Treadmill Vs Elliptical – Which Cardio Machine is better for you?

treadmill vs elliptical benefits

So you looked in the mirror again and made up your mind to become a better version of yourself. This is great because since you have a strong desire and will to grow in your own eyes and for your loved ones, you have a better chance to cope with what’s to come.

You will have to accomplish a tremendous task that requires tons of time and energy but the payoff is just as big. Now, even with a clear image of your goal, you need to establish the way to get there, and it may seem vague.

The modern gyms provide a vast array of opportunities to build the body of your dream but deciding on your perfect fit could be a struggle. When it comes to counting calories, anyone with a calculator can be a “pro”. Choosing the best machine for weight loss is not as simple.

Here we will provide you with a comparison of the two most famous fat burning equipments: Treadmill and Elliptical trainer.

In the end, figuring out what works best for you is up but in about few minutes you’ll be better equipped to make an informed decision.

The basics, or what is what?

1. Elliptical Trainer

It’s all started in 1986 when scientists from the School of Mechanical Engineering at Purdue University from West Lafayette studied the movement trajectory of linkages with small cranks. The scientists claimed that the motion goes along a near-oval, in other words, an elliptical form.

A while after, in 1995, this process became the base for the construction of what we know now as an elliptical trainer. The pioneer in the industry of these training machines was a company called Precor. They released their first model that spiked a huge interest to their invention.

While the machine was pretty good at imitating running experience, it was also good for keeping your feet stable and protecting knees and hips from an excessive impact.

Another addition was a pair of fixed handles that helped the users maintain balance during lower body workout.

After the initial success of the machine, competitors looked for some room for improvement and released a new version with moveable handles meant to provide upper and lower body workout simultaneously. Nowadays you can choose from these three types of cross-trainers:

  • the original one with a front-drive, i.e. where the flywheel is located in the front part of the machine
  • the second one with a rear-drive, i.e. where the flywheel is located in the rear part of the machine
  • the relatively new one with a center-drive, i.e. where the motor drive is placed in the center of the machine.

While there are minor differences in where the main training load goes on your muscles, it is on your personal preferences to choose the fitting model.

2. Treadmill

Since 1960s treadmill maintained the position of the most popular and widespread mechanical training machine. It’s no wonder since the idea is simply brilliant: to improve on what a human is used to do on a daily basis – walking or running but in a more compact, controlled environment.

While someone may enjoy meditative workouts on a treadmill, the majority will agree that it feels like hard labor or even torture sometimes. Your innate instinct is quite well-placed as the invention of the treadmill is connected to hard physical work.

One might call this machine ancient since a treadmill’s basic working principle can be traced back to deep antiquity. The shady ancestor of the treadmill was called a treadwheel and was used for lifting heavy objects or transporting water in ancient Rome and Egypt. It was also used as punishment for convicts in some prisons.

The idea of using movement as a punishment and a powering force for primitive machines survived centuries, almost up to modern days.

In 1818, Sir William Cubitt decided to put an end to the lazy days for prison inhabitants and reinvented a treadwheel in jail reality in the UK and later on, the US. He offered a project for a machine that looked like a staircase that was used to force convicts to move in 6-hour shifts.

This system became obsolete in the late 1800s and since then, treadmills started fresh as a machine used in sports and medical industry.

Rumor has it, that the father of the most common modern treadmill was William Staub. It was said that he got inspired by the idea that people would become healthier after running for 4-8 minutes on workdays.

The concept of a treadmill is pretty simple: it’s a motor-driven convoy belt that moves in a complete circle, creating an illusion of moving forward for a person up on top of it.

While the core concept is left intact, modern treadmills offer a wide range of special features to the stationary runner. The most common of them are a heartbeat monitor, an ability to change the incline angle of the surface and diverse workout programs.

Treadmill vs Elliptical – Pros and Cons

These two training machines have one major thing in common: they were designed to help you get rid of extra weight and stay fit. While they share the main idea of keeping you in motion on a relatively small space to burn calories, they offer contrasting approaches that yield varying user experiences. Shall we dig in?

1.1 Pros of Elliptical Trainer

Schwinn Fitness 470 Elliptical Machine

Full Body Workout

Shortly after the first model was released in the 1990s, competing sports equipment companies thought of the potential add-ons that can offer a deeper workout with this machine. Movable handles put additional load on upper body muscles, increasing the efficiency of workouts on the elliptical.

Researches from Turkey conducted a series of experiments to see whether there is a difference in muscle load when using cycling equipments, treadmill, and elliptical trainer.

It appeared that cross-training machines were much more challenging to the upper body muscles, compared to the other ones. Therefore, workouts on the elliptical help you burn more calories by engaging your arms and back. Teamwork!

In addition, other scientists have found out that heart rate during training on an elliptical is higher than on a treadmill. Increased intensity trains your heart and the general body stamina so that you will endure longer fat-burning sessions easier with time.

Safer Workout

One of the crucial features is that cross-training machines offer safe exercise routines. First of all, they are built to prevent your body from impact. This perk means that you can train harder and longer without damaging your bones and joints.

Hail to smart design – the ellipticals are constructed in a way that helps a user evade contact with the ground surface while experiencing walking or running-like movements. Therefore, your body mass puts no additional pressure on your inner carcass.

This design is also useful for people with certain health issues. For instance, some people with diabetes experience osteoporosis or lower bone mass.

In plain English, it means that their joints and bones could be damaged during jogging or walking. Obesity can require the same safety measures, and that’s why elliptical trainers are often used in rehabilitation of people who suffer from excess body weight.

There’s some scientific proof, too: researches from Brazil claim that aerobic exercises increase insulin uptake in obese women. As a bonus, elliptical machine is better at building “good” cholesterol compared to regular weight loss diets.

Besides, most of the models provide great fixation for feet that prevents sliding during motion, and handles could be used for maintaining balance during intense training.

Broad Range Of Workouts Patterns

Even though elliptical has a reputation of a boring machine, it has a card up its sleeve. It’s more than just pushing the pedals as hard and as fast as you can.

First of all, this machine proved to have a combination of killer lower body workout and decent upper body workout. You can mix-and-match the types of muscles you want to train every time. You can focus only on the leg muscles or load your hands to the full, put the chest and back muscles into action – it all depends on the set of handles you choose.

But here is more, you can engage your deep-core muscles if you drop the handles altogether and keep the back straight to balance your motion out naturally.

Changing the direction of movement backward will result in a change of load on working muscles. When you’re rolling the pedals forward, the main load falls on quads and the front part of the thigh, while moving in the opposite direction engages hamstrings and glutes.

Modern models of such trainers include a vast array of workout programs. They allow you to find the one that will fit your body type and the desired amount of calories you set out to burn. Up-to-date machines also feature an option of adjusting the resistance to accommodate your personal preferences and training level.

RELATED: 5 Best Elliptical Trainers Under $1000


It is simply easier; compared to other popular mechanic trainers, elliptical workouts result in a lesser body and mind fatigue while they burn relatively the same amount of calories as other equipments.

Furthermore, because of the safety and relative simplicity of workouts on cross-training machines people with disabilities could use them with some affordable modifications.

1.2 Cons of Elliptical Trainer

Unnatural Movement Pattern

Cross-training machines were created with an idea of imitating walking/running movement in safer conditions. Although they provide a great cardio workout that could replace jogging or walking, it has a specific motion pattern. Using the elliptical trainer without holding on to handles can be foreign to our bodies, and the full body workout can become frustrating for people who like change.

Numbing Feet

Some people might experience temporary numbness in their feet. It happens because the feet remain suspended in the air during the whole workout. Sliding and bouncing effects typical for some earlier models, however, are now prevented with the pedals that lock the foot in.

Zero Impact

Even though the zero-impact effect of cross-training machines is their coolest feature, it can be a drawback, too. Exercises that distribute some load on your bones and joints tend to have a positive effect on the prevention of osteoporosis. Long story short, engaging with the surface in a natural way can help you keep the bone structure in tonus and sustain a good bone mineral density. So it’s not an altogether perfect principle, after all.

2.1 Pros of Treadmill

Schwinn Fitness 810 Treadmill

Great Aerobic Exercise

The undying classic – since we were children, running and walking has always been a vital part of our lives. We played, entertained and simply lived our lives moving.

We traveled many miles a day, maintaining a strong appetite. It’s no wonder because aerobic exercises provide for a sizable calorie uptake. Researches from the University of Tennessee in the US figured out formulas for counting calorie uptake for running and walking. It is different for men and women and looks as follows:

  • 76 ± 0.07 kcal/kg per mile for men and 0.83 ±: 0.08 kcal/kg per mile for women for walking
  • 43 ± 0.08 kcal/kg per mile for men and 1.53 ± 0.09 kcal/kg per mile for women for running.

What else is great that it’s completely natural for most people and it not only enhances weight loss but also improves your health overall. And as a bonus running or walking will reduce your craving for tobacco.

It will surely help your cardiovascular system and also will help to stabilize metabolism, sharpening your results in the weight loss battle.

Variety Of Preset-Programs

These days you probably won’t find a treadmill that offers a single option of moving forward. Even the simplest model of this trainer will have a bunch of programs for you to choose from.

A simple change of inclination will raise the workload on muscles depending on the angle (from hamstrings and glutes with a downward inclination to quads and calves with an upward one).

And here the math is simple: the higher the load the more calories you burn.

In addition, the majority of treadmills has some preset modes that allow you to select a workout type or the number of calories you want to burn. All you need to do is hit that “start” button and the machine will adjust itself to meet your expectations and you will only be expected to enjoy your workout and digits on the scales after.

Controlled Workout

If you have ever seen a treadmill, you remember that it has monitors, a bunch of buttons and other attachments. It could be frustrating to figure out the use for so many blinking and beeping things there at a first glance.

They all serve one major goal – to maximize your control over the workout to provide you with the most productive and enjoyable training. Among the most common features, you can find heart-rate sensors, calorie count, pace tracker, and speed statistics.

Almost every treadmill is equipped with the sensor that allows for an emergency stop of the machine. These and other special features provide people even with physical or mental disorders with opportunities to exercise.

Helps Prevent Bone Diseases

Treadmill trainer provides an additional boost for your bones and joint health if used wisely. Running and walking on a treadmill will definitely help you fight with excess weight but, what is even more important, it will also fortify your inner carcass to prevent some bone diseases such as osteoporosis.

It’s could be vital for people who are genetically prone to have excess weight that, in its turn, is correlated with joints and bone diseases.

RELATED: The 5 Best Treadmills Under $1000

2.2 Cons of Treadmill

Negatively Affects Your Agility

Treadmills are designed to keep you moving straight at a stable pace most of the time. Although even athletes use larger treadmills, that are up to 3 m in length and 1 m in width, you still move in a relatively straightforward fashion.

Combination of these aspects may result in the loss of a sense of balance when you perform the same movements off the trainer.

High-Impact Workout

Many modern treadmills are equipped with convoys that help prevent negative impact during running. However, the risk is still there because of the nature of walking or running, especially in groups of people who have a history of injured limbs. It’s not only your joints that you risk hurting, but ankles and tendons, too.

Can Be Boring

Cardio workouts on a treadmill could be quite monotonous. Many running enthusiasts will tell you that they simply can’t stand long runs on a treadmill because no matter how long you run, you see no change in scenery. Treadmill runs lack the fun of running outdoors, and they leave you isolated to your movements. Although, this is solely a question of personal preference.

Final Results : Elliptical vs Treadmill

These two machines were originally designed to support you in to fight for a better body. While they have their differences in workout patterns and design they also share some benefits.

Among them is simplicity in use, ability to work out independently from external factors such as weather and your tight schedule. And when it comes to weight loss, these machines will become your reliable partners, all you need to do is just to pick the best match for you. However, if you got a bad knee then you must opt for Elliptical Trainer, otherwise you’re fine with both machines.


  1. Heart rate and ratings of perceived exertion during treadmill and elliptical exercise training –
  2. Aerobic Exercise and Weight Loss Reduce Vascular Markers of Inflammation and Improve Insulin Sensitivity in Obese Women –
  3. The caloric costs of running and walking one mile for men and women –