The treadmill vs elliptical discussion is a recurring debate among fitness enthusiasts. So, which of them is more effective?

Treadmills and ellipticals are ideal for burning calories and boosting cardiovascular fitness. Treadmills do these through exercise variety and leg strengthening. Ellipticals provide the same effects through joint-friendly, full-body workouts.

But aside from these health benefits, other factors make one machine better for you than the other.

Why Choose an Elliptical Trainer

Elliptical machines have foot pedals that you can step on at your pace.

While pedalling, you can simultaneously push and pull the handlebars.

Here’s why it suits your cardio fitness and weight loss needs.

It burns calories with low body impact.

All exercise machines and workout routines help you achieve everyone’s ultimate goal: to lose excess body weight.

But it’s hard to tell which of them can burn more calories.

For one thing, your current weight, workout intensity, diet regimen and several other factors can affect your weight loss progress.

But what makes the elliptical machine a good option is its low-impact feature.

In a study comparing treadmills vs ellipticals, findings from a 2010 study showed that both burn calories at the same level (check out this article which talks about how many calories a 20-minute elliptical session can burn)

However, a low-impact elliptical makes you feel less sore after working out.

As a result, you are likely to exercise more often and, perhaps, be more eager to combine your routine with high-intensity exercises.

It provides a full-body workout.

If you’re after exercise variety and flexibility, the elliptical will not disappoint.

While you can pedal forward and increase your resistance or speed, you can also move your legs backwards.

This way, you can exercise other muscle groups in your lower body.

Also, you can reach for the moveable arm handles and simultaneously work your shoulders, chest and back.

This full-body exercise lets you work on your hamstrings, quads, glutes, arms and upper back muscles.

Whether you go hands-free or not, either movement involves your core muscles to keep your balance.

These total-body workouts explain why ellipticals are good for burning belly fat.

And when considering the treadmill vs elliptical comparison, elliptical machines can activate more muscles for better, more balanced toning.

Check out these elliptical training tips to maximise your full-body fitness routine.

Woman on an Elliptical

Other Excellent Features of Elliptical Trainers

On top of the weight loss and cardio benefits, fitness fanatics choose ellipticals over other machines for these reasons.

It protects the joints.

Walking or running exercises involve your ankles, knees, heels and feet constantly pounding against the hard ground.

Some cannot tolerate this jarring motion, especially those with certain health conditions.

But the elliptical cross trainer is a low-impact machine. And that means it can give you a good cardio workout with minimal stress on your joints, hips and back.

Low-impact elliptical training is then ideal for most users, including:

  • older adults with joint pain or problems
  • patients with lower-back issues, arthritis or osteoporosis
  • women who want to exercise during menstruation
  • mums recovering from a caesarean delivery
  • workout beginners or those returning from a gym hiatus

It allows injury recovery.

Lower-impact workouts are ideal for athletes at risk of various sports accidents.

When you compare treadmills vs ellipticals, an elliptical machine keeps your feet on the pedal while a treadmill does not.

Using this piece of equipment can then reduce your chances of slipping or falling while keeping yourself fit and recovering from an injury.

Elliptical exercises also let you imitate the stair-climbing motion.

This movement promotes joint and muscle strength, which helps with recovery.

Also, you can even adjust the machine’s resistance setting to match your progressing abilities and record your training data.

It is a low-maintenance, more affordable machine.

The elliptical will not hurt your muscles or your wallet. Of course, high-end machines are expensive.

But considering the treadmill vs elliptical comparison, you won’t have a hard time finding a good quality but low-cost elliptical trainer.

Plus, this cardio machine does not require constant maintenance or parts replacement.

An elliptical machine is among your best options to lose weight and boost heart fitness on a budget.

Treadmill vs Elliptical Comparison

Why Choose a Treadmill

Treadmills let you walk, run, jog or sprint indoors while on a moving belt.

The control panel also allows you to adjust the speed and incline depending on the model.

Here are the features that make them effective calorie burners.

It strengthens the leg and core muscles.

The leg muscles are one of the largest muscle groups in the body.

And the more muscle mass you activate during exercise, the higher your calorie burn rate.

That means you burn plenty of calories when working out on a treadmill.

Unlike the low-impact elliptical machine, running on the treadmill requires you to move your feet off the belt.

This motion, in turn, powers up your abdominal muscles.

You can even perform various treadmill exercises that target your core.

But that’s not all. The leg strengthening benefit of a treadmill can help you minimise leg soreness and painful cramps.

This effect is helpful if your job requires you to drive, walk or be on your feet for long hours.

Athletes who use their legs for sports can also benefit from treadmill exercise. With strong legs, they can protect themselves from injuries.

If this is among your fitness goals for getting a treadmill, it’s best to use a machine with an adjustable incline.

Running and walking uphill or downhill on a treadmill can significantly boost leg power.

It allows exercise variety.

People say that elliptical cross trainers offer better workout diversity when comparing treadmills vs ellipticals. But treadmills are just as versatile.

Yes, the treadmill may be all about your lower body, but it doesn’t mean you have to do the same routine every time.

For instance, aside from adjusting its speed and incline, you can step it up by walking backwards or sideways and doing high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

You can also pair it with a resistance band to work your upper body muscles. With plenty of options, you become more engaged and committed to your fitness plan.

Check out these treadmill workouts to start spicing up your weight loss program.

Man Running on a Treadmill

Other Excellent Features of Treadmills

Treadmills can improve your cardio health and weight for sure. But there are other reasons why they are a favourite among fitness fanatics.

It tracks progress with ease.

If you are into programmable and high-tech machines, you will have no problem hitting the treadmill regularly.

Its built-in buttons give you optimum workout control, while the screen display lets you see how you are doing from Day 1.

This feature is handy when you want to keep tabs on your weight loss progress.

Most treadmill models are detailed and can record vital information, too, from track time to distance to pace.

With these numerical data, athletes or coaches can track training development more objectively.

It supports marathon training.

The treadmill is the best equipment for runners or people in race training.

With it, you can adjust the incline and mimic outdoor walking, running and jogging.

You can also recreate your morning run at home any time, even if it’s stormy outside.

Its intuitive controls allow you to do consistent workouts, too.

It is a more space-efficient machine.

An elliptical and a treadmill take up almost the same amount of space. However, the elliptical motion requires a larger footprint.

On the other hand, a treadmill is more compact than an elliptical.

Moreover, you can opt for a folding treadmill if you have limited room. One example is the Proform Pro 2000.

If you want to lose weight and boost heart fitness but space is an issue, a treadmill is for you.


So, which one do you think wins the treadmill vs elliptical battle?

Both are reliable cardio exercise machines when it comes to health benefits and caloric burn.

However, choosing between the two depends on your body, preference and other fitness goals.

Do you want to lose weight through a full-body workout with low injury risk? If yes, then an elliptical is your best match.

But if you love running or need sport-specific training while burning calories, then you better start planning for a treadmill routine!

Are you thinking of adding one (or both) of these to your home gym?

Check my latest reviews of recommended treadmills under $1000 in Australia and elliptical trainers for ideas.

1. Is it better to go to the gym or buy a treadmill?

Cost-wise, buying a treadmill is better than going to the gym. You can share the machine with others at home and get your return on investment within 2 to 3 years. Still, getting a gym membership is best if a personal trainer, workout diversity and social interaction are essential to you.

2. How long does it take to see results from an elliptical?

A 30-minute elliptical session can burn around 200 to 400 calories, depending on your weight. Doing this regularly for 3 to 5 days a week should burn enough calories to start seeing results in a month. The weight loss effects are more evident at weeks 6 to 8.