Which one is Best – Treadmill Vs Elliptical

Treadmill and elliptical are two most common fitness equipment you will find in any gym. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Although there are similarities between the treadmill and elliptical, there are also key differences between the duo. If you want to choose from these machines, you need to have a clear understanding of them both.

In this ultimate guide to treadmill vs. elliptical, we will discuss everything about these machines. We will also have a list of the pros and cons of each machine.

Depending on your type and intensity of workouts, your fitness goals, and other factors you can choose the right piece of equipment.

Continue reading to figure out which of the arguably popular options you would need.

Table of Contents

Treadmill Vs. Elliptical

What Is a Treadmill?Benefits of Treadmill 

Drawbacks of Treadmill 

What Areas of the Body Does a Treadmill Target?

Who Should Use a Treadmill and When to Use it?

Who Should Not Use a Treadmill and When Not to Use?

What Is an Elliptical?Benefits of Elliptical 

Drawbacks of Elliptical 

What Areas of the Body Does an Elliptical Target?

Who Should Use an Elliptical and When to Use it?

Who Should Not Use an Elliptical and When Not to Use?

How to Choose the Right Machine from a Treadmill and an Elliptical Trainer?1. Healthy Joints:

2. Fitness and Weight Loss Goals:

3. Muscles Worked:

4. Budget:

What Are The Differences Between Treadmills and Ellipticals?

How Safe Are Treadmills And Elliptical Machines?

A Few Words To Conclude:

Treadmill Vs. Elliptical

Treadmill and elliptical are two cardio machines that help in providing an effective cardiovascular workout. They help in burning put those extra calories and further aid in improving your aerobic capacity. Let us learn about each piece of equipment in detail below, along with their unique benefits and drawbacks.

What Is a Treadmill?

A treadmill is a piece of equipment that mimics the natural movement of running outside. It features a conveyor belt that helps you run, walk, and jog at different speeds and inclinations. You can do all of this where you are, instead of going outdoors.

These devices come with a host of special features that helps you track your distance, regulate your speed, adjust your inclination, etc. Furthermore, you can even plan for interval training on these treadmills.

Let us have a look at the advantages and disadvantages of working on a treadmill.

Benefits of Treadmill 

Below is a list of the pros of working on a treadmill. This information will help you decide if this is what you need. Here are the benefits:

1. Great control on your workout

One of the main advantages of using a treadmill is the versatility it offers. When exercising, these machines allow you great control. Whether you are doing a brisk walk or running uphill, you can easily control the speed and inclination. You can select the exact pace and incline options before starting your workouts.

You can also choose the right training program from the already-present list and proceed with your workouts. This will help you to have great control over your exercises and further makes it easier to align with your fitness goals.

Treadmills are the best option for those who prefer high-intensity interval training workouts. Since these machines allow you to control your speed and inclination, these are the best bet to embark on your fitness journey. The HIIT workouts help to effectively burn calories, reduce body fat and improve the cardiovascular fitness of an individual in a short time.

2. Strengthens leg muscles

Another advantage of running or walking on the treadmill is that it strengthens your leg muscles. It does not stop with that. You can build your quadriceps, calves, glutes, etc., by exercising on these machines.

For strengthening your legs further, you can practice squats and lunges several times a week. Since doing workouts on treadmills does not cause any injury to your legs, you can practice the former physical activities in addition to the exercises on treadmills.

3. Emulates Natural Movements

As mentioned earlier, a treadmill mimics the natural movements of walking, jogging, and running outside. If you are used to these physical activities daily, you can just get on to a treadmill and perform your workouts. The only excerpt to this is that you will be doing those activities indoors. It hardly takes a few seconds for the user to adjust to the moving platform. Once done, you can enjoy the ease and comfort when walking or running on these machines.

4. Higher Output of the workout

The other advantage of using a treadmill is that you can enjoy the best output of the workout you are doing. It helps you burn those extra calories at a higher rate.

For instance, let us consider both treadmill and elliptical. Let us assume you are a person weighing around 150 pounds and do an hour of running daily. If you do it on a treadmill, you will burn about 668.2 calories, whereas, on an elliptical, it would be around 340.9 calories.

5. Well-Researched

Treadmills came into existence in the 1800s. Ever since then, they have found their place at many gyms and homes. These machines hold extensive research and development behind the scenes. Hence, they are the most sought-after piece of cardio equipment than any other machine.

6. Ideal for Runners

The treadmills are an ideal option for runners. Moreover, they provide training specific to sports for races. Unlike these, the ellipticals are better for cross-training.

7. Easy to Use

The treadmill is very easy to use. You do not require any training or learning to use this device. It hardly takes a few seconds for the user to adjust to the moving platform.

Drawbacks of Treadmill 

Although treadmills provide a host of benefits, they do come with a set of limitations, as well. Below is a list of the disadvantages of using this machine:

1. Can put Stress On Joints

The disadvantage of running on a treadmill is that it can put stress on your joints, knees, spine, and hips. This is especially when you do not warm up or stretch yourself, or run regularly. Although these machines provide shock absorption, you can still notice a significant impact on your joints.

If running on a treadmill seems like a difficult thing for you, it is advisable to switch to other cardio workouts like swimming, biking, etc. These exercises are gentler on your joints and bones.

Here is another thing you can do. You can reduce the number of miles you run every week to have less impact. Also, you can alternate between walking and running on the treadmill.

2. Works only on Fewer Muscle Groups

We all know that a treadmill helps in strengthening your leg muscles, glutes, hips, calves, etc. However, it targets fewer muscle groups when compared to the elliptical.

When using an elliptical, the machine helps strengthen different muscle groups of your body, including your arms, chest, back, and shoulders. Furthermore, it even builds the muscles in your lower body. Doing workouts on an elliptical in a reverse direction can help in concentrating and strengthening specific muscles. This is something you cannot achieve on a treadmill.

3. Safety Issue

When performing high-intensity training on the treadmill, one needs to have adequate skill levels. For workouts like incline sprints, there are chances of getting injured severely when the individual fails to have the required skill.

4. Unnatural Handles

Most people tend to hold on to the handles when running or walking on them. This can be challenging and also awkward.

5. Posture Problems

Walking or running on a low-quality conveyor belt of the treadmill can cause changes in the way people walk or run. As a result, there may be muscle imbalances and problems with posture. The quality of the moving belt varies for different treadmills. It is essential to choose the one with supreme quality.

6. Difficulty

People may find it difficult running inclined on a treadmill. Since running uphill is the best way to burn calories, many can find it challenging and uncomfortable on these machines.

What Areas of the Body Does a Treadmill Target?

You can perform workouts like walking, jogging, running, and sprinting on your treadmill. The first three physical activities help in mainly targeting the lower body. Similarly, the fourth workout helps in effectively tightening up the core also. If you are going for a tough workout on this machine, look for your leg muscles, and quadriceps, calves, glutes, abs, etc. A treadmill helps in building and strengthening all those muscles.

Let us learn when to use and when not to use a treadmill.

Who Should Use a Treadmill and When to Use it?

A treadmill is the best bet for avid runners and racers who prefer training indoors to avoid the adverse weather outside. The advanced and recent models from treadmills come with great features that help the users to track their mileage accurately. Additionally, they can monitor their pace and even set their goals while performing their workouts.

The treadmills are ideal for high-intensity interval training workouts. However, if you cannot run for longer hours, you can choose shorter intervals and rest times, thereby, creating your own shorter HIIT workouts.

If you want to achieve your weight loss goals or build your endurance, a HIIT workout of about 10 minutes to 30 minutes is highly effective.

The treadmill machines allow you to control your speed and inclination. Hence, these are the best bet to embark on your fitness journey. You can control and monitor your speed, and if required, you can push the pace. This is one of the best advantages of running on a treadmill. You can challenge yourself and your speed when running on the conveyor belt. Since the moving belt has its velocity generated by the machine, you can focus on maintaining the speed. You can even increase the pace during the workout and run faster. This is something you cannot do when running outdoors.

You can focus more on your running form and speed without having the high impact of running on the concrete surfaces outdoors. However, one limitation is that it does not perfect your natural form of running. It limits the engagement of your leg muscles and feet, which you usually get when running outdoors. It is ideal to prefer outdoor running if you want to master your running form and do the drills.

You may say what about those people who are not avid runners. Yes, even those individuals can use the treadmill to strengthen their lower body. However, ensure that you are running on an incline on the machine. One should never forget that exercises on the treadmill are not a replacement to other workouts like squats, lunges, etc. Nevertheless, they are a great way to build the endurance of your legs.

Who Should Not Use a Treadmill and When Not to Use?

If you are someone having trouble with your ankle, knee, or hips, a treadmill is not the ideal option for you. Comparatively, running on a treadmill puts less stress on your joints than running on a sidewalk. Despite this, you should not use a treadmill machine if you had any injury in the above-mentioned areas. It is always advisable to opt for other cardio workouts like swimming, biking, etc. These exercises are gentler on your joints and bones and are low-impact activities.

What Is an Elliptical?

An elliptical trainer is yet another stationary piece of exercise equipment that allows you to get a good aerobic workout. This machine features a pair of foot holders for placing your foot over them and pole-like handles for grabbing them. Their movement is similar to the cycle. However, the only difference is that you use your arms to make the handles move back and forth. Doing so will allow your feet to cycle the foot holders forming an ellipse shape. Hence, the name, elliptical trainer.

An elliptical trainer, also called, cross trainer, offers similar benefits to cycling. It helps in increasing your muscles’ resistance. Advanced and recent models of ellipticals come with special features like inclination. This allows the users to change the incline when exercising on them. The significance of the incline feature is that it helps in mainly targeting the muscles like your glutes, quads, and hamstrings. Furthermore, it also targets other muscles of your lower body.

When you push and pull the handles of the machine, it works on your arms, and other muscles on your upper back, including the core. Altogether, the elliptical trainer provides the user with a full-body workout.

Just like a treadmill, even an elliptical comes with a set of advantages and disadvantages. Let us have a look at the pros and cons of working on an elliptical.

Benefits of Elliptical 

Below is a list of the merits of working on an elliptical trainer. This information will help you decide if this machine is what you are looking for. Here are the benefits:

1. Easy on Your Joints

An elliptical trainer is a low-impact machine. It puts less stress on your joints and makes the workouts easier for you while giving the best results. If you find it difficult to walk or run, you can opt for this equipment.

Being a low-impact machine, it is easy on your joints and induces less strength on them. It is an option for those with a musculoskeletal condition. An elliptical trainer is safe for people, having pain in their lower back, knees, or hips and for those with arthritis and osteoporosis.

Although low-impact exercises do not put much stress, they can provide a great aerobic workout that strengthens your heart, lungs, and muscles.

2. Helps Maintain Fitness after Injury

As mentioned earlier, an elliptical trainer is a low-impact machine. However, it still enables the users to get a high-intensity workout. That said, you can still maintain your fitness at high levels after an injury and are recovering from it.

3. Both Upper and Lower Body Workout

The elliptical trainers come with a pair of arm handles. You have to use your arms to make the handles move back and forth. When you push and pull these handles of the machine, it works on your arms, shoulders, chest, and other muscles on your upper back.

Similarly, it works on the core and the lower body by strengthening your leg muscles, glutes, quadriceps, and hip flexors. Altogether, the elliptical trainer provides the user with a full-body workout.

4. Reverse Stride

The other advantage of an elliptical is that it allows the user to do workouts in a reverse direction. It comes with a special feature that enables the individual to switch the direction to backward. This can help in concentrating and strengthening specific muscles like your calves and hamstrings. You do not find this option on a treadmill.

5. Has Lower Perceived Exertion

As per the studies, it shows that when people operate an elliptical trainer, they are working much harder than they perceive. During the tests conducted, they asked the subjects to rate their perceived output. Based on the heart rate of the people in the test the majority of them underestimated their output. This is what the final report of the studies state. You can burn the almost same number of calories on your elliptical, but with minimal effort.

Drawbacks of Elliptical 

Just like the treadmills, even the ellipticals come with a set of limitations, as well. Below is a list of the downsides of using this machine:

1. Less Dynamic

The elliptical trainers are less dynamic when compared to the treadmills. The latter comes with speed and inclination adjustment settings. As a result, you can enjoy the exceptional variation in the intensity of workouts when performing exercises on the treadmill. Unlike these machines, the ellipticals do not have this feature. Comparatively, they are less effective than their treadmill counterparts.

2. Less Weight Bearing Effect

No doubt, the elliptical trainer machines are less impact devices and help in maintaining high fitness levels after an injury. However, there is still a downside to these. We all know that the foot holders come suspended off the ground. As a result, they miss the weight-bearing effect, which is essential when running. Weight-bearing exercises are crucial for older people, as they help strengthen bones and muscles and further prevent osteoporosis in them.

3. Requires Momentum to Operate

When you are operating an elliptical trainer at lower levels, you will have to use the momentum of the device to power the machine.

4. Requires Learning

Unlike a treadmill, which does not require any skill, an elliptical has a learning curve. It will take some time for the user to get used to the equipment. During the initial days of working on a cross machine, you may find the movement a little awkward and unnatural. However, with regular practice, you will get used to exercising on it. If you are not sure of how to operate the equipment, seek the help of a certified professional.

5. Less Muscle Development

Since an elliptical is a low-impact machine, the workouts on these devices can provide a great aerobic workout. However, if you talk about muscle development, it is comparatively less than what you get from a treadmill.

Do you want to gain more muscle strength but still want to continue working on an elliptical? This is what you can do. You can add more weight or strength training to your workout routine, at least a few times a week.

6. No-Impact Workout

We all know that an elliptical is easy on your joints and induces less stress. This is an advantage for people having joint problems. However, if you want to keep your bones and muscles strong, you need at least some impact on them. A cross trainer fails to offer the same.

7. Numb Feet

Working on an elliptical trainer machine for a long time can cause your feet to get numb. This is a result of not picking up the feet during workouts. To prevent the same, you will have to keep shifting your feet. Also, you will have to move your toes around to allow proper blood circulation in your feet.

8. Burning Legs

When you are using an elliptical for the first time, you can notice a burning sensation in your muscle. This is because your quadriceps are not used to the way they are now being used. This sensation will, however, subside after a few regular sessions. By this time, your muscles will get used to the new challenge.

9. Low Calories Get Burn

The other major limitation of the cross machines is that it helps you burn fewer calories, comparatively. As seen in the above paragraph, the low-impact cardio machine helps you build less muscle than running. Moreover, your feet remain anchored to the pedals of the elliptical. As a result, the machine keeps moving you, whether you are intentionally trying to work or not.

Here is another issue with these cross trainers. During workouts, you will hold on to the arm handles of the device. As a result, it allows more workouts on your hands than the legs. Additionally, it even eliminates the core rotation. When running on a treadmill, your abs get engaged, and here it does not even do that.

What Areas of the Body Does an Elliptical Target?

The cross-trainer machine helps target muscles on your lower body, including the leg muscles, glutes, quadriceps, and hip flexors. When you push and pull the arm handles of the machine, it works on your arms, shoulders, chest, and other muscles on your upper back, including the core. Altogether, the elliptical trainer provides the user with a full-body workout. Doing workouts on an elliptical in a reverse direction can help in concentrating and strengthening specific muscles.

Let us learn when to use and when not to use an elliptical trainer machine.

Who Should Use an Elliptical and When to Use it?

The elliptical trainer is a low-impact cardio machine. It is an ideal option for those having pain in their lower back, knees, or hips and for those with arthritis and osteoporosis. Moreover, it is not a weight-bearing workout as running. If you plan to take a break from the high-impact physical workouts, a cross trainer is the safest option and a perfect alternative.

An elliptical trainer allows the user to do workouts in a reverse direction. It comes with a special feature that enables the individual to switch the direction to backward. This feature helps in concentrating and strengthening specific muscles like your calves and hamstrings. You do not find this option on a treadmill. Even though you try to run in a backward direction on a treadmill, you cannot do it at a faster pace.

If you want to tone up your buns while doing your cardio workouts, the cross trainer is the best bet. Apart from the physical activities, mentioned above, you can even perform HIIT workouts on these machines. If you want to achieve your weight loss goals, this is definitely the best too to consider.

Who Should Not Use an Elliptical and When Not to Use?

Although elliptical trainer is a low-impact machine, it is not suitable for few people and a few circumstances. If functional training is what you are up to, then this equipment is not the ideal option. The movements you do on an elliptical, you rarely use in any of the sports.

Physical activities that include functional movements are jumping, throwing, running, squats, lunge, etc. Training on a cross trainer alone for the above movements will not be effective. If you want to achieve your fitness goals, you cannot and should not rely on this machine alone.

Again, if you are a person of mileage, a cross trainer is not what you should opt for. Moreover, the amount of work you will need to do to complete one mile on this machine differs from one elliptical machine to the other. It is because not all machines are equally created.

It is an undeniable fact that an elliptical is easy on your joints and induces less strength on them. That means this machine cannot strengthen the leg muscles as a treadmill does. So, if you want to gain more strength in your muscles, running is the right option for you.

How to Choose the Right Machine from a Treadmill and an Elliptical Trainer?

Choosing between a treadmill and an elliptical can be overwhelming to many. Here we are to make it easier for you. Even before you make any choice, there are a few things you need to consider, like your health, fitness goals, budget, etc. Let us discuss about some crucial points that play a catalyst role in the right investment of either an elliptical or treadmill for your home gym.

1. Healthy Joints:

An elliptical trainer is a low-impact machine. It puts less stress on your joints and makes the workouts easier for you while giving the best results. If you find it difficult to walk or run, you can opt for this equipment. Moreover, it is safe for people having pain in their lower back, knees, or hips and for those with arthritis and osteoporosis. Altogether, if you are looking for low-impact workouts, an elliptical is a better option than a treadmill.

2. Fitness and Weight Loss Goals:

Treadmills are the best option for those who prefer high-intensity interval training workouts like running or jogging. Since these machines allow you to control your speed and inclination, these are the best bet to embark on your fitness journey. The HIIT workouts help to effectively burn calories, reduce body fat and improve the cardiovascular fitness of an individual in a short time.

If you are looking to achieve your weight loss goals, you can opt for either a treadmill or elliptical machine.

3. Muscles Worked:

The elliptical trainer provides the user with a full-body workout because of the pushing and pulling of arm handles. A treadmill helps in strengthening muscles of the lower body.

4. Budget:

Elliptical trainers are comparatively less expensive than treadmills.

What Are The Differences Between Treadmills and Ellipticals?

Below is a comparative analysis of treadmills and ellipticals for better and easy understanding.

PARAMETERS
TREADMILL
ELLIPTICAL

Best Suitable For
A treadmill is best suitable for runners and walkers
An elliptical is best suitable for cross trainers

Comfortability
The user should get used to running or walking on the conveyor belt and pick up with its pace. The treadmill is a little uncomfortable when compared to an elliptical.
An elliptical trainer is much comfortable in comparison to the treadmill.

Risk of Injury
There are higher chances of getting injured because of the motorized parts.
An elliptical trainer does not have any motorized parts. Hence, the chances of getting injured are very low.

Durability
The durability of a treadmill is entirely dependent on the motor. Moreover, it has high repair costs. If you want to cover those motor repairs, you need to have a warranty.
An elliptical trainer is highly durable than a treadmill, as it is a non-motorized device. Also, the repair costs are very less.

Impact
Walking or running on a treadmill has a high impact on your lower body, like the legs, back, and joints.
An elliptical is a low-impact exercise machine that puts less stress on your joints.

Cost
A treadmill is very expensive than an elliptical.
An elliptical trainer is comparatively less expensive than a treadmill.

Variety
You can just walk, run or jog on your desired incline.
An elliptical comes with a variety of movements for the user. You can use the reverse stride or add resistance.

Mimicking
A treadmill mimics the natural movements of walking, jogging, and running outside.
The movement of the elliptical is similar to the cycle. However, the only difference is that you use your arms to make the handles move back and forth.

Calories Burned
A treadmill helps in effectively burning the calories and achieving your weight loss goals.
An elliptical helps in effectively burning the calories and achieving your weight loss goals.

Space
A treadmill occupies more floor space. However, the folded versions of these are very easy to store.
An elliptical tends to occupy less floor space than a treadmill. It comes with fold-up pedals that make storage easier.

Type of Workout
A treadmill offers lower body workouts with the exercises like walking, jogging, running, and uphill activities.
The elliptical trainer provides the user with a full-body workout because of the pushing and pulling of arm handles.

Energy Efficiency
A treadmill is a motorized machine and hence needs electricity to operate it.
An elliptical trainer is a non-motorized machine, and hence it does not need any electricity to operate it.

How Safe Are Treadmills And Elliptical Machines?

Let us talk about how safe treadmills and elliptical machines are. Both the devices are safe to use, provided you follow the safety guidelines mentioned.

While a treadmill does not require any skill to use the machine, an elliptical has a learning curve. It will take some time for the user to get used to the equipment. During the initial days of working on a cross machine, you may find the movement a little awkward and unnatural. However, with regular practice, you will get used to exercising on it.

If you are a newbie, it is advisable to start with the pedal movements first without using the arm handles. Once you cope up with the movements, you can use the arm handles, as well. Moreover, you need to keep an upright posture and your core tight throughout the movements. If you are in the gym and not sure of how to operate the equipment, seek the help of a certified professional. He will demonstrate how to use the cross trainer safely.

When it comes to a treadmill, all you need to do is attach the safety clip to your clothing. It is a safety measure to stop the machine, in case you had a fall or tripped from the treadmill.

Treadmills are the best option for those who prefer high-intensity interval training workouts like running or jogging. These exercises can have a high impact on your lower body like the legs, back, and joints. Hence you need to do a little warm-up before you get started with any kind of workouts on these machines. This will help your muscles, and joints get ready to work, reducing the risk of injuries. Also, do not forget to stretch after the workouts.

Here is an advice for you: If you feel dizzy or faint, stop using the elliptical or treadmill immediately. Make sure you drink a lot of water when doing your workouts.

It is always advisable to talk to your doctor before getting started with any fitness routine. They will recommend the best workouts that are safe for you.

A Few Words To Conclude:

Both treadmills and ellipticals are wonderful pieces of equipment to embark on your fitness journey. They help you in effectively burning the calories and achieving your weight loss goals. However, if you want to choose the right machine to hop on, there are a few factors to consider. Depending on your health, fitness goals, type of workout, and budget, you can make a wise and informed decision. The information provided in this ultimate guide should make the decision process easier for you. Let us know in the comments below which machine you would choose and why. Please feel free to share this article with your friends and help them get a better understanding of both the cardio machines.

Let us know if you have any questions or need more information on treadmills and elliptical trainers. We will try our best to answer all your queries at the earliest. If required, we will come up with a new article containing relevant info that will clear all your doubts and confusion.

Please share your feedback with us by letting us know if we missed out on any points. You can add your inputs to this article by posting them in the comments section below. We would love to hear and learn from you.

Stay healthy and stay safe!!!


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