Elliptical Vs. Treadmill: Which Exercise Equipment Is Right for Your Workout? by Johnson Fitness & Wellness

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Elliptical Vs. Treadmill: Which Exercise Equipment Is Right for Your Workout?

Walk into almost any gym or specialty fitness retailer and you’ll be confronted with row after row of treadmills and ellipticals. Although these machines are both classified as “cardiovascular equipment,” both have individual qualities that will suit some exercisers better than others. There’s a lot to consider when you’re faced with an “elliptical vs. treadmill” scenario. We’re here to help break it down and show you the best each machine has to offer for your workout.

Before purchasing a piece of equipment this fundamental to a balanced exercise program, it’s important to consider which would be best for your fitness level, workout style and budget. Here's a look at the benefits of both ellipticals and treadmills:

Elliptical Machine Benefits

  • The elliptical machine features two pedals that move in a smooth, uninterrupted circular motion that allows for an impact-free workout. This can be invaluable for individuals with injuries or weaknesses in their knees, ankles, hips and lower back.
  • Two long handles extend upward from the base of the machine and place resistance on your upper body. This full-body workout means that you have the potential to burn significantly more calories per hour with an elliptical than if you were to use a treadmill or exercise bike.
  • There are some potential drawbacks to ellipticals. Because the structure of the elliptical machine controls and limits your range of motion, the movement may take some getting used to. The stride length is also built into the machine, although some allow for slight adjustments, and exercisers with shorter strides may find themselves hyper-extending their knees, which can be problematic over time.
  • Another factor to consider is that you set the pace on an elliptical (unlike a treadmill, which provides a motorized speed). This can sometimes make it challenging to maintain a constant speed, and if you aren’t highly self-motivated, it can be tempting to go easy.

Selecting an Elliptical: As with any piece of exercise equipment, it’s important to compare elliptical machines until you find one that perfectly fits your needs. Look for a durable machine that will be able to fully support the weight of all its users and has a heavy enough flywheel to offer a smooth, quiet workout. Quality ellipticals are designed to mimic your natural body posture and movement.

Benefits of Treadmills

  • In addition to the benefits associated with all forms of cardiovascular exercise, the key benefit of treadmills is accessibility. The running or walking motion required to use a treadmill is natural, comfortable and familiar.
  • Many home treadmills fold up for easy storage. While running outside can be made difficult by terrain or weather, treadmills offer an even surface and the climate control of your home or gym.
  • Another advantage is that treadmills can have a built-in motivation factor. The belt speed and the incline will adjust automatically when you follow a program, reducing any tendencies to relax during a workout. Although you can stop or slow the machine at any time, the automated pace prevents you from easing up unintentionally.
  • The treadmill running surface is cushioned to reduce the stress on your joints from repeated impact, but this is still a concern for exercisers with a history of joint problems. Also, some people find treadmills repetitive, making them less likely to exercise as often as they should.

Finding the Perfect Treadmill: When shopping for a treadmill, look for a machine with a solid frame and a wide running belt. These features will allow you to use the machine comfortably without modifying your natural stride. The highest rated treadmills have larger motors that allow the belt to rotate smoothly and quietly.

Integrated support for media players is an additional feature that may help to alleviate some of the boredom experienced when running indoors. Features that allow you to track your progress through multiple workouts will also make your routine more enjoyable.

Elliptical vs. Treadmill: Which is Best for You?

If you already enjoy running outdoors but find that your cardio routine suffers because of the weather, a treadmill might be your best choice. People who suffer from joint pain, however, would likely benefit from using an elliptical. Also, if you have difficulty incorporating an upper body workout into your schedule, you may find that the elliptical helps you save time by including these muscles in your cardio. Regardless of which machine you chose, you’ll want to select a quality model that will last you a long time and help you reach your fitness goals.

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This post is sponsored by Johnson Fitness & Wellness.

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Elisa Schmitz
This is fantastic information! I currently have a treadmill and enjoy it. But I have been wanting an elliptical because of the impact-free nature of the workout. Thank you for this helpful breakdown so I know where to start. Very excited to add this to our home exercise regimen, thanks! Johnson Fitness & Wellness
I’m an elliptical person all the way. Great points here, though!
Ann Marie Patitucci
Great info here. I think I often default to the treadmill at the gym because it's easy and "safe," especially if I don't have much time, but I may be convinced to try the elliptical more often! Thanks, Johnson Fitness & Wellness !
Katie Sloan
Great info! I prefer the elliptical. I enjoy the upper and lower body activity. I also feel like I burn more calories. Treadmills have always hurt my shins and knees.
Elisa Schmitz
I agree, Ann Marie Gardinier Halstead ! And yes, Katie Sloan , that's what I've been feeling lately on the treadmill. Going to check out the elliptical, thank you!
Donna John
I'm a treadmill person, but we own an elliptical. I use it occasionally, but find myself driving to the gym to get on the treadmill. I'd love to buy one for the house. Meredith Schneider , how are you liking your new treadmill?
Meredith Schneider
Donna John , I've had a treadmill but just recently got an indoor bike. :) I never would of thought I would fall in love with a bike! Especially a bike that goes nowhere LOL! We have a treadmill or like I call it a dread-mill. I personally find the treadmill boring and wrecks havoc on my knees, shins and hips. After seeing numerous commercials for the Peloton my husband bought me the Peloton bike for me as an early Valentine's Day gift at the end of January. All the trainers are incredible, there are different levels no matter your fitness level or goals. You can take LIVE rides in your own living room! This morning I took a 6AM ride while the trainer and class was LIVE from the NYC Studio. (I am not a morning person and have been doing 6AM rides Monday - Friday and on the weekends a little later so I can get my beauty sleep and work rides around kids sports) There is a leader board on your screen so you can see who is in your class and see your numbers during the ride. I highly recommend it to anyone looking to mix up their workout routine. A lot of the rides include working your arms with 3 lb weights and there are tons of 'Beyond the Ride' workouts off the bike for stretching, abs & even yoga. I'm a firm believer that what may work for some may not work for others. The key is to be open to try what works and what is going to keep you consistent to crush your goals. xoxo
Nicole DeAvilla
Great to know the difference. Thanks!
Benefits of both of them. Tough decision!
Julie Rose
I vote treadmill. Something about the forward motion I like better than the up and down. Great discussion here that I appreciated.
I like both - but the treadmill wins it for me. That said, the elliptical is a great low impact option when injured or want to avoid injury.

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