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Cross-trainer vs treadmill calories

Cross-trainers and treadmills are two of the most popular exercise machines in the world. The debate about which is better is always ongoing. But which machine burns more calories? What muscles are worked? What are the advantages of using each machine? The answers to these questions and more can be found in this article.

According to a study by the Medical College of Wisconsin, running on a treadmill burns an average of 705-866 calories per hour. Whereas, using cross-trainer burns on average 773 calories per hour. It is evident that with both treadmills and cross-trainers you can burn a lot of calories and that there is not much of a difference between the amounts.

Treadmills and cross trainers

Treadmills and cross trainers

Calories burned while using Cross-Trainer & Treadmill

Interestingly, treadmills in general feel more exhausting to users. It is mostly because of this that people consider the treadmill to be more effective at burning calories. However, this assumption is not entirely correct. As we have already mentioned above, treadmills and cross-trainers offer almost the same amount of calorie consumption according to one study. Further proof of this can be found in a research paper published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. The study shows that at the same rate of perceived exertion (RPE), the energy expenditure for ellipticals is slightly higher than for treadmills. Keep in mind that the exact amount of calories burned will depend on various factors such as body weight, intensity, time, etc.

Cross-Trainer vs. Treadmill

1. For losing weight

If you want to lose weight, you have to burn more calories than you consume throughout the day. It’s as simple as that. Both cross-trainers and treadmills are among the best exercise machines for doing just that. There is a reason why people turn to these machines for weight loss. Since there is not much of a difference between the number of calories burned for these two machines, the final choice will be up to your preferences/requirements. A cross-trainer is low impact and works your entire body, whereas a treadmill has a more natural and familiar motion. We have discussed the advantages of each machine type further along with this article so that you can make a choice based on that.

➥ Consider having a look at some of the Elliptical you can buy for effectively losing weight.

2. Muscles worked on

On a treadmill, you will mostly be working your lower body muscles. These include the quads, glutes, hamstrings, hip flexors, and various other leg muscles. The same muscles are worked on a cross-trainer as well but to a slightly lower degree of intensity. You have to carry your own weight on a treadmill. Meanwhile, a cross-trainer provides some support and moves with you. Moreover, the forces experienced on a treadmill by our legs are much more demanding.

Cross-trainers offer a full-body workout thanks to the moving handles. As you push and pull the handles, your biceps, triceps, chest, and back are engaged. A treadmill does not work your upper body. Neither machine can be used to gain muscle mass, but you can tone your muscles and build strength and endurance. In conclusion, if you want to focus on your lower body and your joints are healthy, a treadmill is the better choice. If you want a full-body cardio workout, go for a cross-trainer.

Advantages of using cross-trainers

Cross trainers

Cross trainers

1. Low impact workout

The term “low-impact” may make it sound like using cross-trainers isn’t hard. But you can get an intense cardio workout with them. Instead, it refers to the fact that there are much lower impact forces on the body. This is because your feet never leave the pedals on a cross-trainer. This is perfect for those who suffer from back pain, knee pain, arthritis, or osteoporosis. Anyone can use a cross-trainer without feeling any sort of discomfort.

2. Helps in recuperating after an injury

Continuing from the previous point, cross-trainers are great for working out during an injury. With this type of machine, you don’t have to take a break from exercise when you get an injury. Due to the low impact nature, it is possible in many cases to continue regular exercise and maintain fitness.

3. Offers lower & upper body workouts

The combination of the handles and pedals moving in tandem works both the lower and upper body muscles. Even the core remains engaged as you try to maintain balance on the machine. This helps to tone your entire body. Additionally, it improves your total body coordination.

➥ In case you want to have a full-body workout, we highly recommend that you have a look at the elliptical cross trainer combo.

4. Works on a different group of muscles

Other than a full-body workout, a cross-trainer also allows you to target different muscle groups. Many of them have a fixed set of handles that you can hold onto to work the legs only. Also, you could drive the motion with your arms and focus on the upper body – let the legs just ride along. Another thing you can do to add variation is to pedal in reverse. This emphasizes a bunch of different muscles compared to when pedaling forward.

➥ Here, you’ll get to know more about the benefits of using an elliptical cross trainer

Advantages of using treadmills


Treadmills | Credit: https://unsplash.com/photos/pCT8ag1o3nU

1. Offers plenty of control

A treadmill is a highly versatile machine. You can set the speed to a wide range of values, from a casual walk to a full-on sprint. In most cases, there is also the option to adjust the incline. Most treadmills also come with built-in programs that you can follow. The easy control of speed and incline makes them ideal for HIIT workouts.

2. Helps in building leg strength

Running is a very demanding exercise that requires all the lower body muscles to work. Combine that with a bit of an incline and you have the opportunity to strengthen your calves, glutes, quads, hamstrings, and even hip flexors.

How would you be able to pick your desired machine?

Depending on your situation, choosing between a treadmill and a cross-trainer may either be very easy or difficult. If you are an elderly person or you suffer from any sort of skeletal/joint problems, a cross-trainer might be the obvious choice due to the low impact. Even then, it would be best to consult with a doctor beforehand. Otherwise, it becomes a more complicated choice. If you go to a gym, then, by all means, try using both. If you’re buying for home use, you have to consider your fitness goals and which one you enjoy more.

Use a cross-trainer if...Use a treadmill if...
You do not want to exert too much stress on your joints and bonesYou are not prone to injuries or joint problems
You want to reduce the risk of injury while exercisingYou have a specific goal such as training for a race or marathon
You want total body workout in a shorter period of timeYou want to build endurance and strength in your lower body muscles

F. A. Q.s

Q1. Which is safer to use, a treadmill or cross-trainer?

Ans.: There is a chance of falling off a treadmill if you are not careful about the speed. Always start slow and increase speed gradually. Nearly all treadmills have a safety stop. Be prepared to pull it in an instant when running at high speeds. Cross-trainers are very safe to use. You only need to get used to the motion when using it for the first time. Here are some things to keep in mind for using either machine safely:-

  • Warm-up properly before working out to prevent injury or cramping
  • Practice proper cooldown and stretching after an intense workout.
  • Keep yourself hydrated throughout the workout, stop exercising immediately if you feel lightheaded or dizzy.
Treadmill safety clip

Treadmill safety clip

Q2. Which is better for losing belly fat, treadmill or elliptical?

Ans.: Losing belly fat means losing fat throughout your whole body. Spot reduction of fat is a myth according to the American Council on Exercise and multiple studies. To shred body fat, both treadmills and ellipticals are effective pieces of equipment, and both burn pretty much an equal amount of calories as stated before.

To know more, you can have a look at how effective can ellipticals be for losing belly fat

Q3. Is a cross-trainer bad for knees?

Ans.: Exercising on a cross-trainer machine causes very little stress on your knees, hips, and back than using a treadmill. However, running on a treadmill exerts pretty much the same force as an elliptical machine. But this is not too harmful to the knees. Rather it’s the shock/impact of hitting the ground while running that is damaging. These shocks are almost non-existent on a cross-trainer since the feet never leave the pedals.


Both treadmills and cross-trainers are excellent machines for improving cardiovascular health, increasing stamina, toning your muscles, and preventing many diseases. With both machines, you will likely see results, if you stick to a regular workout routine and maintain a healthy diet. Whichever one you choose, you have already taken a step towards leading a healthier and happier life.

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Dion Lewis
My name is Dion Lewis.

I’ve been cycling from my childhood. When I was in high school, I started racing in our local competitions.

At my college life, I took a part time job in a bicycle shop and I learned how to repair and maintain bicycles professionally.

Though I love racing, mountain biking is another thing I do frequently. My friends, neighbors, and colleagues treat me as an avid rider and take my suggestions while they plan for a new bike or a bike gear.

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