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Elliptical or treadmill for home

The treadmill has been a long-standing staple in any gym or health club. But now it has to share some of its floor space in the cardio section with the newcomer, the elliptical trainer. Both are fantastic for cardio workouts and for those aiming to burn some heavy calories.
The elliptical may seem foreign to most people when compared to the traditional treadmill, but both of these machines have been designed to provide you with all the benefits of walking and running with a near-perfect simulation of the cases.

elliptical vs treadmill intro

Both the treadmill and the elliptical trainer provide great cardio | Credit: top5.com

So, is the pandemic restricting you from the gym? Or are you planning to start working out from your home?

If so, which one of these two excellent exercise machines are you getting?

Deciding which exercise equipment to get for yourself is a timeless question. Today we are going to be discussing some factors that we hope will help you decide the best cardio exercise machine to get for your residence, tailored to your body’s needs: The Elliptical or the Treadmill?

Benefits of ellipticals

With its inception in 1995, the elliptical can be considered a fairly new addition to the workout trainer department compared to its competition: the treadmill or the stationary bike. But by no means does it fall short of producing results in comparison to its long-standing rivals.
The elliptical is known to combine both arm and leg motions making it a very popular choice for both homes and gyms. That said, let us break down the benefits that an elliptical can bring to your workout sessions:

  • No-Impact Training

    The elliptical’s design causes your feet to never leave their pedals during your sessions. This significantly reduces the shock felt by your bones and joints on every stride, unlike running or jumping where you are landing on your feet at every instance. This will save your lower body from a lot of wear and tear. According to a study (source), an estimated 80% of workout injuries are caused by the overuse of the lower body. Using an elliptical significantly reduces this risk.

  • Get Yourself a Total Body Workout

    The movable ramp combined with its, often time, movable handles, the elliptical ensures that your upper body, core, and lower body is targeted during the workout. You can further enhance your training and target your desired muscles by changing the incline of the machine or even pedaling in reverse.

➥ To have a full-body workout, you should get yourself an Elliptical cross trainer combo

  • Mimics Natural Movement

    The strides of the elliptical follow a singular pattern that resembles the motion of walking or running. That combined with a heavy enough flywheel, the elliptical can easily simulate the natural and smooth impression of movement.

  • It Just Feels Easier

    The lack of impact that your body experiences during an elliptical workout may put you under the impression that you aren’t putting in enough effort or burning enough calories. But research (source) published in 2010 indicates that you burn the same amount of calories in an elliptical as you would do on a treadmill for an equivalent workout time period. The elliptical just makes you feel more comfortable.

  • Workout Variety

    The elliptical allows you to add resistance and incline to your workouts. It even allows you to go backward safely (feet are planted on the pedals at all times), adding new layers of workout varieties.

➥ If you want to know more about the benefits of using elliptical cross trainers, then this is just what you need.

When to use an elliptical

Safety and comfort is the name of the game for the elliptical. Cardio, and the calorie burn that comes with it, is of course the primary function of the elliptical. But, while it cannot override the benefits of traditional running – the elliptical can seriously aid runners who are injured, or are recovering, even assist the elderly and overtired looking to get some exercise.

To elaborate, the low impact feature of the elliptical can be utilized as an active recovery method for runners or sportspersons who may be needing a rest day in between an intensive and draining schedule, all the while getting a powerful cardiovascular session to keep their bodies active.

This low-impact conditioning can be also utilized outside the spectrum of athletes, for the elderly or people who are medically recovering by keeping their bodies active.


The Elliptical at Home

Benefits of treadmill

Most people view treadmills as simple cardio machines – and they are, making them some of the most commonly used cardio trainers at home or the gym. Its popularity stems from the fact that it perfectly simulates you running outside all the while protecting you from the elements. The benefits of using a treadmill are similar to running, with a few bonuses:

  • Adjustable Impact Workout

    Many workout enthusiasts prefer to feel the shock or impact of their workout immediately. The treadmill allows you to adjust the impact of your workout, low impact walking, or high impact running, as it does not restrict you to the surface. Both of these types of impacts may contribute to building stronger bones (source) and aid in burning more calories during your sessions.

  • Variable Exercise Methods

    Whether it be walking, jogging, running, or sprinting, the treadmill is built to adjust to your pace simulating what you would do if you were out on the pavement. On top of that, some treadmills may even allow you to modify the incline of the belt increasing difficulty and mimic an uphill jog.

  • Focused on Runners

    The treadmill is specifically built for runners looking for convenience without diminishing the impact of pavement running. Whether you run for charity, professionally, or just looking to burn some calories, the treadmill provides a simple running solution to make yourself active.

  • No User Manuals Needed

    Treadmills are some of the simplest and easy-to-use exercise machines in existence. It has one job: to assist you to move your feet, at your pace, simulating a pavement.

When to use a treadmill

From a general user’s perspective, a treadmill is a simple, easy-to-use cardio workout equipment. If you are focused on fitness and are looking for the convenience of going out on a run at home, treadmills are a game-changer. Especially now with the pandemic lockdown in place.

But if you look at it from a professional or athletic viewpoint, treadmills offer so much more. An athlete or a gym enthusiast may utilize the variable belt speed or the adjustable incline to challenge themselves. Or use the software provided to track their records and improvements to push themselves in training before they head out into the fields.

All in all, treadmills provide a very well rounded and accepted form of indoor workout.


The Treadmill at Home

Elliptical vs. Treadmill. Which one would be better for me?

Both the elliptical and the treadmill are cardiovascular exercise machines designed to be used indoors. Trying to decide which one to get can be purely subjective to the buyer’s needs. To make your decision easier we have boiled down some features and aspects that athletes and trainees look for in their workout equipment:

ImpactLow Impact. There is no shock to the joints as your feet are firmly planted on the pedals all the time. This provides for a smooth and safe workout session. Impact is always lower than a treadmill.Varying Impact. The impact on your body depends on your pace of movement as your feet are consistently leaving the belt. Walking produces the lowest impact and sprinting the highest. But impact and shock to your joints will always be higher than an elliptical.
Target MusclesFull Body* (*range depends on the availability of movable handlebars). The elliptical is a cross-trainer. Which means both of your hands and feet are in constant motion during workout. When done in conjunction to each other, the movement will target almost all muscles, especially given the fact that the elliptical also allows you to pedal backwards.Core and Lower Body. The treadmill essentially simulates running outdoors at home. So all the muscles that are targeted by running: the quads, calves, hamstrings, hips and glutes, are also toned by using the treadmill. And since your feet are leaving the ground, you are able to engage your core muscles (abs) more by using the treadmill compared to an elliptical.
Range of MotionMinimal. The elliptical follows a predetermined stride path. So no matter how fast or slow, or how inclined you are on the machine, the movement of the machine's pedals are the same. The only variety that you can bring to your session, in terms of movement, is whether or not you are using movable handlebars.Variable, but only for the lower body. With a treadmill, you have complete control over your stride path and angle for a more natural movement. But your upper body sees no extra work done, at least by the treadmill itself.
Calorie BurnApproximately 750-800 calories per hour of workout (depending on user weight, speed and incline). But does not put the joints or bones under stress.Approximately 700-900 calories per hour of workout (depending on user weight, speed and incline). The larger range is contributed by the high impact of workout that is incurred from using the treadmill.

Things to Consider Before Buying

  1. Available Work Space

    Looking at the elliptical and the treadmill objectively, they are both bulky machines. On average, these machines take up 15-20 square feet of floor space, with the elliptical possibly being around 10 inches narrower. Not to mention that you must also consider enough space on every side to avoid accidents. While there are options for some foldable treadmills, the same can’t be said for ellipticals (for which you might consider a mini (link to mini ellipticals)).

    treadmill space

    Consider your space

    ➥ Provided that you live in a studio apartment with limited space, then, you can consider buying a Compact Elliptical.

  2. Level of Noise

    The level of noise that your machine makes is somewhat dependent on its construction. The higher quality of materials used makes for a quieter machine. But this will also hike up the price by a noticeable amount.

  3. Try out the Machine

    A bit of universal advice goes to all buyers of exercise equipment: Try It Out before purchase. Everyone is built differently, so finding the machine that can be custom-fit to your needs is of utmost importance! Understand yourself: Are you looking for a safe but engaging workout? Are you targeting HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) levels of impact? These are among the few questions you must consider before finding the right equipment suited to your needs.

  4. Joint & Bone Health Awareness

    Being knowledgeable of the impact your workout machine exerts on your body is very important. If you suffer from injuries, like a torn meniscus, or have underlying medical conditions like osteoarthritis: then you should be considering an option of a workout machine that is low impact and safe to use. Like an elliptical, which is not only safe for your joints but also helps strengthen the thoracic spine.

F. A. Q.s

Q1. Would a treadmill or an elliptical be better for me?

Ans.: Before considering which workout machine you should buy you should take time and understand yourself first. That is of utmost importance. Your body and your goals should guide your decision. Consider facts like underlying injuries or medical issues. If you have or are susceptible to such injuries or also want to start at a lower energy expenditure point (you could be a beginner to exercise), you may want to look towards an elliptical. If such issues don’t come to mind and/or are looking for HIIT sessions, then the treadmill would be your best bet.

Q2. Which one should I pick for losing weight?

Ans.: You must understand that weight loss depends on the effort you put into your exercise session keeping your body type in consideration. That said, most forms of cardiovascular exercise machines tend to have similar weight loss potential. As such, both the elliptical and treadmill have similar calories burnt per hour of workout, with the treadmill having a slight edge over the elliptical due to its high impact capabilities.

➥ If you plan on shedding some pounds, then have a look at the ellipticals for losing weight 

Q3. Which muscles on my body would be targeted when using either machine?

Ans.: The elliptical is a cross-trainer, which means both of your arms and legs are involved during a workout. This is further enhanced if the elliptical supports movable handlebars. So, the muscles of your upper body, core, and lower body are being targeted when using an elliptical.
On the other hand, the treadmill only simulates running or walking which targets the lower body primarily. It also helps that the treadmill is a high-impact workout machine enabling you to engage your core (abs) with every step.

gym lineup


The essence of our discussion really sums up the fact that both of these machines are great for indoor cardio and weight loss. Using either essentially boils down to preference and user conditions. If both options are available to you at the gym, there really is no reason to not use either, on alternative days preferably for maximum benefit. But if you are planning on bringing one of these bad boys home, then you surely have to let your body decide.

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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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