Ellipticals Vs. Treadmills: Which is Better?


We are often asked,”what is the best exercise for (you fill in the space here).”  The simple answer, is….the exercise that you will do.  Regardless of what exercise you perform, your heart rate and subsequently your supply of oxygen, will determine what fuel your body will burn and the number of calories expended.  You can get the exact same caloric effect from both a treadmill and an elliptical, but there are some differences in how the body is affected.

User-Defined vs. Machine Defined

Treadmills are a “user defined” exercise that has impact.  That means that you can move in the manner that your body wants and that the weight of your body comes down at 1.5 times body weight while walking and 3 times body weight when running.

Ellipticals, are “machine defined” exercises that are weight bearing, with no impact, but create torque on the joints.  That means that the engineers decided several things: length of stride, weight transfer, pedal separation and shape of the ellipse.  There is usually some amount of adjustment, but the machine and the user’s body need to fit each other.

Ellipticals vs. Treadmills: Better for You

The main takeaway is that it’s different for everyone. A treadmill is an easier piece of equipment to buy, as are all user defined pieces. The elliptical is great if you have joint issues or just have a liking for the elliptical movement. Either way, getting expert advice will insure that you get a piece of equipment that you will enjoy using.

So if you’re buying for yourself, you should be aware of what your limitations are personally and what your strengths are, and which machine fits you better. If you’re buying for someone else, you’ll want to do what you can to make sure that you’re getting the best piece for them.

If you’d like to have the discussion about which one works best for you, talk to a local fitness shop or personal trainer who is familiar with the differences in physiology. For those in the Tampa Bay area, this is the kind of conversation we love to have.


Thank you for reading!

At Bandit Fitness, this kind of stuff is our jam. If you've got any more questions about, well, really anything fitness, we're always here to talk. If you're not familiar with us, read more about us here, and when you're ready, click the button below to drop by!