Elliptical vs treadmill: What is a better cardio machine for weight loss?

Wondering if elliptical or treadmill will work in your weight-loss journey? Here are the pros and cons of elliptical and treadmill for weight loss.
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It is the battle of the elliptical and treadmill! Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Shruti Bhattacharya Published: 25 Apr 2024, 08:59 am IST
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Losing weight for better health is a common goal of most people. Cardio workouts are one of the best ways to lose weight. Jogging, running, brisk walking, and cycling, are all fitness activities that may help to burn calories. However, if you prefer working out indoors and using gym equipment, you will have to look for other ways to lose weight. The elliptical trainer and treadmill are popular cardio machines in the fitness world. Confused whether to use elliptical or treadmill for weight loss? Read on their pros and cons to help you decide which one is better for a weight-loss journey.

What is an elliptical trainer?

An elliptical machine, also known as an elliptical trainer or cross trainer, is a stationary workout equipment that simulates walking, running, and climbing stairs without putting too much strain on the joints. It provides a low-impact cardiovascular workout by combining the motions of an exercise cycle, stair climber, and treadmill. Users stand on the pedals and move their feet to exercise both upper and lower body muscles, resulting in an effective full-body workout.

Elliptical trainers can improve your overall fitness. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock.

Benefits of an elliptical trainer

1. Aids in effective weight loss

“The elliptical helps to burn approximately 200 to 300 calories in 30 minutes, which is equivalent to running on a treadmill. Moreover, the elliptical machine works the entire body. This is why engaging in the elliptical machine in your fitness regime for weight loss can help the reduction of body fat,” says fitness coach Mahesh Ghanekar.

2. Easy on the joints

The elliptical is a low-impact exercise equipment. If you struggle to handle the jarring motion of walking or jogging, an elliptical machine may be an excellent solution. Low-impact exercise is often less stressful on your joints than high-impact exercise. This makes the elliptical a safer choice if you suffer from osteoporosis, arthritis, or other musculoskeletal issues including low back pain, knee, or hip pain. A low-impact exercise may appear to be less strenuous, but it still gives an adequate aerobic workout. A 2017 study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness found that a 24-week low-impact workout program increased the participants’ body composition, physical fitness, and cardiovascular fitness.

3. Offers upper and lower body workout

Some elliptical machines are equipped with arm handles. You can move your legs and push these back and forth simultaneously. Working the muscles in your shoulders, chest, and back is aided by the handles’ resistance. The machine can also assist you in toning the muscles in your lower body, such as your quadriceps, hip flexors, and glutes.

Side effects of elliptical machines

1. Less muscle development

Although an elliptical is a great option for low-impact cardio training, a treadmill may offer a higher degree of muscular growth. If you want to increase your muscle strength while still utilising an elliptical, try including weight or strength training in your workout routine.

2. Not so dynamic

On a treadmill, you can increase the inclination to provide resistance to your workout. However, because the elliptical’s pedals are elevated, your body does not even fully bear your weight. Your movement meets the least amount of resistance in return.

What is a treadmill?

Treadmills are motorised exercise machines with a moving belt that allow you to walk, run, or jog in one spot. They give consumers the option to alter the pace and incline settings and offer a regulated environment for cardiovascular exercises. Treadmills are popular indoor running and walking machines that add convenience and flexibility to one’s workout routine.

Benefits of treadmill

1. Aids in weight loss

“Running on a treadmill at 8 mph for 20 minutes may help you burn between 200 and 300 calories. The number of calories expended is also determined by your body weight and the degree of inclination used,” says the expert. The ideal running technique to be used during treadmill workout is to run intermittently on the treadmill at an angle of at least 3 degrees (6 or 7 mph for one minute, followed by 13 or 14 mph for ten seconds).

Running on a treadmill can help to lose weight. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

2. Engages your abdominal muscles

Running demands you to engage your core and stimulate your abdominal muscles. This improves balance, helps your body become more resilient, and keeps you from falling. So, if you run for 20 minutes, your core is actively engaged the entire time. Regular practice may help you develop a strong core, which may enhance your tone, posture, and endurance throughout the activity.

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3. Good for lower body workout

Walking or running on the treadmill works your calves, hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, abdominals, and heart muscles. It is therefore an excellent lower-body workout. If you have excess fat in your lower body, exercising intermittently on the treadmill can help you lose it successfully, as per a study published in the Journal of Aging Research.

4. Strengthens the bones

Running requires you to balance on alternate legs. This means that your legs bear your body weight alternately. Also, the incline and speed of running apply forces that double or even triple your body weight. Running on different days with proper form strengthens the bones.

5. Improves heart health

Running and walking fast on the treadmill increases your heart rate and engages your lungs, which can help you strengthen your heart muscles and improve circulation, according to a study published in the PubMed Journal. Over time, you will be able to run for extended periods without becoming out of breath, improving your overall health.

Side effects of treadmill

1. Not easy on the joints

It might be hard for your knees to run quickly on a treadmill or slowly for an extended time. That is because your knees have to withstand twice or three times your body weight. They also lessen the shock that results from your feet making contact with the platform.

2. Works only on lower body

While jogging or walking on a treadmill is an excellent exercise for the lower body, it does not target the upper body. Even though running on a treadmill may seem like a full-body workout, it doesn’t work your upper body muscles that much.

Using a treadmill can help you burn almost the same number of calories as using an elliptical. If you need a full-body workout then opt for the elliptical. But if you need just a lower-body workout then choosing a treadmill will be worth it.

Elliptical vs treadmill: What is better?

Both the elliptical machine and treadmill have their individual benefits and side effects for an effective cardio workout. But what you choose for your fitness journey may be driven by multiple factors, including the state of your physical health. If you are more injury prone or face a certain musculoskeletal condition, elliptical machines may be a better choice as it will be more gentle on your bones and joints.

A treadmill, however, could be a smarter choice if you are not too injury-prone or joint issues, you want to amp up your fitness levels and wish to build lower body strength.

Shruti Bhattacharya

Shruti Bhattacharya is a content writer and editor for over 2 years. She specialises in writing on a variety of topics such as wellness, lifestyle, beauty, technology and fashion. Her current focus is on creating factually correct and informative stories for readers. ...Read More

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