Elliptical Machines Vs Treadmills

Ellipticals and treadmills are just about the most popular cardio machines in gyms. They both offer a fast, effective workout but with a few subtle differences. There is some discussion among fitness buffs about which machine offers the best workout, which burns more calories or gives the most complete workout.

Elliptical Trainer v Treadmill

Elliptical vs Treadmill

Ellipticals versus Treadmills, which is the best – of course there is no definitive answer, only personal preference matters in the end. They do have significant differences though, which may sway your preference depending on your workout goals. Here, we offer some benefits and weaknesses to each machine in five different areas.


Elliptical machines have a lower impact on the joints and back of users. Those in physical therapy or another kind of recovery find the elliptical to be more comfortable. If you are looking to avoid or prevent injury, ellipticals are probably the best option. The low impact exercise also suits older users worried about aches and pains.

Treadmills have an impact similar to that of running on an indoor or outdoor track. As with all running, most people have no problems but with a high level of use there can be an increased risk of injury. The impact caused by regular, intense running has long been associated with repetitive type injuries such as “shin splints” and can also cause damage to the joints – particularly knees and ankles.

Upper Body Workout

Treadmills don’t offer much in terms of upper body workout other than the normal running motion. Ellipticals, however, have arm poles that allow users to exert extra force while they exercise. They simulate a skiing type motion with your arms – with resistance on good quality elliptical machines. This allows a more complete body workout. So, if you are looking for a good upper body workout and increase your strength while you do your cardio, the elliptical is the best option.

Workout Quality

Work out quality and intensity really depends on the level of effort you put in, regardless of the type of equipment you use. Due to the lower perceived exertion elliptical machine users have, those using them tend to work out harder for longer. No one piece of exercise equipment will work every muscle group but the elliptical trainer comes close.

The treadmill can provide an intense workout but covers limited muscle groups compared to an elliptical. If burning calories and working most of your body is your goal, the elliptical is perfect for this.

In the Home Gym

Treadmills have been popular for use in the home for many years but ellipticals are providing a challenge. Ellipticals are now out selling treadmills for the home use market. As their popularity rises this market share is likely to increase.

Both can be great for a home gym but space can be an issue. Some of the latest ellipticals have been designed for smaller spaces – with a minimal footprint. Both machines require similar sizes to work in. If space is tight look for smaller models or ones which are easily moved (some have wheels or fold down). I know quite a few people make use of the garage or outside sheds for a home gym space.


Elliptical machines have very innovative fitness programs. Even cheaper elliptical models have varied automatic workout programs allowing you to follow pre-programmed routines with varying intensity. The modern elliptical has really embraced technology with all sorts of clever innovations from internet connectivity to heart rate monitors and everything in between!

Treadmills are usually less technically advanced although most now have pre-programmed routines to choose from. It really comes down to the kind of workout the user wants and needs. Some interfaces for both treadmills and ellipticals even come with entertainment consoles. They offer people a more dynamic workout than any track can provide.

Elliptical vs Treadmill – The Winner?

There is no real winner! Both ellipticals and treadmills offer different things to users and both are great ways to work out. It’s important to assess your fitness needs properly. Seriously think about your goals – is it for regular intense training or just some gentle keep fit. At the gym – use both regularly to see which you personally prefer.

In my opinion the elliptical offers a more complete solution for all around general fitness and training. Of course if you are a serious runner, the treadmill will be your weapon of choice.

When buying a machine for the home it can be a significant investment and more deliberation is needed. Try both regularly over a period of time before committing to one or the other. Really consider your use and how you can benefit from either an elliptical or treadmill. Better still – buy both!

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