Elliptical vs Treadmill: Which is Best for You?

June 6, 2016

Are you looking to purchase cardio equipment but aren’t sure whether a treadmill or elliptical is best for you? The following might help you make a decision if you only have the option for one piece of equipment.

You will find that both a treadmill and an elliptical cross trainer deliver a great cardio workout and provide an effective means of training. Both equipment types are a great way to escape the weather all while getting your heart rate up and burning calories. There are however, advantages and disadvantages to each so it’s important to find your best fit.


cardiovascular fitness comparison guide

Elliptical Machine Benefits

  1. One of the primary elliptical machine benefits is that it provides a low-impact cardiovascular workout letting you avoid the pounding associated with other activities such as running. If done correctly, there is minimal impact on the hip, knee, and ankle joints. Along with an elliptical, an exercise bike and rowing machine will provide a low-impact workout as well.
  2. Unlike a treadmill, an elliptical can deliver a full-body workout provided you use the handles. To do so effectively, you will want to actively push and pull on the handles while engaging your core muscles. This done in conjunction with the movement and power generated from your legs will provide all-around muscle toning. If you are looking to mainly target your lower body, you can however forgo the use of the handles focusing most muscle exertion to your legs and core.
  3. Generally speaking, an elliptical may be slightly safer than a treadmill since your feet never leave the pedals. This eliminates the potential misstep resulting in a potential fall or loss of balance.
  4. Depending on the type of treadmill, some treadmills will require periodic maintenance whereas an elliptical does not require regular maintenance. While the maintenance is only requires the lubricating and possible centering of the treadmill belt, if you are looking for a no-maintenance machine you may want to consider an elliptical or no-maintenance treadmill.
  5. Depending on the model, some elliptical machines will let you pedal backwards allowing you to more directly target a different set of leg muscles.

Treadmill Benefits

  1. Running on a treadmill provides you with a more consistent workout when relating to running outdoors. Targeting your calves, quads, hamstrings, glutes, and hip muscles. Treadmill running provides a great means of training for your outdoor runs and races in the comfort and convenience of your home or gym. When the weather outside isn’t ideal or if your schedule doesn’t permit the time, running on a treadmill may be the perfect alternative.
  2. Unlike an elliptical, running on a treadmill allows for your feet to completely lift off the treadmill belt. In doing so you are required to engage your ab muscles more to keep your body stable and centered within the treadmill.
  3. While both a treadmill and elliptical have roughly the same footprint, treadmills are generally shorter and easier to fit within an average sized ceiling height. Not only is an elliptical machine taller, but it also requires more room due to the ocular rotation of the pedals. Furthermore, people tend to “bounce” while using an elliptical, especially at the apex of the rotation requiring additional available head space. All things considered, if you have limited available space, a treadmill may be the best fit.


muscles used while running

Weight Loss: Elliptical vs Treadmill

For the most part, all forms of cardio exercise equipment have the same potential for weight loss. It all depends on the amount of effort you are willing to put into it. The more you crank up the resistance, incline, or speed, the more you will maximize your caloric burn and weight loss potential. So if your end goal is weight loss, both a treadmill and elliptical will help you achieve your goal.


The bottom line: choose which option best fits your needs and remember fitness equipment is only beneficial if you use it! Set attainable goals and create a circle of health for yourself for today and the future!




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