Exercise bike vs Treadmill. Two exercise equipment instantly come to mind when we talk about cardio workouts. But does a treadmill suit you better than an exercise bike?
Both treadmills and exercise bikes offer excellent fitness training and relatively the same health benefits. However, these machines have different construction, design and operation. And these make one better for a specific user than the other.
Ultimately, the choice boils down to your fitness level, goal and lifestyle.
Keen on getting a deeper exercise bike vs treadmill comparison?
Keep reading, and let’s identify essential comparative factors that highlight their pros and cons.
Hopefully, these can help you choose the cardio equipment that suits you best.
Exercise Bike vs Treadmill: Which One Should You Choose?
It’s hard to quickly settle this question as there is no brief and fixed answer for it.
But we can use the following machine features to compare them. Here’s a table for a quick comparison.
|Workout variety and difficulty
|With adjustable resistance and cadence that appeal to most beginners
|With adjustable speed and incline that suit seasoned gym-goers and athletes
|Have spin, upright, recumbent and air bike types for targeted/specialised workouts
|Have manual, motorised and foldable types to suit budget and space needs
|Mostly target the lower body muscles
|Target a wider variety of muscles
|210-294 calories; ideal for sustained weight loss
|350-500 calories; ideal for fast initial weight loss
|Belly fat loss
|Allow strength training for long-term weight and fat loss
|Allow fast but potentially short-term weight and fat loss
|Low injury rate
|Can be tough for users with joint or balance issues
|Space and cost
|More compact and budget-friendly
|Bulkier and more expensive
Workout Variety and Difficulty
Indoor bikes have adjustable resistance and cadence for exercise variety, whereas treadmills have variable speed and incline.
These features dictate how challenging either exercise machine model can be.
Also, some exercise bikes include an incline function or movable handles, while other treadmills have a decline mode for running downhill.
But generally, an exercise bike offers workout difficulty and variety that are more beginner-friendly.
It is less intimidating to use. Also, cycling is a non-weight-bearing exercise, making it less physically demanding.
On the other hand, athletes tend to lean more on treadmill use as it encourages weight-bearing exercises for faster heart rate.
A moving treadmill belt also appears more challenging as it requires more body balance and coordination than regular biking.
Both exercise bikes and treadmills come in various models mainly because consumers have varying fitness and lifestyle needs.
Indoor bike types, for example, can have magnetic or fan flywheels.
The former is quieter and has pre-set resistance levels. The latter is noisier but has infinite resistance.
Spin bikes also make you lean forward to target the core muscles more, while recumbent bikes are best for injury or surgery rehabilitation.
On the other hand, there are manual treadmills for unlimited speed levels and motorised ones with Wi-Fi access and a myriad of workout settings.
Some treadmill models are also lightweight and foldable to suit smaller homes and users into walking exercises. See walking vs exercise bike.
There is no clear winner in this case.
But with several bike and treadmill types available, people can easily find a machine that ticks all the boxes on their checklist.
You can achieve full-body workouts with either an exercise bike or treadmill. Also, both machines allow targeted muscle-building exercises.
For instance, you can stand while pedalling to activate your glutes, core, back and shoulders.
And you can also walk on a steep treadmill incline to focus on your leg and hip muscles.
However, there’s higher muscle activation with a treadmill.
That’s because pedalling concentrates more on your lower-body muscles, specifically your quads, hamstrings and calves.
On the other hand, walking or running on a treadmill puts more muscles to work, especially when you let go of the handrails.
If you are asking if treadmill workouts build your glutes, you can check out this page.
Caloric burn rate is perhaps the most crucial factor in determining if an exercise bike is better than a treadmill.
After all, we use either of these machines primarily to lose weight.
So, which one burns more calories? At 30 minutes of moderate workout intensity, stationary cycling burns 210 to 294 calories.
Under the same workout setting, a treadmill can burn 350 to 500 calories.
Of course, the number of calories you burn on either machine depends on other factors like age, current weight, workout intensity/duration and more.
But, all things equal, a treadmill can potentially burn more calories than a bike.
Running is also a high-impact exercise that promotes muscle building.
However, these don’t make stationary bikes less efficient in burning calories or weight loss.
That’s because cycling at a higher resistance effectively combines cardio and strength training in one workout.
And one study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (2017) shows that this combination is ideal for sustained weight loss.
Belly Fat Loss
As both exercise bikes and treadmills work well in burning calories, it’s a given that these also help with fat loss.
If you exercise consistently to burn calories, you’ll start losing weight, gaining more muscles and, eventually, reducing your belly size.
But one thing that makes these cardio machines great for belly fat loss is their HIIT (high intensity interval training) potential.
With interval workouts on an exercise bike or a treadmill, you can keep your metabolic rate up after exercise.
That means you continue burning calories even at rest, speeding up your calorie and fat loss.
But if you want to maintain the lean muscle mass you’ve gained from either cardio machine, you need to focus more on your strength training.
And in this case, stationary bikes get the upper hand.
Cycling at high resistance is a form of strength exercise. It lets you build muscles to sustain a flatter tummy.
Generally, exercise bikes are better than treadmills when it comes to safety.
For one, indoor cycling is a low-impact exercise. That means there is less stress on your bones, joints and tissues.
For as long as you observe proper cycling form, you can extend your workout without having to deal with body pains or injury later.
Cycling also relies on your effort or output, meaning you can cycle as slow or fast to match your capacity.
It’s different from a treadmill. With this one, your body needs to adjust to match your machine settings.
And so, if you have balance issues or joint problems, working out on a fast treadmill can put you at risk.
The injury rate is also higher with a treadmill as you work out upright.
Your chance of slipping, getting off balance, or falling increases when standing up.
Space and Cost
How much money you can spend and how much space you have at home are essential considerations when owning a piece of gym equipment.
While there are several stationary bike and treadmill models available, indoor cycles are generally more compact and affordable.
Specifically, you can get a better-performing budget exercise bike than a low-cost treadmill.
Cheaper treadmills usually have low-quality motors and limited incline/speed levels.
Also, treadmills have more moving parts than exercise bikes, making them more costly to maintain or repair.
Space-wise, treadmills are generally bulky and heavy, too. However, high machine weight and size usually indicate a better lifespan.
You can get foldable treadmills, though, to save workout space. But these models are often less durable with lower speed limits.
Exercise bikes and treadmills are equally excellent for cardio training and weight loss.
But people with joint issues, limited space or tighter budgets may find indoor cycles a better option.
On the other hand, experienced fitness buffs who are into high-impact and challenging workouts will likely choose treadmills in a heartbeat.
No matter which fitness machine you end up with, choose one that is high quality.
A belt-drive bike is better if you prefer smoother, quiet rides on a low-maintenance machine. But it won’t give you the natural riding experience as a chain-driven bike would. It’s best to test out a few units while shopping around. It should help you gauge which one feels best.
Smart bikes, like these Peloton bike alternatives, suit you best if you prefer high-tech machines and have no lower limb injuries. On the other hand, a regular stationary bike is better if you have a tight budget and limited home gym space. Recumbent bikes are also best for users with arthritic joints or those recovering from an injury.
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