Anyone who has set foot in a workout gym knows that treadmills and elliptical machines are the most popular fitness equipment out there. While you have a gym membership, both are available and you can interchange your workouts at will.
However, if you are considering buying fitness equipment for your home, you are probably going to have to decide between a treadmill or elliptical machine for a total body workout. Both provide either low-impact exercise or a great cardio workout and get your heart rate going. Both will also assist is weight loss. So which one offers a superior workout? Well, let’s take a look.
The Burn Factor
The treadmill offers a slight advantage in the calorie burn department. Runners will burn around 100 more calories an hour than an elliptical user will. However, many people hate running in general—not just on a treadmill because it’s hard and you know it! Studies show that on an elliptical trainer, subjects are actually working out and burning calories at a much higher intensity than they perceive themselves to be.
Although this may allow elliptical trainer users to work out for longer and so burn more calories, when it comes to running on a treadmill vs. using elliptical trainers, running on a treadmill burns more calories in the same amount of time.
The Bottom Line? When it comes to weight loss, the treadmill burns more calories in less time than the elliptical cardio machine.
The Hurt Locker
You have a significantly higher chance of injuring yourself on a treadmill than on an elliptical. This includes both stress from repetitive motions and injury from an accident. Many of us have seen the YouTube videos of people tripping and going flying off the end of a treadmill into the wall behind. While this may seem funny to some, there is a chance of seriously injuring yourself this way. Elliptical machines are never at the center of these videos because it would be difficult to sustain such an injury on an elliptical; they are simply designed in a way that is less dangerous. If you are klutz, the elliptical wins in this department!
A treadmill also has a higher chance of causing a stress injury. A treadmill belt is hard, even if it is equipped with shock absorbing technology. Despite not being a weight bearing activity, running is a high impact activity and can cause strain to your spine, hips, knees and ankles. The elliptical on the other hand is a low impact machine that, despite offering a full-body workout, is unlikely to cause these kinds of injuries.
The Bottom Line? You are way less likely to hurt yourself on an elliptical trainer than a treadmill.
Mind Over Matter
One aspect of the elliptical cross-trainer that many a gym rat seems to hate is how boring it is. The elliptical is repetitive and slow, so some people may have trouble disciplining themselves to actually stay on the elliptical until their workout is over. However, it is also easy, making it a great starting point for essentially anyone, regardless of stamina or health.
The treadmill, on the other hand, is anything but boring. Like we mentioned before, running is hard! Once the athlete is accustomed to it, they usually learn to love it and are forever chasing that elusive runners high, but running is difficult enough that it may deter some from finishing a workout. In addition, if you are out of shape or have an injury, you may be frustrated by how long you can actually last on a treadmill.
The Bottom Line? The jury is out on this one—each offers its own unique challenge with some people struggling to finish a workout on the elliptical because it’s too boring while others struggle on the treadmill because it’s hard.
The Sweaty Stakes
Sometimes, you don’t have a lot of time to workout and get to wherever you need to be next. Alternatively, you don’t want to lug around a towel and toiletries or you don’t feel like reapplying your makeup.
Like hot yoga, running is just one of those things that you’re not going to get out of clean. Inevitably, you will sweat while running on a treadmill. However, you may just be able to get away with a quick elliptical workout shower free.
The Bottom Line? If you hate showering or don’t have a permanent locker at your gym, you may be better off working out on an elliptical trainer. An elliptical is lower intensity, so you may not end up very sweaty.
The Great Outdoors
While most people like to workout indoors in the wintertime, they may enjoy taking their workouts outside in the summer. If you’ve trained on a treadmill all winter, the adjustment to transitioning to outdoor running will be a lot easier.
Although some elliptical advocates claim that the machine mimics the actions of cross-country skiing, the transition is not as seamless as running on the treadmill is to running outdoors. No one could argue with the fact that one would still have to learn how to cross country ski if they had used an elliptical before. An elliptical can help someone maintain good health in order to participate in a variety of activities. However, an elliptical will not necessarily prepare you for any specific outdoor activity.
The Bottom Line? Training on a treadmill will allow you to transition your exercise regimen outside when the nicer weather comes. Although an elliptical will keep you in good shape and allow you to be fit enough to partake in many activities, it is not a transferable skill to outdoor activity.
In conclusion, the elliptical trainer and treadmill will both keep you active, assist in achieving weight loss, elevate your heart rate and in good cardiovascular shape. Although there are some significant differences in which offers a higher cardio burn and which is more dangerous, both machines have their own sets of pros and cons.
It is up to you to decide which piece of exercise equipment is best suited to your workouts. If you are new to exercise or have a variety of pre existing stress injuries, you may want to start with the elliptical cardio machine as is notably easier as well as gentler on joints. If you crave a more challenging workout that can be done indoors or out, then you may be perfectly suited for treadmill workout.
Everyone is different and the important thing is to stay safe while keeping your body in optimal physical condition and getting a full body workout.