Treadmills Vs. Ellipticals: Which Is Right for You?

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Fit brunette running on the treadmill at the gym

In the battle of cardio machines, gym-goers are loyal to their favorite cardio equipment. Whether you’re a treadmill lover or an elliptical enthusiast, follow these tips from the experts at Life Fitness to make the most of what your favorite cardio machine has to offer.

Why You Should Choose a Treadmill

Outdoor experience. If you’re a dedicated runner or even a novice jogger interested in re-creating the outdoor running experience, treadmill programs like the hill option can produce an authentic training experience while offering benefits of a controlled workout.

Incline and speed. While climbing a treadmill incline might not be as exhilarating as a mountain hike, it’s a great way to add variety and intensity to your workout, especially during cold, rainy months. Having the option of varying your treadmill speed can be extremely beneficial. Check out your treadmill’s pre-programmed speed-interval workouts, and use these to alternate running speeds and intensity levels, which can offer significant calorie burn.

Accessibility. Walking is the most popular form of cardio exercise—and the most compatible. Even if you’re unable to run, treadmill walking allows you to lessen the intensity of a cardio workout while still gaining heart and bone health benefits. If you can’t walk outside due to location or weather, the treadmill will always be a trusted option.

Why You Should Choose an Elliptical

Safety. If you’re seeking a workout with less joint impact, the smooth motion of the elliptical offers an intense workout with less perceived exertion. It’s not as hard on your knees, hips and back, but this machine can still deliver a respectable calorie burn and aerobic heart rate.

Cross-training. The handlebars on elliptical trainers offer an upper-body workout that’s in sync with your foot movement. Using the dual handlebars and legs simultaneously will give you a full-body workout, and you have the ability to alter stride length, which gives you more freedom to tailor your workout.

Resistance and speed. The resistance on an elliptical trainer correlates to the incline on a treadmill; speed is determined by how quickly and steeply you move your feet. Try utilizing the adjustable ramp that many elliptical trainers offer, allowing for more variety in movement.

Fun factor. Some exercisers complain that running on a treadmill is boring. The repetitive motion in a forward direction can become dull, causing you to abandon your workout program. Elliptical trainers can keep things a little more interesting by allowing you to increase the resistance level and speed, while also giving you the option to reverse the pedals and use muscles in a different way.

In the battle of treadmill vs. elliptical, which do you prefer? Tell us in the comments! —Life Fitness

Life Fitness is a provider of fitness equipment. For more fitness advice and a listing of its products, visit  www.lifefitness.com or follow them on Twitter or Facebook.


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  1. Man Bicep says:

    Why are those the only two pieces of cardio equipment really ever discussed? I honestly think a rowing machine is ten times better than either one of them. What do you think of the rowing machine?

  2. Lindsay says:

    I think the elliptical is about 1000 times more boring than the treadmill. You can also increase speed and incline on a treadmill…

  3. Tracy says:

    If it was a choice between the two of them, I’d go for the elliptical every time. It’s no less boring – you’re still staring at the same piece of wall for 20 or 30 minutes or whatever! – but at least there’s a lot less impact, and I’m not left feeling like I’ve bashed my shins with tonne-weights.

    I also feel like I can go faster on the elliptical, where I can’t jog OR run on the treadmill, feeling like I’m gonna fly off the back of the treadmill every time I turn it up past 3mph. I can go up to 5/6mph on the elliptical without trouble! So I definitely feel like I’m getting a better workout, with less stress to my joints, on the elliptical.

    But the view doesn’t get any better, alas. Thank goodness for my music giving me a distraction!

  4. Molly says:

    I think both have benefits…I personally go through waves. I like the elliptical for when my knees start bothering me. You can adjust your speed and resistance so it’s not just a constant, consistent motion, just like the treadmill adjusts speed and incline. Both awesome for cardio!

  5. TS says:

    I used to have a treadmill, but I sold that and got an elliptical instead. I usually run outside anyway, and I was always worried about the speed (even though it does have the safety key). But what really got me was the noise: the treadmill was so loud! I don’t like loud things, and the elliptical is so quiet. When I want to run, I’ll go to my park instead. If there’s bad weather, I’ll use the elliptical at home. Both work your muscles and give cardio, so my running never suffered for it.

  6. Ivori says:

    I’m actually in the market for a treadmill and would like to see a review on what is the best type/brand/style of treadmill for the money.
    I bought a $300 treadmill at Wal-Mart and it broke after a year 🙁
    I lost about 80 pounds using the treadmill 🙂

    My Dad has an elliptical and I get on it when I visit him, but I NEVER get my heart rate up like I do on a treadmill.

    Also, just turn your exercise machine towards the TV, like Tyra Banks, that way you will not be bored 🙂