Elliptical vs Treadmill

  • Date: December 15, 2021
  • Time to read: 9 min.

The treadmill has been a fitness mainstay for decades, yet its elliptical counterpart is quickly gaining steam. So which one is right for you?

As an avid runner and gym rat, I’m biased toward treadmills—but that doesn’t mean the elliptical doesn’t have a lot to offer, too. Both machines provide low-impact aerobic workouts, but they differ in how they mimic the movements of running and walking—and each one has its advantages.

The elliptical allows your body to move in a natural motion that emulates real life, while treadmills force you into repetitive strides that stop short of mimicking actual running.

That’s because the run on a treadmill is performed by making quick forward movements with your legs as you push off against the machine using momentum for extra help. The power needed to do this comes from an up and down motion of the arms so that doesn’t change much between walking or jogging speeds. Although it sounds more exhausting than just strolling on an elliptical, most people tend to work harder when on a treadmill because there’s simply less resistance.

However, the elliptical is more than just a glorified wooden bike because it doesn’t require any upper body movement and you can change stride lengths to move more like walking or running.

This takes stress off the knees and also allows you to work different muscles depending on how much effort you put into your workout. Plus, exercises that work one leg at a time like lunges and squats are easier done with an elliptical machine because there’s no risk of hitting the rail as you would if doing those moves on a treadmill.

The exact number of calories burned by either machine will vary depending on speed, weight and height (e.g., someone heavier will burn more), but research shows that both types of equipment are efficient ways to increase your heart rate and burn calories. A study at the University of California, Davis found that people burned roughly the same number of calories in 30 minutes on either machine, although they burned slightly more fat on an elliptical. However, it’s important to note that these machines aren’t typically used for extended amounts of time or as part of a weight-loss plan—the two most successful strategies for shedding pounds are resistance training combined with cardiovascular exercise like running or biking.

Even though there are many similarities between the two types of equipment, I still prefer the treadmill because it allows me to run intervals indoors rather than outside when it’s cold or rainy out—plus I don’t have to worry about hilly terrain! That said, both machines are great ways to get moving and improve your heart health. The elliptical especially is more forgiving on the joints thanks to its more fluid motion. And while it may not burn as many calories in the long run, most people tend to concentrate harder when using an elliptical machine so you’ll likely spend less time resting between intervals than if you were jogging on a treadmill.

For me at least, I prefer running because it’s simpler and easier to track progress with a watch—but that doesn’t mean others can’t get just as much out of the elliptical! Whichever one you choose will help keep your body healthy with low-impact cardio workouts. Don’t believe me? Try either machine yourself with this at-home workout:

– Warm-up for 3 minutes on level 5.

– Increase the machine to level 10 and hold for 30 seconds before gradually decreasing the speed back down to level 5 over 60 seconds. This will take a total of 2 minutes.

– Next, increase speed as high as you can go for 1 minute and decrease back down to level 5 over another 1 minute. That’s 4 intervals in total! Finish by cooling down with 3 more minutes on a lower setting if needed.

If the elliptical isn’t your cup of tea, try interval running instead: alternate sprinting with jogging depending on how much effort you feel like exerting that day. With any workout, focus on form rather than reaching a certain number or time—the best way to stay motivated is to make sure your form doesn’t falter over time. And remember, both the elliptical and treadmill are great tools—but it’s up to you which one you prefer!

Elliptical Pros:

– Less stress on joints

– More fluid motion allows for longer workouts

– Cuts impact in half compared to running, perfect for high-intensity interval training (HIIT)

Elliptical Cons:

– Less calorie burn vs. jogging or sprinting

Treadmill Pros:

– Easier to track progress with a machine

– Run intervals outside in any weather

– More calorie burn vs. jogging or sprinting

Treadmill Cons:

– Stress on joints if done for too long (use HIIT to avoid this).

What Does The Elliptical Target?

Multiple muscle groups work at once, which results in a more intense workout.

It’s easier on the joints than jogging or sprinting.

The elliptical can be easily adapted to your fitness level as it changes.

A low-impact cardio workout that burns plenty of calories and strengthens various muscles at the same time.

What Does The Treadmill Target?

It’s easier to track your progress over time with the machine.

The treadmill can be used anytime, anywhere without worrying about weather conditions.

A low-impact cardio workout that burns plenty of calories and strengthens various muscles at the same time.

How Many Calories Will You Burn On The Elliptical?

A higher calorie burn compared to the treadmill.

The elliptical is more forgiving on the joints.

It hits all major muscles groups by providing a balanced workout.

What Does The Treadmill Target?

The treadmill can be used anytime, anywhere without worrying about weather conditions.

A low-impact cardio workout that burns plenty of calories and strengthens various muscles at the same time.

How Many Calories Will You Burn On The Elliptical?

I love the elliptical.

It’s a great way to keep active without placing too much stress on your joints, and it can also be a relatively low-impact activity for those with back problems, injuries or other health conditions that rule out more intense activities like running or weightlifting.

In any event, some people might argue that if you want to burn calories and lose weight you should be doing cardio on the treadmill instead of working out on the elliptical train…but is there really a difference? Which one will actually help you reach your weight loss goals faster?

According to Harvard Health Publications, “If you weigh 150 pounds and walk at 4 miles per hour for 30 minutes on a treadmill vs an elliptical trainer, you’ll burn the same number of calories.”

So, if you use 1 calorie per pound on both machines, that’s roughly 150 calories for both. If your goal is to drop 2 pounds (or 32,000 calories) over 1 month—you could achieve that by burning about 100 extra calories each day for 31 days. And since it takes 3,500 calories to lose one pound…well…long story short you do the math.

Not exactly scientific proof…but it does provide us with some valuable insight into which machine might be more effective at helping you reach your fitness goals.

I can’t say I’m surprised.

For years now I’ve been using a treadmill and elliptical trainer interchangeably, but recently I decided to switch things up.

I made a conscious effort to spend one week on the treadmill and another on the elliptical…sometimes spending 40 minutes in between weight training and doing cardio, and other times working my way through 30-minute workouts without stopping.

My goal was to find out once and for all if there really is a significant difference in calorie burn when using these two machines (and hopefully still make some gains at the gym while I was at it).

So, which machine worked best?

After logging my results each workout day I took an average of everything I’d done over that period of time (be it 7 or 8 days). Here’s what I found:

Average Calorie Burn: Treadmill: 275 Elliptical: 272

…Yep. The treadmill came out slightly ahead, but not by much. So…if you burn fewer calories on the elliptical than you would on the treadmill, why do people say it’s better?

Well for one thing there are a lot of variables that can affect your calorie burn during any given workout (weather conditions, leg strength, time spent working out and gym equipment to name just a few).

And secondly (and this probably has more to do with marketing), treadmills tend to appeal much more significantly to men.

As you might already know, men typically have larger muscle groups in their lower body (quadriceps for example) which allows them to work up a sweat doing things like running or jogging.

For women, lower body workouts tend to be more intense but certainly take longer to accomplish even though the calorie burn is typically less.

What does this mean for you?

It simply means that if you’re a woman who wants to get the most out of your cardio workout…treadmills are probably better suited for your needs.

Again, not only do they have more muscle mass in their legs, but men can typically run harder and faster than women because we don’t usually worry about having to use the restroom 2-3 miles into our jog (those with bladders will understand).

And finally: If speed and incline don’t make much of a difference when comes to burning calories (and they don’t), why do treadmills offer these features? Suuuuure, they tend to be more expensive than an elliptical machine…but if it doesn’t make you sweat or get your heart racing faster, what’s the point?

Studies have shown that both machines are equally efficient at helping individuals reach their fitness goals, but when it comes down to it—the elliptical trainer is much more efficient at burning calories for women.

While this can work in your favour, keep in mind that longer workouts do not always equate to greater fat loss (even though they may help us reach our weight loss goals a little bit faster).

So which one should you pick? Treadmill or elliptical: It really depends on your personal preferences.

If you’re a woman looking to burn as many calories as possible in the shortest amount of time, the elliptical is probably your best bet—especially if you want to work on toning your lower body in the process (that thigh gap isn’t going to get any smaller without some serious effort).

But if fat loss isn’t really what you’re after (and let’s face it, most people aren’t), then choose whatever machine you like best. If you feel more comfortable on one over the other go with that one; they both provide an excellent low-impact cardio workout and will likely help you reach your fitness goals when coupled with strength training (which I also highly recommend for everyone).

The only thing left is the question of which is better for your knees?

If you’re worried about the impact—stop worrying. While both activities put some impact on the knee they will not cause any serious or long-term damage as long as you stay in control and don’t push things too hard (avoiding injury is all about listening to your body and recognizing when it’s time to slow down).

I recommend doing a combo of both: Start with the elliptical and cycle over to the treadmill every 10 minutes or so after warming up. You’ll benefit from both, and most importantly:  try to have fun with it! Why turn something we love into a chore by approaching it with such vigour that we forget what we’re even doing there in the first place?

If you want to take things up a notch, include some arm exercises while working your lower body—but only if you have the space and equipment for it. If not, keep everything where it is—you won’t be compromising anything by doing so because the treadmill and elliptical are more than effective on their own when it comes to breaking down that excess fat

Whichever machine you choose, make sure you’re challenging yourself! If it doesn’t feel like a workout, increase the intensity until you feel like you’ve given it your all and try to do 4-5 interval sessions a week. That’s the best way to see results in the shortest amount of time!

What do you think?  Does this article change your mind about either machine? Do you disagree with anything written here? If so, let me know in the comments!

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