Which Is Better: Treadmill or Elliptical?

During this COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are trying to make the most of our workouts while remaining indoors. In order to improve our aerobic capacity and boost our cardio fitness, both the treadmill and elliptical machines offer safe and effective options.

Although there are similarities between both exercise machines, there are also some important differences. Treadmills allow you to walk or run on a moving belt. You can control the speed as well as the incline. With an elliptical, you place your feet on a platform and move in an ellipses, or elongated circle.

With regards to which one is better, there really isn’t a simple answer. It depends on your workout goals, physical health, and other factors. Both types of machines have their pros and cons when it comes to working out.

Read on to learn which one may be a better fit for you.

Benefits of the treadmill

CONTROL: One of the main benefits of exercising on a treadmill is the versatility you 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.

LEG STRENGTH: Running or walking on the treadmill can strengthen your leg muscles, including your quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves. A treadmill workout can also strengthen your hip flexors and glutes.

The treadmill burns 566 to 839 calories per hour (based on a 125- to 185-pound woman).

Benefits of the ellipitical

EASY ON JOINTS: Low-impact exercise typically puts less stress on your joints than high-impact exercise. This makes the elliptical a safer option if you have a musculoskeletal condition such as low-back pain, knee or hip pain, or other health conditions like arthritis or osteoporosis.

TOTAL BODY WORKOUT: Some elliptical machines have arm handles. You can push these back and forth at the same time as you move your legs. The resistance of the handles helps to work the muscles in your shoulders, chest, and back.

The elliptical burns 322 to 478 calories per hour (based on a 125- to 185-pound woman).

How to choose the machine for you

Elliptical may be a better choice because:

  • it allows you to get a good cardiovascular workout without putting as much stress on your bones and joints
  • it may reduce your risk for injury while you exercise
  • it allows you to get both an upper and lower body workout in a shorter period of time (if the elliptical machine has arm handles)

The treadmill may be a better fit for you if:

  • you aren’t prone to injuries or joint issues
  • you’re looking to meet a specific goal, for example training for a 5K or 10K race
  • you want to build strength in your glutes and leg muscles

How safe are treadmills and elliptical machines?

If you follow the safety guidelines, both elliptical machines and treadmills are safe to use.

When using the elliptical, focus on having good form. Keep your posture upright, and keep your core tight throughout the movement. If you’re using an elliptical at the gym, you can ask a certified personal trainer to give you a demonstration on how to use the machine safely.

Because exercising on a treadmill can put stress on your bones and joints, be sure to warm up and cool down properly before starting your workout. This can help get your muscles and joints ready to work, and lower your risk of injuries. Also stretch after your workout.

Elliptical   Treadmill
  Best for training for a raceX
XBest if you have an injury  
XBest for a full-body workout  
  Best to strengthen your legs X
  Best to burn more calories X
XBest for weight lossX

Singh SnapShot

The treadmill and elliptical are both effective machines to help you to get a cardiovascular workout. Which machine is a better option depends on your individual needs.

If you have a musculoskeletal condition or are injury-prone, you may want to stick with the elliptical. If you want to burn a lot of calories and build up leg strength and speed, the treadmill may be a better choice.

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