When it’s time for a cardio workout, do you jump on the treadmill or the elliptical trainer? Treadmills and elliptical trainers are among the most popular cardio and aerobic fitness machines, and both can help you break a sweat and burn some serious calories. However, does one machine outshine the other? That depends a lot on your personal fitness goals, history of injuries, and your current level of fitness. Let’s look at some of the primary benefits of elliptical trainers and treadmills, so you can decide which type of fitness equipment is a better fit for you!
Benefits of an Elliptical Trainer
If you like the idea of gliding your way to a calorie deficit, then step into the pedals of an elliptical training machine. Elliptical trainers are known for the smooth, gliding strides they allow you to take. Increase or decrease the resistance to target your workout or try a pre-programmed workout to mix things up. Here are some of the biggest reasons to give this machine a try:
Low Impact Exercise
One of the best reasons to use an elliptical trainer is that it offers you a low-impact exercise. Since your feet never leave the pedals, you won’t jar your knees, hips, and back. Over time, this could save your body a lot of wear and tear.
For this reason, elliptical trainers are an excellent idea if you suffer from arthritis or lower body joint pain. If you are in physical therapy, the low impact exercise of an elliptical trainer could also be preferable to running on a treadmill.
Upper Body and Core Activation
Treadmills are great at putting your legs to work, but they require minimal effort from your arms. Many elliptical trainers allow your arms to get in on the action by pulling and pushing handles or poles. This movement can activate your chest, shoulders and upper back muscles.
The elliptical machine also requires balance, which will help to keep your core activated during your workout.
Perception of Ease
Another big benefit of an elliptical trainer over a treadmill is that, often, it simply feels easier to work out on an elliptical than to run on the constantly churning belt of a treadmill. This perception of ease makes an elliptical a good option for newer exercisers or those who may feel intimidated by the thought of chugging away on a treadmill. This can also be the little push you need to actually go down to your home gym and get in a workout!
Customize Your Workout
The perception of ease that exercisers feel with an elliptical isn’t all imaginary. In most cases, working out on an elliptical won’t burn as many calories as working out on a treadmill for the same amount of time. This could be a big drawback if your ultimate goal is to lose weight and if you want to make the most of limited workout time.
However, there are still ways you can crank up the difficulty on your elliptical. You can always move faster to increase your calorie burn or increase the resistance. You will just have to hold yourself accountable since it is easy to slack your pace when you get tired.
Target Your Hamstrings and Glutes
One unique feature of an elliptical is that most versions of the machine allow you to pedal backwards. This not only makes your workout a little more interesting, but it allows you to activate your hamstrings and glutes. These are important muscles to target for sculpting your legs and working out your entire lower body.
Benefits of a Treadmill
There is something beautiful in the simplicity of a treadmill. Sure, you can program all sorts of different running patterns into it and even elevate it, but at its core, a treadmill is a moving belt. You step on, program your pace, and off you go. While treadmills have been around for a long time, they are still a very valuable piece of cardio equipment. Here’s why you should consider hopping onto a treadmill for your next workout:
Build More Functional Fitness
The primary benefit of a treadmill is that it forces you to run. Running is a foundational movement and running on a regular basis will help you maintain a higher overall functionality. Your body was built to run, so why deprive it of a movement that has been at the center of human existence for all of our history?
Ideal Training for a Race
If you are training for a race, then you need to run. Period. Hopping onto an elliptical will help improve your cardiovascular and aerobic fitness, but only running can truly train you to run.
More Calories Burned
The question so many exercisers have is – which burns more calories, a treadmill or an elliptical? The answer, in most cases, is a treadmill. According to an article in Runner’s World, a 150-pound person would burn 668.2 calories per hour running on a treadmill while burning only 340.9 calories on an elliptical trainer using a moderate effort. That makes a treadmill almost twice as efficient at burning calories compared to an elliptical, assuming the same amount of effort over time.
Those whose main goal is to lose weight or burn the most calories in the shortest amount of time would do best to step onto a treadmill instead of an elliptical machine.
There’s something so honest about running on a treadmill. If you program a ten-minute mile, that’s exactly how fast you’ll run until you pause the program or step off the machine. A treadmill will always hold you accountable in a way that an elliptical just can’t. This makes a treadmill an excellent training partner, especially if you tend to slow down while running outside or on the track. A treadmill takes no excuses.
Helps Keep Your Bones Strong
Some people may worry that running on a treadmill could wear out their joints, and an elliptical trainer is certainly a better option for exercisers with joint issues or arthritis. However, the impact of regular running on a treadmill can actually strengthen your bones. Maintaining your bone density is one of the best ways to prevent injuries later in life, so don’t shy away from impactful exercise as long as your joints can handle it.
Elliptical Trainer or Treadmill? Why Choose?
The truth is that there is no clear winner when it comes to treadmill versus an elliptical trainer. Instead, each machine offers a unique set of benefits that may make one a better fit for you depending on your circumstances. Many exercisers can benefit from incorporating both treadmill and elliptical workouts into their fitness routines. A treadmill is a great way to promote functional fitness, keep up your bone density, and push yourself to improve your running speed. Conversely, an elliptical is ideal for cross training. When it’s time to give your joints a break or to take an active rest day from your training, the smooth, enjoyable elliptical can be a great option.