Monday, September 3, 2012

The Battle of the Elliptical vs. the Treadmill

The question always comes up: Which form of cardio is the best? The two forms of cardio that have people riled up the most are the elliptical and the treadmill. They are probably the two most common cardio machines you would find in any gym, and they are thought to be somewhat similar in the type of motion required.

Because everyone is different, what exercise works for each person is also different. So it is key to understand what is most important to you as you determine what works. Here are a few key differences between the elliptical and the treadmill to help you decide:

Calories burned
Well, I had to start with this one! When we talk about cardio, we are usually looking for what burns the most calories in the least time, and with the least effort! Ummm... you're seeing things. I did not say that last part. 

Okay, so how does the elliptical compare to the treadmill? Of course it depends on your weight and your speed. But on average, a 150 pound person usually burns about 600 to 700 calories on the treadmill if they run for about an hour. The elliptical is also about 600 to 700 calories an hour, unless you're pushing harder and putting in more effort one way or the other. 

Effort required
Which leads to the next point. How much effort is required to burn the same number of calories on the treadmill vs. the elliptical? It looks like the elliptical takes this one. Again, unless you are pushing harder, the elliptical usually requires less effort than the treadmill to go at the same speed. Why? With the treadmill, you are lifting and dropping your whole body and so it feels harder. With the elliptical, you are pushing and pulling rather than lifting and dropping.

Impact on your joints
If you lift and drop any object consistently, there is bound to be some damage. Your body operates in the same manner. Whenever you drop your legs as you run, you put a lot of impact on your knees and ankles. And so the surface on which you run is pretty important. Treadmills and race tracks were created with materials to minimize the impact on your joints. However, there is still some impact. The elliptical on the other hand does not involve lifting and dropping and so the impact to your joints is very minimal.

Flexibility of the exercise
If you were raised by humans, you probably know how to run. It is naturally built into our genes. Thus, perfecting your run, and introducing different types of training to your runs would be more natural than trying to figure out how to mix up your training on the elliptical. On the treadmill, you can do interval training (speeding up for a short interval, and slowing down for a short interval) to burn more calories, or do power exercises like side shuffles. The treadmill is a more flexible machine if you get bored easily.

Volume of muscles reached
Running is a great overall body workout. It is difficult to compare it to anything else. If you look at any runner, their leg muscles and core muscles are usually toned. However, with the elliptical (depending on the type of elliptical), because you are using your arms as well, you end up building both your upper and lower body muscles. Can someone say "Hello upper back"? Plus, the elliptical allows you to do reverse spins, or squat as you push, which means you'd be working different muscle groups that you wouldn't ordinarily reach in a forward upright motion.

Endorphin rush
Maybe this is just me, but when I finish time on the treadmill, I feel an amazing endorphin rush that I don't get from the elliptical. That is not to say I don't get an endorphin rush from the elliptical. I do, but it's not comparable. Could it be because I sweat more? Maybe. Or because it feels like more of an accomplishment? Maybe. It may be a different feeling for you.

Given all of that, I would still pick the treadmill over the elliptical. However, there are tremendous benefits of choosing the elliptical over the treadmill, especially if you are older, have been injured before, or if you are concerned about your joints.

Which would you choose?

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Photo credit:,

1 comment:

  1. I'm definitely an elliptical girl, I tried and tried to get used to running on the treadmill but its just not for me. I can walk fast at a high incline which works me out a looot too so if there's no elliptical i do that


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...