The Great Debate- Treadmills vs. Ellipticals

Treadmills and ellipticals are two of the most popular cardiovascular machines around. Ellipticals have been gaining tremendous popularity over the years with treadmills seen as more of the traditional workout.

We will examine the benefits of each machine and if one of them actually has a concrete advantage.

Elliptical Benefits


Perhaps the greatest advantage that an elliptical trainer offers is that it is impact-free; it puts virtually no stress on your joints. The pedals are situated in mid-air and not on the floor. As a result, you basically slide in a jogging motion without absorbing the impact of the ground. The treadmill is a very high-impact exercise because you are constantly absorbing impact to a concrete surface, even if it is slightly padded. Studies show that running on a treadmill can impact as much as 2.5 times your body weight when striking the surface.

Full body workout

The elliptical gives you a full body workout. As your body slides in a jogging motion, you are simultaneously moving your arms in stride with the dual action handlebars. This mimics that of cross-country skiing, a highly vigorous sport. Not only will you get in shape and burn fat, but this can actually tone your arms. In addition, the elliptical allows you to reverse the motion, which can exercise even more muscles.

Burning more calories

Some research suggests that because you are simultaneously working both the upper and lower body on an elliptical, you are burning more calories at a lower level of intensity that you would find on a treadmill. However, Thomas Altena, a professor of nutritional and exercise physiologist of the University of Missouri-Columbia measured oxygen retention, lactic acid build-up, heart rate, and perceived rate of exertion to compare treadmills to ellipticals. Altena found that calories are burned at very similar rates between the two machines. Even though there may be contradictory research, studies confirm that ellipticals will at least burn the same amount of calories as treadmills.

Treadmill Benefits

Getting into true shape

Treadmills mimic a proper running and walking motion, which is more relevant for real life situations. If you are an athlete, running on a treadmill may be more beneficial than an elliptical. For example, let’s say you are a soccer player. If you are constantly doing an elliptical machine you may not train your body to be adapt to a continuous running motion. Some soccer players are on the field for a full 90 minutes and are constantly chasing the ball or making plays. Your body needs to adapt to continuous running or high intensity interval sprints. Obviously, an elliptical will get your heart into shape but not necessarily your body.

Lack of momentum

Ellipticals have a tendency to give momentum for those who use it. The legs are alternating and going up and down, which can result in momentum and can detract from a good workout. With treadmills, you are doing more of the work; your legs are doing everything and the speed comes down at a slower pace.

Built better

Treadmills may be built more consistently than ellipticals. With ellipticals, the distance between the petals can vary, which may cause your muscles to overcompensate for this misalignment.



Now, which machine is the better of the two? There actually is no answer. Each machine offers different benefits. The answer also depends entirely on YOU. It depends on a wide range of factors: personal preference, resistance, speed, etc.

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