It’s hard to choose the best fitness equipment for weight loss, given the many options to consider. And for cardio machine enthusiasts, the ultimate question is: what burns more calories, the elliptical or stationary bike?
According to Harvard Health Publishing, a general 30-minute elliptical trainer workout can burn 270 to 378 calories. On the other hand, moderate stationary cycling can burn 210 to 294 calories. This finding shows that an elliptical machine burns slightly more calories than a bike.
But increasing the exercise intensity and duration naturally affects these figures.
More importantly, choosing the best machine for weight loss is not only about calorie burn.
You also have to weigh other factors like muscles built, comfort, space efficiency, upkeep and cost, to name a few.
Let’s compare these two further and see which suits your requirements better.
Elliptical vs Stationary Bike
Both machines are popular among gym-goers mainly because of their ease of use and cardiovascular benefits.
Compared with a treadmill, ellipticals and stationary bikes require your physical effort to make them work.
Instead of keeping up with the machine, the machine adapts to your speed and cadence.
While these two may look alike, they are not the same. Each has pros and cons that influence fitness needs, access and preference.
For instance, one can help you burn calories but is not ideal for your small space or budget.
Similarly, a machine can help slim down your belly but is not comfortable for daily use.
Consistency is key to weight loss. Plus, an exercise machine is an investment. And so, your choice must cover most of your fitness criteria.
Here’s a table comparing ellipticals and stationary bikes. Scroll down further for a more in-depth comparison.
|270 to 378 calories
|210 to 294 calories
|WEIGHT & FAT LOSS
|Effective due to good HIIT potential
|Effective due to good HIIT potential
|Allows full-body workouts to tone lower and upper-body muscles
|Tones the lower-body muscles only, particularly the thighs and calves
|Too low-impact to strengthen the bones
|Downward pedalling motion with added resistance benefits the leg bones
|Low chance for acute injuries
|Low chance for acute injuries
|More comfortable than upright and spin bikes
|Recumbent bikes are more comfortable than other bike types
|Usually too bulky and heavy for a tiny home or apartment
|Have more compact and lightweight models
|COST & MAINTENANCE
|High value for money
What burns more calories: elliptical or stationary bike? The findings of the Harvard Medical School show that an elliptical burns more calories than a stationary bike.
Specifically, a 30-minute elliptical training burns 270 to 378 calories, while a bike burns 210 to 294 calories.
The difference is not that significant. However, we can account for the higher calorie burn of the elliptical to its full-body workout effect.
But there are many ways to exceed the elliptical in terms of caloric burn. For instance, you can crank up your cycling resistance or speed.
You can also ride out of the saddle and cycle in a standing or danseuse position. Stretching your workout time is also another way to boost caloric expenditure.
Here’s a tip: use a heart monitor or fitness tracker while working out. That way, you’ll stay within your heart rate zone and know how many calories you are burning.
VERDICT: You can burn calories effectively on an elliptical or a bike, and the result is not dependent on the machine. It’s all about the level of effort you put into your workout.
Weight and Belly Fat Loss
Weight loss happens when your caloric output is higher than your intake. And successful weight loss also results in body fat reduction.
The good news is that using either an elliptical or stationary bike can burn calories for a healthier and slimmer you.
But there’s another advantage of using either cardio equipment to lose weight and fat: their high-intensity interval training (HIIT) potential.
According to research, HIIT is a more efficient way of burning calories. Specifically, it can increase your metabolic rate and burn fat better.
And compared with moderate exercises, you get all these benefits from HIIT half the time.
You can do that with either machine by cranking up the resistance or incline and pedalling fast!
Check out my 20-minute HIIT elliptical workout or design one yourself for your body goals.
VERDICT: Both ellipticals and stationary bikes are ideal for HIIT workouts to achieve better weight loss and fat-burning effects.
Neither elliptical nor stationary bike is a strength machine. So, these can only tone your muscles but not increase muscle mass.
However, if you are looking for a fitness machine with more well-rounded results for your muscles, the elliptical is a better choice.
You can target upper and lower muscle groups in one go with elliptical trainers because they allow total-body workouts.
On the other hand, the stationary bike predominantly works your leg muscles, including the quads, hamstrings and calves.
If you exercise with a spin bike, however, you can stand while pedalling to target your core, shoulders and back to some degree.
The best tip for muscle toning is to increase the pedalling resistance of your elliptical or bike.
VERDICT: Ellipticals and exercise bikes are not for muscle building. But using the movable handrails of the elliptical trainer is excellent for balanced muscle toning.
High-impact activities like walking, jumping, running and aerobics give the most bone health benefits. Since elliptical and stationary bikes are low-impact machines, neither can strengthen the bones.
However, Harvard Health says that the downward pedalling strokes of cycling deliver minimal impact to the leg bones.
And so, in this case, exercising with a stationary bike is better.
But if bone strengthening is your priority, it’s best to incorporate strength training exercise options into your elliptical or biking routine.
VERDICT: The stationary bike has a slightly better effect on bone strength. Still, consider doing other high-impact activities early on, given that bones naturally weaken as we age.
Ellipticals and exercise bikes are low-impact machines, so the chances of hurting your hips, legs, knees, ankles and feet are low.
Also, both are fixed exercise equipment, which lessens the risk of falling off, slipping or being out of balance.
Overuse injuries can still happen with either machine, though. So, always observe the proper exercise form and follow an ideal workout schedule.
A stationary bike, specifically a recumbent bike, is a better option if you have mobility issues or knee pains, though.
Biking is a weight-supported exercise as you’ll be sitting on the saddle. Also, getting on and off some elliptical models can be difficult due to their step-up height.
VERDICT: Ellipticals and stationary bikes do not cause injury except when you overuse them or fail to maintain the proper exercise form. Consult your doctor for the best cardio machine type that suits your health status.
This factor is a bit subjective since we have varying levels of tolerance. But generally, ellipticals and recumbent bikes are the most comfortable.
Elliptical machines allow a more fluid or natural movement, while recumbent bikes have a seat with a backrest for relaxed pedalling.
First-time riders of upright and spin bikes often find the bike seat uncomfortable.
Some would change it to a more padded saddle or wear bike shorts for extra cushion.
VERDICT: Most riders, particularly beginners, will feel more comfortable with an elliptical than a bike. Compared with a spin or upright bike, recumbent bikes are more relaxing as you’ll be reclining in a seated position.
You’ll have better luck finding a space-saving exercise bike than a compact elliptical for your small gym space.
That’s because elliptical trainers are generally bulkier and heavier.
And most indoor bike models take up little room. Some are even foldable or lightweight, so you can easily stash them off somewhere.
Putting an elliptical in your apartment or tiny home is still possible, though.
But you’ll have to check several factors like weight, dimensions and ceiling height before buying one.
VERDICT: Fitting in an exercise bike to a tiny home gym is less problematic than an elliptical.
Cost and Maintenance
The price of ellipticals and bikes depends on many factors, of course. But stationary bikes are almost always cheaper than elliptical trainers.
Also, you’ll likely find a better-quality bike than an elliptical within the same price range.
Some budget ellipticals have low-quality construction or shorter stride length, leaving you no choice but to get a mid-priced or high-end machine.
In terms of maintenance needs, exercise bikes cost less, too. These machines are not as complex as ellipticals, so repairs or parts are not as expensive.
Also, bikes have a straightforward design with fewer moving parts that do not require servicing often.
VERDICT: Stationary bikes are a more affordable investment with minimal maintenance costs.
Ellipticals may slightly burn more calories than stationary bikes.
But exerting more effort, adjusting the resistance or doing HIIT results in a high-calorie-burning workout, no matter what machine you use.
And from our comparison, it is clear that elliptical machines and exercise bikes have their pros and cons.
The choice then between the two should not be limited to caloric burn. It also boils down to our individual needs and preference.
So, on top of its calorie-burning ability, choose one that fits your comfort requirements, space and budget.
After all, consistency and motivation are equally important in staying fit and healthy.
Both cardio machines are effective in burning calories and losing weight. But choosing between the two depends on your body, personal preference and fitness goals. An elliptical is best if you want full-body workouts with a low risk for injuries. On the other hand, people who love to run or need sport-specific training will likely enjoy a treadmill routine more.
The best alternatives to an elliptical are a mini stepper, rowing machine, StairMaster, exercise bike and under-desk bike. The movements you’ll make from these elliptical alternatives may not be the same. But you still burn calories and train your upper and lower body without causing joint issues. Make sure to study their pros and cons.
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