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Ellipticals vs Treadmills: Which One Is Better For You?
by Roy Crocker | 

The age-old battle of ellipticals vs treadmills continues to be fought in gyms across the country. In the 30+ years since they first became rivals, there’s never been a decisive winner. Some people are hardcore treadmill enthusiasts whilst others remain committed elliptical fans. With so many strong opinions and conflicting research studies, it can be difficult to decide which one is better. So in this article, we’ll walk you through the pros and cons of each, so you can choose which is the best option for your specific needs…

Ellipticals vs Treadmills – The Short Answer
If you’re looking for a short answer to the elliptical vs treadmill debate, then unfortunately it’s a classic case of ‘it depends’. Your fitness goals, workout preferences, and health history can all influence which is better for your needs.Treadmills burn more calories and provide the closest possible alternative to outdoor running. Therefore if your goals are related to weight loss or race targets, then a treadmill is likely to be your best bet.

However, the elliptical has a lower rate of perceived exertion, which means you feel less tired and can workout for longer on it. It also puts less stress on the joints, which makes it a good option for people with knee, hip, or back injuries. The truth is that both machines have benefits and drawbacks, so choosing the right one will be down to your personal fitness needs. To truly assess ellipticals vs treadmills we really need to compare the detailed pros and cons, so that you can evaluate how they apply to your situation…

Ellipticals – Pros & Cons
The original elliptical was designed to mimic a running motion, yet with minimal impact on joints. Apparently, the inventor first had the idea when his tennis-playing daughter got injured but still wanted to exercise. He filmed her running and then designed a machine that replicated the natural elliptical path of her feet. He then partnered with Precor who refined the design into a commercially viable product that is now a health club staple.

Ellipticals provide an effective cardiovascular workout that can help you lose weight and stay healthy. Using the moveable arms provides a total-body workout, whereas holding the static arms (sometimes known as the rodeo grip) focuses the workout on your lower body and core.

Most ellipticals allow you to adjust the resistance level to increase exercise intensity. Precor ellipticals also have a unique patented CrossRamp allowing you to adjust the depth of your stride as well as the resistance level. This enables you to target specific muscle groups including the glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves. The Cybex Arc Trainer also provides similar versatility in terms of muscle engagement, but with a wider variety of motions that include climbing and skiing.

Ellipticals place minimal impact on joints which makes them a good option for people with neck, back, hip, or knee injuries. Research also indicates that ellipticals can be more beneficial than treadmills for cardiac rehabilitation, as long as the exerciser is familiar with how to use them. Although they tend to burn fewer calories than a treadmill, the lower rate of perceived exertion means people can often train on them for longer. This is one reason why people who are new to exercise often prefer the elliptical over the treadmill. However, that definitely doesn’t mean that you can’t workout hard on an elliptical – just check out the Rock’s daily fitness routine for proof!

Treadmills – Pros & Cons
The treadmill has been a mainstay of gyms and health clubs for decades. Designed to mimic a running motion indoors, it allows you to get a highly effective cardio workout without having to brave the elements. When comparing a elliptical vs treadmills, the first thing to note is the exercise intensity. Although you can workout hard and fast on an elliptical, it’s hard to match the intensity of an all-out sprint on a treadmill. Studies have shown that people tend to burn more calories on a treadmill, which gives it a reputation as a fat-burning superhero.

For the uninitiated the treadmill can feel like hard work, so the rate of perceived exertion tends to be higher than an elliptical. However, it’s possible to adjust your intensity by altering the speed and incline (or even decline on some models) in order to achieve a workout that matches the users’ preferences. Unlike ellipticals which can provide a total body workout, treadmills train the lower body muscles as well as the cardiovascular system. Some exercisers like to balance this by pumping their arms as they walk or run, but the machine doesn’t provide upper body resistance like elliptical arms do.

Running on a treadmill can cause some impact to joints, in the same way that running outdoors does. For people with certain injuries, this may not be ideal, in which case an elliptical, bike, or rower may be a more suitable option. However, there are situations where this impact is a useful and necessary part of training. In preparation for long distance events such as a 10k or marathon, it’s important that your legs and muscles become accustomed to the demands of running. People who don’t train sufficiently often suffer from shin splints or other injuries when they do come to run a race. In cases like these, running on a treadmill would be preferential to training on an elliptical. The latter could provide some additional cardiovascular benefits though, especially the week prior to race day when most training programs recommend cutting back on your running miles. However, it’s no substitute for a treadmill when it comes to getting the miles in your legs.