There is an age-old debate, as old as the cardio vs. strength training argument, that continues to baffle those seeking an at-home workout machine. Yes, that would be the dilemma you are experiencing right now: Do I buy a treadmill or an elliptical? Both machines have advantages and disadvantages, so the key is to first determine your personal goals and see which machine is the better match.
Here, the pros and cons of treadmills and elliptical cross trainers are discussed to help you decide!
Elliptical Machine Benefits
- Low Impact Workout: When done correctly, elliptical cross trainers have less of an impact on the joints associated with the knee, ankle, and hip.
- Full Body Workout: If you use the handles provided, you can actively push and pull as your lower body moves. This provides a full body workout that you won’t find with a treadmill. For people looking for overall toning, the elliptical is a fantastic choice.
- Reverse Stride: Modern elliptical trainers allow you to reverse your stride, activating different muscle groups. While you can run backwards on a treadmill, it’s very dangerous.
- Safety: Generally, since your feet remain planted the entire time, elliptical machines are much safer than treadmills. The chance of a misstep or getting thrown off are eliminated entirely.
- Maintenance: Treadmills, self-powered or no, require more maintenance than elliptical cross trainers.
- Perceived Exertion: You are actually working harder than you think you are on an elliptical. In other words, you burn more calories with less effort than on a treadmill.
- Zero Versatility: Many elliptical cross trainers completely lack the ability to increase anything other than resistance.
- Low Weight Bearing Effect: Treadmills are natural movement. Elliptical machines, on the other hand, suspend the user off the ground, reducing weight bearing. Thus, while ellipticals are great for people who cannot tolerate much weight bearing, you lose the osteoporosis-fighting advantage of a treadmill.
- Momentum: On lower levels, you can basically get enough momentum going on an elliptical to negate the effects of working your muscles.
- Consistency: When you run or walk on a treadmill, you never have to worry about surprises. You know you are going to be able to work your lower body whenever you want. If the weather is bad, you can still go for a walk or run.
- Stability: Since you are required to pick up and put down your feet on a moving belt, you have to engage the core much more than you would on an elliptical machine.
- Size: Treadmills are generally shorter in length than an elliptical and also require less overhead space. This makes them ideal for people with low-ceilings or narrow rooms.
- Versatility: Brisk walks, uphill sprints…treadmills have tremendous versatility when it comes to speed, gradient, and multiple conditioning programs.
- Weight Bearing: Running and walking through various resistances can help strengthen the bones and work the postural muscles, keeping you upright as you age.
- Natural Movement: The treadmill is easy to use and thus allows for natural human movement—walking, jogging, and sprinting—without machine interference.
- High Impact: Running can be bad for the joints, especially if you have muscular dysfunctions or weaknesses.
- HR Handle Placement: The heart rate monitors are at an awkward position. It is almost impossible to run and check your heart rate at the same time.
- Safety: Everyone knows the dangers of running on a treadmill.
A lot of research has been done comparing the effects of both workout machines on the body. The results of the research can give you a look into how these machines might work your body.
- In 2011, a study was conducted on the “metabolic cost of stride rate, resistance, and combined use of arms and legs on the elliptical trainer.” The results showed that the elliptical trainer is appropriate for individuals who want to simultaneously work the upper and lower body while receiving cardiovascular benefits.
- Research from 2007 entitled “Joint loading in the lower extremities during elliptical exercise” found that the use of elliptical trainers in athletic and rehabilitative training can still inflict wear and tear on the knees if the machine isn’t used properly.
- Research from 2011 by Gait Posture, created a “comparison of elliptical training, stationary cycling, treadmill walking and overground walking.” The researchers concluded that “treadmill walking demonstrated greater rectus femoris activity than overground walking: and that elliptical training generated greater co-activation of lower body muscles.
Overall, both the treadmill and the elliptical cross trainer have pros and cons that should be carefully weighed before deciding which machine is right for you and your body. Keep in mind versatility, footprint (both in size and energy usage), price, impact, and caloric burn when choosing. No matter which machine you choose, you are sure to receive long-lasting results and healthy benefits. Check out your choices for both treadmills and elliptical trainers today!