptical are effective fitness machines that can help you to get a cardiovascular workout. Which machine is a better option depends on your individual needs.
For example, if you have a health condition like osteoporosis or are injury-prone, you may want to choose an elliptical. Or, if you want to burn a lot of calories and build up leg strength and speed, the treadmill may be a better choice for you.