Elliptical Vs. Treadmill

Woman exercising on treadmill

When choosing a quality piece of home exercise equipment, many people deliberate between an elliptical trainer and a treadmill. Both can provide an excellent cardiovascular workout for home fitness enthusiasts. Which one is right for you?

Elliptical Trainers

Elliptical trainers have gained popularity in recent years, showing up in commercial and home gyms. The machines provide a high-intensity workout that elevates heart rate and improves muscular endurance. The trainers remove pressure from joints by providing a smooth impact-free motion. Depending on the style you choose, you can also increase intensity by using your arms to push and pull handles.

Elliptical machines fit in very well with today's busy lifestyles. Since most models exercise the upper and lower body simultaneously, many people can commit to a small 20 minute workout and obtain adequate results. The time-saving nature of elliptical trainers make them a big draw for people with busy lives.

Ellipticals are also popular due to their joint protecting workout. Senior citizens can successfully use an elliptical machine, and it also is beneficial for athletes recovering from a recent injury. Lastly, working out on an elliptical strengthens your heart, reducing your risk of heart disease, stroke, and other devastating illnesses.

Average Cost

The cost of elliptical trainers varies greatly based on model and features. A low-end, collapsible model may cost under $100, while high end models with adjustable tension, computerized workouts, heart rate monitors, calorie counters, and other features can exceed $1,000.

Calories Burned

The number of calories you expend on an elliptical trainer depends on a number of factors including your weight, the intensity at which you exercise (speed, slope, and resistance), how long you spend on the trainer, and whether you involve your upper body. A high intensity session on an elliptical trainer may burn as many as 300 calories in 30 minutes.


Exercise enthusiasts have used treadmills for decades. These handy machines allow you to walk or jog indoors, regardless of weather conditions. If you are a walker, jogger or runner, you don't need to depend on a sunny day to get in your daily workout. Your treadmill is right there waiting for you in your house.

Depending on whether you walk or run, treadmills provide a moderate to high impact workout, placing some pressure on joints. They are, however, easier on the body than a traditional jog around the block due to the shock absorbent surface.

Depending on the type of treadmill you select, you may have options for incline and speed, and some units also have programmable computers on board that adjust speed and incline automatically as you workout, simulating more closely the experience you would get if you walked or jogged outdoors.

Average Cost

Low-end, basic treadmills cost around $250 to $350, while higher end models can approach $1,000. The more expensive treadmills tend to have more features, like on-board computers, heart rate monitors, and calorie counting displays.

Calories Burned

As with all exercise, the number of calories you burn during a treadmill workout depends on your exercise intensity (determined by speed and incline), time spent, and weight. Walking on a treadmill for 30 minutes at three miles per hour will burn around 100 calories. Increasing the incline by 15 percent and speeding up to four miles per hour may double that number.

Elliptical Vs. Treadmill Workouts

For each person, evaluating which piece of equipment works best for them will depend largely on goals, budget, and the types of activities they enjoy.

Most Natural Exercise Experience

If you want genuine training experience, you may prefer the treadmill, which allows you to walk or run indoors during bad weather.

Best Overall Fitness

If you seek overall fitness and health, however, you may like the elliptical trainer better. The machine allows you to work both your upper and lower body at an intensity that builds overall fitness.

Best Exercise Intensity

In general, an elliptical trainer offers more options for upping your exercise intensity than a treadmill. On a treadmill, you can increase intensity by going faster or incorporating more incline. With an elliptical trainer, you can adjust incline, resistance, speed, and whether you use your upper body, lower body, or both.

Best for Special Needs

The elliptical trainer may also be better for those with special needs, such as people recovering from injury or the elderly. The smooth motion of the machine and the low-impact workout make it a safe and effective workout for special populations.

Best Caloric Burn

Again, intensity determines caloric burn. The elliptical trainer, however, has an edge in this category, as well, because of the many high intensity options available.

Choosing Your Workout

In the end, the best piece of exercise equipment is the one you will use regularly. If you make a major purchase of home fitness equipment and don't use it, then it becomes an expensive clothes hanger and doesn't contribute to your health or fitness in any way. When making your decision to purchase a treadmill or elliptical trainer, choose the one that you will use consistently. If you do that, you can't go wrong.

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Elliptical Vs. Treadmill