Is The Elliptical or Treadmill The More Effective Exercise?


Cardio exercise is the perfect way to get your heart pumping, speed up your sluggish metabolism, and burn off excess calories.

The treadmill and elliptical are perhaps the two most common cardio machines found in every gym. But, there’s a heated elliptical vs treadmill debate over which provides the most effective cardio workout. Let’s explore some of the benefits and drawbacks of each to help you decide a winner.

Pros and Cons of Treadmills

Whether you’re looking for a brisk walk or fast sprint, a treadmill provides a forgiving surface that’s versatile for every fitness level. Unlike some fitness equipment that’s physically awkward, the treadmill emulates a natural walking, jogging, or sprinting movement.

It’s simple to adjust the incline of a treadmill’s ramp to boost the challenge in your workout. Most treadmills also have add-on features to easily track your heart rate and calorie burn progress.

Yet, treadmills are stuck in one place and walking to nowhere can become boring fast. Treadmills often have handles placed unnaturally, which can lead to posture problems and imbalanced muscles.

The cushioned surface of the treadmill may cause a weight-bearing effect that’s stressful for your knees, hips, and back. Treadmills can also be powerful safety hazards if they’re not used properly with a kill switch.

Pros and Cons of the Elliptical

Unlike its foe the treadmill, the elliptical offers non-impact conditioning to emulate running without overstressing your joints. Many elliptical machines have moveable handles, thus giving you the chance to exercise your upper and lower body in shorter time.

Studies have proven that people using an elliptical work harder than they perceive to burn calories with less effort. Many fitness gurus also applaud the elliptical for being able to active several muscle groups with its reverse stride.

On the other hand, ellipticals aren’t nearly as dynamic as treadmills because you usually can’t adjust your speed or incline as effectively. Since the pedals suspend off the ground, the elliptical doesn’t allow you to strengthen your bones like weight-bearing work does.

On the lower settings, it’s possible to power the elliptical using the machine’s own momentum for a very lazy workout. If you have a shorter stride, the one-size-fits-all elliptical may cause hyperextension.

Treadmill vs Elliptical for Calorie Burn

Burning calories is what exercise is all about, so is the treadmill or elliptical better in this department? According to a study from the Medical College of Wisconsin, 60 minutes spent jogging on a treadmill averages around 705 to 865 calories burned.

In fact, it beat out the Stairmaster, rowing machine, and stationary bike. By comparison, one hour spent on the elliptical will burn around 773 calories on average.

Science has provided a slight edge to the treadmill for calorie burn, but the different between the two is quite negligible. Another study discovered that participants using a treadmill and elliptical at similar intensities had the same physiological changes over 12 weeks.

Both of these cardio machines are equally effective at burning fat and improving aerobic capacity. This means that choosing between the treadmill or elliptical will come down to personal preference.

Elliptical or Treadmill: Which is Right for You?

Either machine will give you a great cardio boost, but one might be the supreme choice over the other based on your specific fitness goals.

Choosing the treadmill is best if you’re most interested in walking, hiking, or running. You’ll be able to log your miles when the weather prevents you from getting outside. If you’re buying at-home equipment, folding treadmills will take up less space and cost less.

Elliptical trainers are typically the best choice for people requiring low-impact exercise, including the elderly and those who are overweight. Ellipticals use more muscles, so it’s a good option for combining your upper and lower body workout on particularly busy days.

If you have a nagging injury, an elliptical will be suitable to burn calories without aggravating your muscles.

Getting the Most from Your Cardio

For optimal calorie burn, muscle growth, and fat loss, it’s best to use your elliptical or treadmill for high intensity interval training (HIIT). Also called intermittent exercise, HIIT is a useful training strategy that involves alternating short periods of intense work with less-intense recovery time.

One study showed that people who did 20 minutes of HIIT lost two percent more body fat than those with 30 minutes of steady cardio.

On either the elliptical or treadmill, push yourself as fast as you can for 30 to 60 seconds before slowing to a walk or slow jog for one minute. Start out with five fast sprints, then add on more each week as you grow stronger.

High intensity interval training will help your body maximize your muscle mass gains, improve cortisol production, and even lower blood pressure.


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