Ellipticals vs. Treadmills: A Guide

Ellipticals vs. Treadmills: A Guide

With summer on it’s way, we’re all thinking of ways we can get in shape. If, like me, you’re too lazy to go to the gym a home  treadmill or an elliptical machine could be the answer. Both treadmills and ellipticals are capable of providing an excellent cardiovascular workout, and allow you to efficiently achieve an aerobic effect to significantly enhance calorie burning – allowing you to feel a little less guilty for overindulgence.

With all of that said, it’s important to know the major differences between treadmills and ellipticals, to better understand the types of workouts they deliver, and the impact they’ll have on your body. By understanding their differences and similarities, you’ll be better equipped to read elliptical reviews and make a purchase decision that will best match both your monetary budget and your personal fitness goals.

Fitness Novices May Prefer Ellipticals

In general, most experts agree that treadmills are better suited to younger, fitter individuals with few if any health problems, such as athletes. This notion holds especially true for runners, since the motion involved with a treadmill is virtually identical to running in the real world while the motion used with an elliptical is much different. Treadmills are typically most efficient at burning more calories in shorter periods of time, another reason why they’re ideal for those who are already in moderate physical condition. This isn’t to say that ellipticals can’t provide an excellent workout, or that they’re rarely used by in-shape individuals.

Ellipticals allow older and more out-of-shape individuals to start exercising at their own pace. Ellipticals don’t have a running motor that forces the exerciser to work out at a minimum rate, while treadmills do. The motion you perform while using an elliptical, which can range from a round cycling motion to a longer skiing-like motion, is zero-impact, meaning that ellipticals will be less painful to use for those with joint, knee and bone problems. If you experience joint pain while walking, jogging or running outdoors, you can expect the same pain while walking on a treadmill.

Ellipticals Require More Discipline

As mentioned, every treadmill has a motor that causes its belt to move at a rate of your choosing, allowing you to walk, jog or run at whatever pace you like. The caveat is that if you become tired and slow down, the belt will continue moving at the same pace. Although this could present a hazard for individuals with less mobility, many exercise experts agree that it actually represents an advantage for treadmills over ellipticals.

With a treadmill, you’ll be forced to perform your workout at a constant pace even if your mind wanders, you become distracted, or you start to feel fatigued. This results in a more consistent, error-proof workout.

With an elliptical, you’ll be dictating the pace of action with each passing moment during your workout since the footrests only move when you physically make them. Although this is perfectly fine for those who can easily focus on their workout and shut out that nagging “quit now, you’re tired” sensation, some will prefer the forced discipline of a treadmill.

Ellipticals Work the Upper Body

When you walk or run on a treadmill, you’ll have the option of placing your hands at your sides, swinging them as you normally would when walking or jogging, resting them on the handrails of the machine, or doing basically anything you’d like.

When you use an elliptical, your options for hand placement are much more limited. Strictly from an exercise standpoint, this is actually a good thing because it forces you to use better posture and gets your upper body involved in the workout. Meanwhile, a treadmill only requires you to use your lower body.

By getting your entire body involved in the workout, ellipticals may help some fitness seekers to focus on the task at hand. At the same time, you shouldn’t be concerned that using a treadmill will result in skinny legs and a stagnant upper body, since cardiovascular exercise always causes fat loss across the entire body instead of just the parts directly involved in the workout.

Treadmills Allow for Multitasking

The fact that treadmills don’t directly involve the hands and upper body makes them better suited to individuals looking to multitask while they’re getting a workout. Many treadmill owners enjoy the fact that they can easily flip the pages of a book or magazine, hold a phone to their ear or even play a video game while they exercise. These types of tasks would be nearly impossible on an elliptical, which requires constant use of your hands for stability and the successful completion of the exercise motion.

However, even elliptical machines allow for some degree of multitasking since you’ll be constantly facing the same direction. This means you can watch TV or an exercise DVD while you’re working out, regardless of whether you use a treadmill or an elliptical.

Whether multitasking will be a boon or a hindrance to your personal fitness plan will again depend on your level of self-discipline. If you think that reading a magazine while you exercise will keep your mind off of the burn resulting from the workout, feel free to do so. If you think adding more tasks to your workout will only lead to distraction and poor exercise efficiency, the forced hand placement of an elliptical shouldn’t be considered a negative.

Overall, it would be misleading to say that either a treadmill or an elliptical is the clear winner of the two for all individuals and purposes. The choice ultimately depends on your current health fitness level, your fitness goals, your level of self-discipline and the way you want to work out from home.

One Comment

  1. I love this article! I am probably one of the rare breeds that enjoys both elliptical machines and treadmills. With ellipticals I get a great total body workout and with the treadmill I do sprint intervals for speed and weight loss training. I will be sharing this article with others.

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