What to Choose: Elliptical vs. Stationary Bike

Elliptical vs. Stationary Bike

Last Updated on June 5, 2018 by marcyproignite

Cardiovascular exercise is an important component of every exercise regimen. Your heart is a muscle that is working all the time to pump blood throughout the body. With regular exercise, the heart doesn’t have to work quite as hard to do its job, which will lower your blood pressure and resting heart rate.

Regular cardio exercise has many benefits for your entire body and not just your heart and blood vessels. Some benefits of regular cardiovascular exercise include:

  • Improved memory
  • Helps to prevent cognitive decline that occurs with age
  • Helps to regulate blood sugar
  • Improves cholesterol levels
  • Helps you maintain a healthy weight
  • Maintains joint range of motion and reduces discomfort associated with arthritis
  • Promotes healthy sleep
  • Gives you energy
  • Reduces stress and boosts mood

Current recommendations are for a 30-minute workout that increases your heart rate for at least 5 days a week. If you can’t fit in 30 minutes each day, try breaking it up into 3 sessions that are at least 10 minutes each.

There are many options when it comes to home cardio machines, and it can be confusing to figure out which one is the best option for your home gym. While an elliptical and a stationary bike both give you great cardio workouts, there are some distinct differences between the two pieces of equipment.

Elliptical Machine

Elliptical machines can make it much easier to get a great workout without the impact on your joints. This reduces the risk for injury and is especially beneficial for someone with knee issues or who is recovering from an injury.

Another unique factor is the ability to integrate both the upper and lower body during workouts. This is because in addition to the foot pedals, there two handles that can be used to get an upper body workout as well.

Regenerating Magnetic Elliptical Trainer Machine
Regenerating Magnetic Elliptical Trainer Machine

To use this piece of machinery, stand upright on the machine and take care to not lean forward or backward. Make sure that you are able to balance without leaning on the handles for support and avoid gripping them too tightly. Look straight ahead and slide the pedals back and forth in a running motion. Place your hands on the handles and use your arms to push and pull the handles forward and back.  If at any point during your workout you start to feel faint or feel pain, slow down or stop completely. Before stepping off of the elliptical, make sure that it has fully stopped.

If you prefer to target your lower body or core, you can skip using the handles and just stand upright, or simply use them to help you balance. You also have the option to focus on your upper body by using stronger arms to engage the handles and allowing your feet to follow along on the pedals.

Many ellipticals come with pre-programmed workout routines that you can use, or you can create your own. You can also make the workout as easy or as difficult as you want by:

  • Increasing the resistance to simulate hill climbs
  • Increasing your speed
  • Letting your feet glide backwards instead of forward

Things to Consider When Purchasing an Elliptical Machine

There are many options available when purchasing a home elliptical machine, from a basic model to the latest model with all of the bells and whistles. Here are some things you should consider before purchasing an elliptical machine:


  • The style: Ellipticals come in three different styles of machines, depending on the location of their wheel housing.
    • Front-drive machines have it placed in the front of the machine. These tend to be more competitively priced, but can be noisier.
    • Center drive machines have the drive in the center of the machine, similar to a treadmill. These models offer a very compact design and allow you to stand more upright, giving you a gentle workout.
    • Rear drive machines have the wheel housing in the back of the machine. These ellipticals tend to be the longest in length, but offer a more smooth and gentle workout that is most like natural running or walking.
  • Its features: You’ll want to make sure that the elliptical fits you well and is comfortable to use. Make sure that the pedals and handles are easy and comfortable to move, and are able to move in a smooth continuous motion. Also, check the stride length. An adjustable stride can be helpful, especially if several different people will be using it. Otherwise, a 21 inch stride usually works well for someone of average size.
  • The incline and resistance settings: Be sure to look at whether the machine has adjustable resistance or incline settings. As a beginner, you may need a lower intensity, but as you become accustomed to the workout, you may need to increase the intensity. The machine should be easily adjustable, with an easy workout and noticeable increases in difficulty as you increase the resistance. An incline isn’t a necessary feature but can add intensity and versatility to your workout.
  • Safety features: Some ellipticals contain settings for warm-up and cool-down programs. While these aren’t completely necessary, they are a good reminder to ease into and out of your workout. In addition, look for handrails that are easy to reach and use, and a large screen that is easy to see and use.
  • You’ll also need additional space on either side of the machine so you can get on and off the elliptical.
  • Additional features: In addition to the basics that come with the machine, are there additional features that may be useful for you? Bluetooth connectivity, a library of exercise programs, or ability to access the cloud to get to your social networks or workout tracking capabilities can all be helpful for some people. A heart rate program can make it easier to track the effectiveness of your workout, especially if you know the target heart rate that you are looking to maintain.


Stationary bikes are another great option for a home cardio workout. Like the elliptical machine, a stationary bike gives you a low impact, safe workout that is easy on the joints. In many cases, they are more strongly recommended than running because there is little to no impact on the hips, knees, and joints. This type of exercise tends to be better for older adults or for someone who is recovering from an injury.


Though the stationary bike is primarily a cardio machine, it does help to tone your muscles, especially the muscles in your calves and thighs. You can also target your abs (contract your stomach muscles and hold them tight while cycling) or your glutes (stand up on the pedals while cycling) as well. Though this type of workout burns fewer calories than other types of equipment, its low impact does allow for longer exercise sessions.

Things to Consider When Purchasing a Stationary Bike

With so many different types of stationary bikes and options available on them, it can be challenging to figure out what will work best for you and your needs. Here’s what you need to think about before purchasing a home stationary bike:

  • Type of bike: There are two types of stationary bikes-upright bikes and recumbent bikes.
    • Upright bikes are more similar to a traditional road bike. You can change the resistance in the pedals to make your workout more or less difficult. In addition, the seat allows you to sit in a more upright position, instead of crouched over the handlebars as in a road bike.
    • Recumbent bikes feature a full chair-like seat, with the pedals out in front of you. The back support and lower seat makes it easier to get on and off the bike. The workout is usually less intense but is great for older adults or people who are recovering from an injury.

The Recumbent Bike

  • Resistance: Many stationary bikes offer adjustable resistance settings so you can increase and decrease the intensity of your workout as your needs change. Make sure that the resistance settings are easily adjustable and switch smoothly.
  • Safety: While exercise bikes are generally a safe piece of equipment, make sure that it is easy to get on and off of the bike, and that the seat is secure and comfortable.
  • Features: Stationary bike offer a variety of features, from heart-rate monitors to pre-programmed routines that you cause to get a great workout you don’t have to think about. Make sure the display is easy to read and gives you the information you need during your workout, such as resistance level, speed and revolutions per minute (RPM). Some bikes even offer a water bottle or book holder for your convenience.

Which is right for you?

The ideal situation would be to purchase both an elliptical and a stationary bike. This is the best way to keep your workout fresh and keeps you from getting bored. Alternating your workout can also help to prevent overuse injuries.

If, however, your space or budget does not allow for that, it is important to consider your needs.

  • Are you looking for a more intense workout?
  • Do you have lower body injuries that prevent you from using an elliptical?
  • Do you have a cardio machine that you prefer to use?
  • Does your space accommodate the wider space required for an elliptical?

As always, it is important to ask your doctor if you have any questions about which type of workout is safest for you.

Elliptical machines and stationary are an essential part of every fitness routine and home gym. If you’re ready to make a purchase, check out the selection of equipment at MarcyPro, where you’ll find a large variety of machines that can meet every budget, floor space and workout needs!


  1. I am about to have surgery for a torn meniscus and my doctor said I should get a recumbent bike that can be resistance peddled both backwards and forwards. Can any of the Marcy recumbent bikes meet this criteria?

    1. Hi Michael, thanks for reaching out to us here on our Marcy Blog. I am very sorry to hear about your torn meniscus. Hope that you have a safe surgery and speedy recovery. Please note, our Marcy recumbent bikes pedal both forward and backward. However, resistance only applies to pedaling forward. So there would be zero resistance by pedaling backward. Ask your doctor if resistance is needed for pedaling backward for your recovery process.

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