Elliptical vs. Treadmill….Which is a Better Workout For You?

Elliptical vs. treadmill…the age old (well, not that old) battle between two of the most popular home exercise machines available today. Which one is better? Which burns more calories? Which one is easier on your joints? Here we explore the topic and hopefully answer some of the most important questions so that you can make the right decision when it comes to buying one or the other for your home.

Let me start off by pointing out that you can’t go wrong with an elliptical or a treadmill. Both will provide a great workout and help you burn off those excess calories. However, each of these machines has its own unique strengths and weaknesses. When trying to make up your mind about which of the two cardio machines to choose, it is important that you know what your fitness goals are and which of the two will help you get there quickly and safely.

The Benefits of Elliptical Trainers


Elliptical trainers are kind of new when compared to treadmills, which have been around for quite some time. An elliptical lets you imitate a running motion but without the heavy pressure that impacts your joints when running on a treadmill. Therefore, for people who suffer from any kind of joint pain, the elliptical is definitely the better option. Your feet stay planted the whole time you are working out.

An elliptical trainer also has handle bars and foot pedals that provide you with both an upper and lower body workout. Treadmills are specifically for lower body workouts and the motion you project is one of jogging. Another aspect where the elliptical gets one over a treadmill is in the direction of motion. With an elliptical, you can often choose to run in reverse, thus working a different set of muscles (especially the quads). A treadmill doesn’t offer a reverse jogging option.

Another benefit of ellipticals is that some of the newer “hybrid” models are combined with recumbent bikes or offer the ability to use them as cross country skiers or steppers. You don’t have that versatility with a treadmill.

When you compare an elliptical vs. treadmill in terms of cardio intensity and performance, an elliptical trainer lets you burn almost as many calories as a treadmill but with lighter impact and less energy used.

The Benefits of Treadmills

treadmillTreadmills provide a great way to make your leg muscles and bones stronger due to the high impact workout they provide. As long as you love running and do not suffer from any kind of joint pain, a treadmill is the best option for a cardio workout.

Similarly, if you are training for a marathon, the treadmill would be the obvious choice over the elliptical as it will serve your fitness goals better. Treadmills do not impact the joints as much as running outside on the concrete, and if the weather is a hindrance for running outside, then the treadmill is a better solution.

When it comes to which of the two machines lets you burn calories faster, then the treadmill usually comes out on top, but not by much. The fact that a treadmill typically offers numerous options for speed and incline levels is great for people who want to shed those pounds quickly.

The elliptical loses out here because it provides the user with too much assistance when working out at a lower speed. You end up using the elliptical’s own momentum to get through the workout as opposed to using your own bodyweight. In the end, you may not burn those calories as fast as you’d like when you train with an elliptical at low speeds.

Elliptical vs. Treadmill…The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, the elliptical and the treadmill are both great cardio workout machines offering different types of fitness and exercise. If you want to walk or run, burn calories fast and the impact of running is not a concern, then a treadmill is the right choice for you.

If you’d rather a workout that is easier on the joints, offers an arm workout as well, and offers both forward and reverse motion, then an elliptical might be the best choice for you.

The best way to solve the elliptical vs. treadmill debate is to just use them both if you can. That way you can reap the benefits of both machines. Some treadmills even have the option to make the belt softer so there is less impact. And most ellipticals allow you to ramp up the resistance so you can burn more calories.

There are always going to be some experts telling you that a treadmill is a better workout and others telling you that you can get the same results if not better on an elliptical. So it really comes down to which one you prefer using.