Treadmill vs Elliptical

Treadmills are the best-selling fitness equipment in the industry due to their convenience and proven results, burning more calories per hour than any other machine. As elliptical machines are getting more and more popular in the market, the comparison between treadmill vs elliptical has become more and more popular, especially for people that are new to fitness equipment. We have prepared a treadmill vs elliptical chart that lists each focus and strength.

Treadmill vs. Elliptical Comparison Chart

Elliptical Trainer
Calorie Burning
Ellipticals are lower intensity machines, and thus burn fat and calories with less effort. Overall studies show that the elliptical and treadmill appear to be comparable in terms of total calories burned. Many experts give a slight edge to the treadmill, because it is high impact (requires you to launch your body through the air). The intensity required is higher, thus it has slightly greater calorie-burning potential over the elliptical trainer.
The feet stay in contact with the pads throughout movement. Thus, there is almost no impact in elliptical training. Use of the upper body also keeps joints mobile. However, the elliptical does target the ankle joints and may make exercising for those with ankle problems awkward. Running is a high-impact activity. The continuous pounding of your feet can stress your joints with time. Thus, there is an increased risk of injury. The risk increases the more you use it. Greater wear and tear on the ankles, knees, hips and spine.
Aerobic Fitness
Elliptical offers the same cardiovascular benefits as treadmill running Excellent cardiovascular workout
Muscles Worked
Elliptical allows you to work the upper and lower body simultaneously. Treadmill targets the leg and core muscles, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, hips and calf muscles. Mostly lower body workout.
Toned Bottom
The elliptical trainer targets the thighs, hips and bottom. May work the bottom muscles less. In forward motion, emphasis is on the front of the thighs. Can change the number of muscles targeted by changing stride length and direction. Running on a higher incline setting will tone the whole lower body and bottom. The incline adds resistance to the workout and places you in a position that really taxes your glutes. It is also a powerful fat burner.
Beginner Friendly
The “perceived exertion” is often thought to be lower on the elliptical trainer. In other words, able to burn roughly the same amount of calories as treadmill users with the impression of considerably less effort. Limited only in what they can do by cardio-respiratory fitness. Treadmill slightly more difficult for beginners due to high-impact nature. Therefore, need to start more slowly to give body time to strengthen joints, so to avoid injury.
Unless you are walking on the treadmill, the elliptical is less stressful on the joints, but still a great cardio workout. The elliptical is the safer workout. Treadmill is fantastic to strengthen joints and to improve “real-world” running ability and coordination. But also comes with the “real-world” risk of injury, esp. if over-training or beginners advancing too quickly.
Ease of Use
Some find the elliptical motion and combination of upper and lower body exercises a little difficult to master at the beginning. Others find the elliptical motion awkward and prefer the simplicity of a treadmill. If you can walk, jog or run, you can use a treadmill. Make sure the deck is the appropriate size.
Elliptical trainer only works through the users movement. Thus, requires constant motivation by user to keep pushing and working at a high level for maximum calorie burning. Therefore, greater likelihood to coast along and have a substandard workout. Once you set the treadmill to a certain speed you have to run at that pace – otherwise you fall off. Therefore, it is easier to work outside your comfort zone and you’re unlikely to do a poor workout, unless you choose the wrong settings.
Can change the incline and intensity, can change direction: forward and reverse motion. Dual action handlebars also add variety to the upper body workout. Can change stride length. Can change the incline and speed.
Common Mistakes
Excessive rotational movement from the waist in order to push the hand levers forward is common. Placing the heel off the foot plate (i.e. most of your weight on the front section of the foot) for an extended periods of time, which causes sore calf muscles might be an issue. Many people run with an unnatural stride on the treadmill, i.e., a short stride (where you run at the front of the belt on the treadmill) or a long stride (where you are near the back of the belt). Other mistakes (safety issues) include stepping off of a moving treadmill and leaning on the handrails while running.
Look forward and stand tall throughout. No slouching! Place feet centrally on the foot pedals. Ensure your heel is down on the foot plate when ever you can, in order to stretch the calf muscles. Look forward and stand tall throughout. No slouching!
Aim for larger controlled movements, rather than a small jerking action. Use your arms to help control the speed and also to assist your legs. Beginners should start with a slow pace until they get used to the movement and know how to operate and stop the machine in case of an emergency.
Elliptical trainer is much quieter due to its low-impact nature. Treadmill is noisier due to its motor and the impact of the user hitting the belt.
Best For?
Overweight persons (greater risk of injury to joints during high-impact exercise), those with an injury to weight bearing joints, older persons, those with chronic illnesses that call for gentle exercise e.g. chronic fatigue syndrome Joggers and runners, anyone training to run outdoors, and walkers. Those with symptoms described to the left (ellipticals) may also use a treadmill at a walking pace.


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