Is the Treadmill or Elliptical Better?

treadmill vs elliptical

Not everyone is heavily invested in exercise. For some, it’s simply a matter of maintaining a target weight without much thought towards the effectiveness of the workout. But for others, it’s a lifestyle.

And it’s for the latter group that this the treadmill vs. elliptical comparison is being made.

If you’ve been dying to know which one is the better option, this article is for you.

The Treadmill

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It’s amazing to think the treadmill concept has been in use since the 1800s. Over the years it has gone through several developments, and finally leading up to the exercise machine everyone knows today.

The history of this machine alone should tell you it’s effective, so there is no questioning its ability to keep you in shape.

In fact, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a gym that doesn’t have one.

Treadmill Pros & Cons

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Starting with the advantages associated with the treadmill (see the best treadmills here), you can safely assume the following:

1. It’s Versatile

Don’t let the seemingly one-dimensional design fool you because the treadmill is a versatile machine. There are several training programs available for it, but you also have a wide variety of options regarding incline and speed.

2. Uses Natural Movement

There’s no denying that some of the modern exercise machines don’t just look uncomfortable, they also feel somewhat awkward.

This is not a problem you’ll have with a treadmill. Everyone knows how it works, even if you haven’t used one, and it’s not much different than walking or jogging in the street.

3. Can Be Easy or Intense

A woman runs on the schwinn 830 treadmill

With a treadmill, you are working with your body weight. In other words, you have to propel your weight from the surface and maintain it. Thanks to this basic action the workout can get pretty intense and really help to burn calories faster.

4. It Strengthens Bones And Muscles

Not everyone is aware of this, but running and walking will have a positive effect on your bones and muscles.

5. New Models Are Packed Full of Features

Last but not least, the treadmill has been tried and tested over many years, which means there has to be something good behind it. Few exercise machines can say the same thing.


Unfortunately, there are some risks involved, and they include:

1. Negative Impact

While propelling your weight does help to burn calories, the impact can put strain on the joints. Knees, ankles and hips are at risk of getting injured.

2. Muscle Imbalance and Posture Issues

Research show that the length of the belt on a treadmill can lead to posture issues and even a muscle imbalance. A low-quality treadmill can possibly change the way you walk, simply because the belt isn’t the proper length.

3. Safety and Difficulty

If you’re looking for a high-intensity workout, which includes incline sprinting, you run the risk of missing one step and suffering a serious injury.

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The Elliptical

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It’s the negative characteristics of the treadmill led to the introduction of the elliptical. Basically, it tries to give you the same workout, but with less risk.

Elliptical Pros & Cons


ProForm Pro 16.0 NE

1. Almost Zero-Impact

The most prominent advantage is that there is no impact on joints. You can run all day long and not worry about picking up back or joint pains.

2. Cross-Training Options

For the most part, elliptical machines allow for cross-training. In other words, there are moveable handles that let you get an upper-body workout.

3. Reverse Action

Unlike a treadmill, you can run backward with the elliptical alternative. This will bring to life a whole new range of muscles.

4. Less Effort And More Gain

Studies show that people on an elliptical machine don’t notice that they’re working very hard. And while they don’t notice, their heart rate says something completely different.


a woman stands on a horizon elliptical

1. It’s Not as Versatile

With the elliptical, you don’t have the broad range of incline and intensity settings.

2. You Don’t Propel Your Weight

Given that the pedals are already off the ground and your feet never leave them, it takes away from the extra weight you have to carry. Thus, fewer calories are burnt.

3. It Can Build Momentum

It’s more than possible that the machine will power itself, especially on lower levels, once you get a momentum going.

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What Burns More Calories?

When it comes to the number of calories you can burn on each machine, there’s not a big difference.

Where a treadmill can help you burn between 700 and 860 calories in an hour, the elliptical can burn around 770.

Of course, there are many variables to consider, but these conclusions are based on a study done by the Medical College of Wisconsin.


In the end, the elliptical can probably be considered the safer alternative because of its low-impact design, which is perfect for people who already have injuries and don’t want to make it worse. But if you’re looking for a more intense workout, you probably want to choose the treadmill.

With this being said, I personally think the Max Trainer by

With this being said, I personally think the Max Trainer by Bowflex is the best of both worlds and provides the best workout of any cardio machine I have tried. Learn more about them at the official Bowflex website.