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Treadmill vs Elliptical

Exercising and working out are two main topics in everyone’s “new year’s resolutions”, as every one wishes they could change the way their bodies look, may it be losing fat or building muscle. Gyms filled with all sorts of equipment are available for anyone who wants to start building the body they dream of. But, whenever we confront with such a variety of equipment, the obvious question appears: which one is better? The queens of these battles are the treadmill and the elliptical machine, as discussions are always started on this matter. So, Treadmill vs. Elliptical, which one is more effective? The all-known treadmill, or the more different elliptical machine?

Tread carefully


The treadmill offers versatility, as you can decide what type of exercise you wish to follow: from a slow jog, to a high intensity sprint, you are the one who sets the bar. Also, it emulates natural movement, so it feels just like you are running outside, but you can do it in a closed space, away from rain, wind or snow.

Apart from the benefits associated with all forms of cardiovascular exercise, the key benefit of treadmills is accessibility. The running or walking motion required to use a treadmill is natural, comfortable and familiar. The treadmill offers more impact, which helps strengthen the bones. Another advantage is that treadmills can have a built-in motivation factor. The belt speed and the incline will adjust automatically when you follow a program, reducing any tendencies to relax during a workout. Although you can stop or slow the machine at any time, the automated pace prevents you from easing up unintentionally.

But the treadmill has some disadvantages, as it can be pretty tough on joints.  Running on a treadmill can put stress on your spine, hips, knees, and ankle joints, especially if you do not warm up, or run on it all the time with excessive volume. It is a fairly difficult exercise, since running is not everyone’s cup of tea. Also, some people find treadmills repetitive, making them less likely to exercise as often as they should.

Going round in circles


The elliptical features two pedals that move in a smooth, uninterrupted circular motion that allows for an impact-free workout. Additionally, two long handles extend upward from the base of the machine and place resistance on your upper body. This full-body workout means that you have the potential to burn significantly more calories per hour with an elliptical than if you were to use a treadmill or exercise bike.

The elliptical allows your body to emulate a running motion without causing the strenuous impact on your joints that occurs on a treadmill. This can be invaluable for individuals with injuries or weaknesses in their knees, ankles, hips and lower back. One feature which is often overlooked about elliptical trainers is the ability to add variety to your aerobic workout. Whenever anyone is on an exercise plan, one of the biggest challenges he or she faces is to stay motivated and interested in his workouts.

With the treadmill, the ability to change the incline, as well as the intensity are big pluses, which has contributed to its popularity over the last decade. The elliptical trainer matches these features and has a few additional ones of its own. The most critical feature, and what separates the elliptical trainer from many other exercise machines when it comes to variety, is the forward and reversible feature on the foot pedals. When you are going forward, you feel like a cross country skier hitting the long slopes. However, when you reverse your pedal motion, you can target your lower body in a completely different way. Without question, you are targeting your quadriceps muscles and will soon feel them burn after a few minutes.

There are some potential drawbacks to ellipticals. Because the structure of the elliptical machine controls and limits your range of motion, the movement may take some getting used to. Since they’re a one-size-fits-all kind of machine, someone who’s got a naturally shorter stride may end up hyper-extending their knees, which could lead to injury. Just like any other piece of cardio equipment, the repetition of doing the same thing over again can be so boring that you cut your workout short.

Health benefits


A study by the Medical College of Wisconsin found the average calories burned jogging on a treadmill for one hour was 705 to 866 for a 155-pound person. By comparison, an estimate by Health Status found using an elliptical trainer for one hour will burn approximately 773 calories.  This is more than many activities like low-impact and high-impact aerobics, weight lifting and moderate cycling on a stationary bike. Based on these and other similar studies, the treadmill may have a slight advantage in calorie burn, although oftentimes the amount of variance is considered negligible compared to the elliptical. The caloric burn you experience on the treadmill depends on whether you walk or run. A person of the same weight burns about 342 calories walking at 4 mph and 562 calories running at 5 mph. When your body burns 3,500 more calories than it consumes, you lose a pound of fat. Your average pace dictates the number of calories you burn while using a treadmill or elliptical trainer. The key element to remember is the faster you move, the more calories you burn.


The elliptical can be used as an effective cardiovascular machine for those who want to help improve cardiovascular health with minimal impact.  For optimal fat loss, high intensity interval training should be implemented when using an elliptical. Treadmills offer more versatility and the motor of a treadmill forces you to work out of your comfort zone. If you’re an experienced exerciser, the treadmill offers the most calorie burn because you’re supporting your own body weight.  The few extra calories you might burn on the treadmill come with greater potential for injury and stress on your joints, which is why the elliptical is an adequate alternative. All in all, both pieces of equipment offer many advantages but, in the end, you have to choose according to your individual needs.

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