Treadmill vs Elliptical: Which Is Best for Your Workout?

Thorough explanation of the difference for treadmill vs elliptical - hoiw much space they take, which offers better workouts for aching joints and loosing weight and how expensive each will be
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Last updated: August 16, 2023
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There are so many benefits to working out. Not only can you maintain your ideal weight, or even drop a few pounds, but your mental health will also improve. Exercising comes in many forms and while some want to head to a gym, others may seek the convenience of working out at home. This will naturally lead you to determine the answer to treadmill vs elliptical. Both exercise machines focus on cardio and can fit in your home. However, there are enough differences between the two that it can be hard to know which one you should get. In this article, we’ll help you decide which is better, treadmill or elliptical.

Elliptical Overview

An elliptical machine focuses on cardio and allows you to move both your arms and legs at the same time. It’s like a combination of a stair climber, bicycle, and ski machine. You can move forward, which is easier, or backward, which is more difficult.


  • Easier impact on joints
  • Targets lower and upper body
  • Great if you are recovering from an injury


  • Hard to learn at first
  • Not as much muscle development

Treadmill Overview

The treadmill is all about creating a safe and consistent area for you to run. The surface is less impactful than running on a road, so it won’t result in as many injuries. You can also run year-round with a treadmill as you don’t have to worry about snow, ice, rain, or heat.


  • Can run any time of the year
  • Safer for running at night, especially for women
  • More controls to focus on parts of running


  • Can get boring
  • Hard to vary running surface

Difference between Treadmill and Elliptical

Because a treadmill and an elliptical are different machines, it can be hard to properly compare them. Let’s try by looking at numbers. If you weigh 185 pounds, one minute of running on a treadmill will result in losing 6 calories Trusted Source Calories burned in 30 minutes for people of three different weights Calories burned chart by activity and weight, including walking, sports, and everyday household activities. . The equivalent amount of energy spent on an elliptical will burn 7 calories. Over time, this can be a huge difference.

Of course, how you use the machines will ultimately affect these numbers. With a few adjustments, 1 mile on an elliptical vs 1 mile on a treadmill can burn the same number of calories.

Looking at the next few factors might be an easier way of determining what produces a better workout, an elliptical or treadmill.


Treadmill vs Elliptical: Which Is Best for Your Workout?If it’s in your budget, you can pay for top-of-the-line machines that have built-in workout videos for you to follow along. These will have experienced instructors that motivate you and provide important tips on safety and form.

For example, the NordicTrack T Series gives you the option to stream exercise videos as you run. These videos are extra, though, so you will have to pay for a monthly subscription to access the content. Your purchase of this treadmill does come with a 30-day trial, which is nice as you can see if it is worth spending more in the future.

Beyond that, look online for workout suggestions. Don’t be afraid to play around with the settings and see what your machine already has installed. Becoming bored is one of the top reasons people stop working out, so try to mix things up to keep it fun.

Body toning

Treadmill vs Elliptical: Which Is Best for Your Workout?Overall weightless is great but what if you’re deciding on an elliptical vs treadmill for toning? An elliptical will give you a slight advantage because it incorporates your arms into the exercise. Even though running should use your arms, it is not as much of a workout as you need to grip the arm levers with an elliptical. This list of the best elliptical machines will give you plenty of options to consider.

Besides this, if you really want to tone parts of your legs, you might need to alter how you work out. Instead of simply running or using the elliptical for 30 minutes straight, vary your intensity levels to make your body work harder.


Safety is an important, if sometimes overlooked, feature of any new piece of exercise equipment. The good news is that any new elliptical or treadmill will undergo intense safety testing. There will be a large red button on any new machine that will automatically stop the machine. You can also attach a stop button to your clothes and if it is tugged on, such as if you fall, the machine will also stop right away.

Many people decide to purchase an elliptical or a treadmill used to save money. This is fine but you should test out the machine before purchase, especially with the safety stop button.

When it comes to safety on your body, an elliptical is more low-impact, and thus safer if you have joint issues or are recovering from an injury. Constantly hitting your legs on the surface of a treadmill impacts your body every time. While a treadmill offers more cushioning than running on pavement, it is still a factor when it comes to your safety.

Easy to use

Treadmill vs Elliptical: Which Is Best for Your Workout?A treadmill is much easier to use than an elliptical. You simply get on the treadmill, select your speed and incline, and then start walking or running.

With an elliptical, you have to balance slightly on the pedals and then start to move. It can be hard at first to know if you should move your legs backward or forward, and then harder still if you want to change direction.

Most people do eventually figure out an elliptical machine, so they really aren’t that difficult. Still, if you are worried about your balance or just want something super easy to use, then a treadmill is the better option.


The price can vary greatly for both treadmill and elliptical machines. Knowing what your starting budget is will greatly help with narrowing down your choice. You can expect to pay between $500 and $5000 for either machine, which is a huge gap.

Budget machines will give you the basics to get started. More expensive machines will have extra features, such as video screens, Bluetooth capability, and even video workouts. You can quickly get caught up in all the extras, so try to stay focused on what you really need.

You can check out this list of the best treadmills under 2000 dollars, which is a good starting point. You can then see what extra features you want and which ones you don’t need.


Treadmill vs Elliptical: Which Is Best for Your Workout?Like every piece of electronics, treadmills and ellipticals can get pretty complicated. Basic models will have fewer controls and thus will be easier to figure out. Advanced options give you more options but the learning curve can be a bit steep.

There’s no real difference between the controls of a treadmill and an elliptical because it all comes down to price.

Both exercise machines will have a speed control that you can move up or down. Treadmills will also have an incline option so you can angle the area for a more intense workout. For ellipticals, you will have a resistance function which also makes your workout harder.

Other controls on both types of machines will include pre-programmed workouts that vary the speed and resistance or incline. You can select ones that work to tone your legs or your bum, or ones that are easier or more extreme.

Space occupation

Treadmill vs Elliptical: Which Is Best for Your Workout?Depending on where you live, space might be a big issue. If you live in an apartment or your exercise room doubles as an office or guest room, having a more compact machine is important.

Generally, treadmills will be more compact than ellipticals. You can even find treadmills that fold in half so you can store them under your bed or in the closet.

Newer elliptical models are better at being compact. The Schwinn Fitness 430 is a nice option as it is only 71 inches long and can easily fit into a corner of your bedroom or office.

We recommend deciding on where you want to place your exercise machine first and then measuring the space. You don’t want to fall in love with a new workout machine and then after it is delivered, find out it is way too large for the intended area.

Which to Choose

Deciding between treadmill vs elliptical will come down to what your starting place is as well as what your goals are. You should think about long-term investing and what will remain a dynamic workout so you can continue to use your machine and stay healthy.

For obese people

Treadmill vs Elliptical: Which Is Best for Your Workout?It is so commendable when someone wants to take charge of their health and become more active. Before you dive into a new fitness plan, however, there are plenty of factors to consider.

Those that are obese will have a lot more weight on their joints and if you add anything high impact, it can severely affect those joints.

An elliptical machine is far easier on bones and joints than a treadmill, so it will often be recommended for those that are obese. However, you can also use a treadmill, as long as you start with walking only. This list of the best treadmills for walking is a good place to start.

Walking can still help you lose weight and will allow you to slowly ease into jogging and then running, as your body becomes more comfortable and lighter.

Weight loss

The basic calculation for weight loss is if you consume fewer calories than you use. This is why eating healthier and exercising more is a simple but effective way to lose weight. You should also pick an activity that you enjoy. Even if one method is better at losing weight, if you don’t stick with it, then you won’t lose any weight.

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) has exploded in popularity recently Trusted Source HIIT Workouts: How To Get The Most Out Of High-Intensity Interval Training | Coach We show you how to get the maximum benefit from HIIT workouts, the most popular – and the most misunderstood – trend in fitne . It is an effective way of losing weight. Basically, you engage in an activity for a short amount of time, 30 to 60 seconds, and then take a short break, 5 to 10 seconds, before repeating it again. HIIT training works because it gets your heart pumping fast but allows your body to recover slightly so you can keep going. Most HIIT training is only done for 30 minutes, which allows almost everyone to find time in their busy schedules.

A treadmill is better suited for HIIT training. You can program your machine so that the speed ramps up for a certain time and then goes down to a slower speed so you can recover. You can customize your speed changes and the machine works quickly so you don’t have to wait minutes for the treadmill to alter its speed.

Just remember, however, that you should choose the machine that you will most likely use. While an elliptical machine isn’t great with HIIT workouts, which are great for losing weight, using the machine will still allow you to lose weight over time.

Cardio training

Treadmill vs Elliptical: Which Is Best for Your Workout?Both the treadmill and the elliptical are considered cardio machines. Treadmills, however, don’t work as many muscle groups as ellipticals. With treadmills, it’s really only your legs that are getting the workout. With ellipticals, your arms and to some extent, your core, also get a workout.

Treadmills have a slight advantage when it comes to cardio training. But, if you prefer running and know you will use a treadmill more, then you should go for that piece of equipment.

Final Thoughts

There is no wrong answer when deciding between a treadmill and an elliptical. Both machines are great for cardio and will get you moving. Any time you move your body you burn calories, which leads to a healthier you. A treadmill is great if you are familiar with running and want to be able to run any time of the day or year. You can select your speed and incline. An elliptical is great if you want to use your arms and legs at the same time. It is less impactful on bones and joints. We hope you have a better understanding of the differences between treadmills vs elliptical and can go out and select one that will work for you. Remember that you should ultimately choose the machine that you think you will use the most.


Calories burned in 30 minutes for people of three different weights
Calories burned chart by activity and weight, including walking, sports, and everyday household activities.
HIIT Workouts: How To Get The Most Out Of High-Intensity Interval Training | Coach
We show you how to get the maximum benefit from HIIT workouts, the most popular – and the most misunderstood – trend in fitne

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