Battle of the Burn: Treadmills vs. Ellipticals

Hello! Just in time for my study day, I have a guest post for you about treadmills vs ellipticals. I have actually owned both. We had a treadmill years ago and currently have an elliptical. I love both machines for different reasons. Happy reading!

Treadmill vs Elliptical
Treadmill vs Elliptical

Go to any gym around the country and you will more than likely find a plethora of cardio equipment. That is, stationary bikes, stair-steppers, treadmills and elliptical machines. One of the most frequently asked questions by exercisers, especially those aerobically inclined, is “which cardio machine is best?” The interesting part about answering such a question is that it depends entirely on the person doing the exercising. For instance, a 60-year old male with arthritis and orthopedic problems may be better suited for an elliptical machine, while a 23-year old female may thrive running on a treadmill. The benefits of any given piece of exercise equipment completely depends on the exerciser. Below you will find the benefits and drawbacks of both the machines.

The Elliptical

While some exercisers are very intimidated by an elliptical machine at first, the reality is it is very beneficial to most people. Despite their complex appearance, elliptical machines are great for many types of cardio exercise, from moving at a slow and steady pace to high intensity interval training (HIIT). In addition, elliptical machines are great low impact exercise for those with joint and other orthopedic issues. Because of their revolving foot platforms, your feet never actually leave the ground on an elliptical. Gripads are perfect accessories for elliptical models that use moving handlebars because they keep sweaty hands from slipping, and they won’t get in the way of models that use heart-rate sensors.

In essence, exercising on an elliptical is very similar to skiing, except without the wear and tear on the lower joints. An older exerciser will likely benefit from an elliptical machine, as it will allow them to reach a desired aerobic intensity without the risk, or worsening of injury. This concept is irreplaceable to even young exercisers with injuries that prevent them from exercising in normal, higher impact capacities. More recently, many exercise equipment manufacturers have developed hybrid versions of the elliptical in combination with a stair-stepper mode of exercise.

The Treadmill

As a more traditional form of exercise compared to the elliptical machine, the treadmill can be just as advantageous to exercisers, but with more risk potential. The treadmill is an invaluable exercise machine for endurance athletes looking to maintain their fitness year round instead of battling the elements outside. What’s more, a treadmill provides the opportunity to exercise in the comfort of your own home, or within the like-minded fitness community of a gym or health club – and to burn more calories than an elliptical (if you’re running). Where the treadmill lacks is in its potential for injury. While it provides the option to increase speed and incline while tracking many fitness measurements like calories, METs and distance, the treadmill is quite similar, if not the same, as running outside on pavement.

For those with joint issues, particularly ankle, knee, and back pain, running on a treadmill may not be the best option. In fact, running on a treadmill can often worsen these types of injuries, as well as, expose someone to the potential risk of acquiring such an injury. Furthermore, the greater frequency that someone uses a treadmill, the more likely they are to develop such issues. With that said, those that are free of joint pain and enjoy using the treadmill should not let the risk of injury stop them. Injuries can happen in any mode of exercise.

Of course, it’s hard to know which of these machines is right for you before you’ve tried them, but hopefully, the information we’ve provided will at least point you in the right direction. Truth be told, either of these pieces of equipment would be a great addition to your home gym as long as you use them!

Elliptical Machine by AFG Fitness
This calculator is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. A qualified health care provider should be consulted before making any fitness or health decisions.

About the author Dave Gregory: Dave studied health and nutrition in California. He is now an editor with an emphasis in the health and wellness field, and is learning to mountain bike.

Which do you prefer – treadmill or elliptical? Why?

Hope you enjoyed this! Back Thursday! Wish me luck tomorrow – exam time!

19 Responses to “Battle of the Burn: Treadmills vs. Ellipticals”

  1. my husband wants to move.
    I DO NOT.
    I told him last night Id consider it if I got an elliptical in the move πŸ™‚

    • Glenneth

      if you do get an elliptical, try to keep it on the main floor. they are a bear to move up and down stairs. trust me. πŸ™‚

  2. i prefer the elliptical i think. i feel like my arms get more work done on it compared to a tread mill. great question and breakdown! have a great day! spa love!

  3. I use both. I use the elliptical to give my legs a break from running and the treadmill when I don’t want to or can’t run outside. My husband uses the elliptical b/c it doesn’t bother his knees.

  4. Great information! I actually prefer neither. I realize both have their benefits but I get so bored and prefer to run outside. The elliptical is great for no-impact crosstraining and the treadmill will works when I can’t run outside due to weather.

  5. I like the elliptical much more than the treadmill. If I want to run, I’d rather do it outside! πŸ™‚

  6. Great info – I LOVE the treadmill and would love to get one of my own, but the elliptical has been my saviour this year as I’ve battled tons of injuries. Good luck with the study!

  7. Jennifer

    I can’t stand the elliptical machines. If I’m not on the treadmill, I’d rather be on a stationary bike.

  8. I never run on the treadmill at the gym because if I run, it will be outdoors. I use to love doing HIIT on the elliptical when I was trying to lose weight though. Nowadays, I do a lot less cardio but when I do, I prefer to bike (HIIT) or row.

  9. This has been a hot topic around my family for years. I personally get the best total body workouts from the elliptical machine so I am biased. The elliptical allows me to utilize all my muscles including the upper body.

    • Glenneth

      I love both the treadmill and elliptical. I own a elliptical at home, but have access to treadmills at the gym.