Exercise Bike vs. Treadmill

Updated August 8, 2019
People cardio workout in gym

Though both the exercise bike and treadmill are good choices for cardio workouts, they also each have varying benefits. Of course, the intensity put forth by the exerciser has a significant impact on the benefits derived from the equipment.

Calories Burned

Between the treadmill and the stationary bike, neither innately provides a better caloric burn. The number of calories burned on either one depends on the intensity of the exercise session and the body composition of the individual.

Treadmill Calories

The average 150-pound person walking at a brisk pace (around 3.5 miles an hour) for 30 minutes will typically burn about 130 calories. Increasing the incline or speeding up the pace will result in a higher caloric expenditure.

Exercise Bike Calories

A 150-pound person using a stationary bike can expect to burn around 105 calories for 30 minutes at a light pace. The number of calories burned on a stationary bike depends largely on the type of bike and workout format. For example, the same 150-pound person doing vigorous effort on a spin bike in an indoor cycling class can burn around 425 calories in the same amount of time.

Cost Comparisons

Depending on the model, the cost of a stationary bike or a treadmill is fairly comparable. Both have basic options starting for less than $200 and both can get pricey with more interactive models in the range of thousands of dollars. With both stationary bikes and treadmills, the highest-end models can cost several thousand dollars.

Treadmill Price Range

The cost of a treadmill depends largely on the model and its features. Low-end models without screens or displays can start around $250 to $300, like the Confidence Power Plus treadmill. Higher end models, with screens and heart rate monitors typically start around $1500 like the TR3000i Electric Folding Treadmill.

Girls exercising in the gym using a treadmill

Exercise Bike

Like treadmills, the cost of a stationary bike can vary tremendously based on its model. Options for bikes include onboard computers, heart rate monitors and televisions, all of which can affect the cost. Lower end bikes typically start under $200, like the Marcy Upright Mag Cycle, while more interactive models with course planning and monitor systems can cost upwards of $1500 like the Fitnex R70 Exercise Recumbent bike or the Sole LCR Exercise bike.

Overall Fitness Considerations

If you are like most people, you spend a great deal of your day seated at work. If this is the case, a treadmill forces you into a standing position, which benefits your fitness goals by promoting stability and balance. Sitting on a bike will get your heart pumping, but it doesn't force you out of a seated position.

Personal Preference

While cost and caloric expenditure matters for many people, the most important factor is which machine you are most likely to use on a regular basis. Simply put, if you know you're much more likely to use a stationary bike than a treadmill, the stationary bike is the obvious choice.

Injury Considerations

A stationary bike can't be beat as a piece of exercise equipment suitable for people with injuries or those recovering from surgery. People with knee or back problems might find an indoor bike more suitable for exercise than a treadmill, as will people with balance issues. Speak to your physician or physical therapist to find out if your physical limitations should steer you toward one machine over the other.

Shoe Requirements

Walking, jogging, or running on a treadmill requires appropriate shoes to avoid discomfort. Traditional gym shoes work fine for most stationary bikes, but cycling shoes will help make spinning more comfortable as the pedals have a tendency to push into soft-soled shoes.

Toning and Strengthening

Both machines can help overall body toning, but the treadmill utilizes more muscles than the bike does. Keep in mind that both machines are cardio machines and if your goals include losing inches, strength training and dietary changes are required. For this reason, specific goals like a flatter stomach or muscular legs are better addressed with strength training and nutritional adjustments as opposed to a treadmill or bike.

Weight Loss

There are many factors involved in weight loss. For some people, simply taking in fewer calories than they expend will make the scale move. For these people, vigorous effort on either machine will help burn calories. Truly, whichever machine is most appealing to the user will be the best option for weight loss since the user is most likely to use the machine without getting bored or discouraged.

The Law of Specificity

If your goal is to be a faster runner, the treadmill can help you accomplish this and is the best choice for you, just as those who want to train to bike riding season should use indoor bikes when the weather won't allow for outdoor riding. If you don't have specific goals beyond becoming more fit, either machine is a suitable option. Increasing the intensity and extending the duration will help improve your cardiovascular health and stamina. Vary your routine to include some high intensity intervals to push your fitness levels even further.

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Exercise Bike vs. Treadmill