Trying to decide between an elliptical vs treadmill?
You’re not alone. This is one of the most popular questions people have when buying fitness equipment.
Even though this is an elliptical machine focused site, I’m not going to tell you that an elliptical is best. Frankly, both have their benefits.
The treadmill has been around longer and has a lot of options that elliptical machines don’t have. Then again, the elliptical trainer is the cool, new kid on the block with benefits that a treadmill doesn’t have.
So how do you choose?
This post will give you the rundown on the benefits of an elliptical vs treadmill – and vice versa.
(Please note that this is a general comparison and there are alwasy exceptions. It always comes down to the individual models that you’re comparing.)
So let’s dive in:
Treadmill vs Elliptical: Treadmill Benefits
The treadmill has been around longer in fitness equipment history and one could argue that it’s a bit more advanced in terms of what you can get with it. This is changing with some brands. But for right now, you have a few more tracking, console and streaming options with treadmills in general.
Treadmills are also more widely sold at fitness equipment stores as they tend to be a bit more popular.
Another advantage is obviously the exercise that you’re doing.
If you’re a walker or a runner, you’ll probably prefer a treadmill to an elliptical as it’s closer to the actual movement (unless you have bad knees and need a lower impact machine like an elliptical – more on that below).
You also have the freedom to decide on a treadmill whether you want to walk – or run – that day.
Treadmills can give you a range of exercise intensity as well. For example, if you’re new to exercise (or need to go slowly), there’s nothing better than a nice, gentle walk on a treadmill.
You won’t burn calories as fast – but you’ll start to build your cardiovascular fitness. A nice gentle walk can also be extremely therapeutic – not just for burning calories or building fitness levels.
Ellipticals, on the other hand, can be seen as a bit more intense (since an elliptical is actually designed to mimic the motion of running – not walking).
Space and cleaning issues. Most treadmills today fold up. This makes them easy to clean around and under. It also makes them space efficient if you want to use the space for something else in between workouts.
This isn’t necessarily an advantage – just something to include in case you’re looking for something a bit different. You can get treadmills that give you distinct benefits.
For example, there are walking desk treadmills that are great for working. There are also super-high incline treadmills like the Nordictrack incline trainers that help you burn calories very fast (if you’re looking for super-fast results). You can also get treadmills today that stream live workouts or even go downhill.
So you have a lot of great variety with specialty treadmills here.
For me, the biggest advantage of the treadmill is for walkers. If you want to walk a lot (with the option to run), then a treadmill would obviously be best since an elliptical is really mean to mimic the running motion.
For runners, one clear advantage on a treadmill is that they can really stretch out their legs (vs an elliptical where they might be locked into one set stride length).
So those are some of the benefits of treadmills – what about ellipticals?
Elliptical vs Treadmill: Elliptical Benefits
As stated above, elliptical machines are built to mimic the motion of running – but without the impact.
This makes them great for runners or joggers who are prone to injuries or have shin splints, etc. Of course, this also makes them lower impact than a treadmill (where you’re pounding down on the belt constantly).
Another benefit is that you can pedal backwards on an elliptical – giving you more crosstraining options. (You can run backwards on a treadmill I guess, but it’s not recommended).
One of the biggest benefits to an elliptical machine is the upper body workout arms. An elliptical trainer lets you train both lower and upper body at the same time if you choose.
This dual-training can lead (other things being equal) to faster calorie burning and a more effective workout. It can also lead to more toned arms.
And while there are specialty treadmills – there are also specialty ellipticals too.
One example – the Freestride Trainer.
This is an elliptical that gives you a completely adaptable, adjustable stride. So you’re not locked into one set stride length. You can do short, up and down strides like a stair climber, longer jogging strides or even longer hurdling-type strides.
There are also elliptical trainers that fold up (although they are much harder to find than treadmills).
So you do have a few options in the elliptical market if you want something specialized here as well.
The treadmill is great if you’re a walker or runner (and you don’t have any issues with impact, sore knees, shin splints etc.) It gives you a lot of options in terms of entertainment and specialized machines.
The elliptical is probably better if you’re looking for a more low impact workout. And if you want to work your arms as well as your legs.
At the end of the day it’s up to you. The good news? There are some great options out there to choose from.
Take your time, enjoy your research, check out our Best Buys here (if you want a good elliptical trainer) and find something you get excited about using! Good luck!