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Cardio Fitness

Elliptical vs Treadmill

When it comes to the elliptical vs the treadmill, what’s the difference? Find the answer to this question and more here!

Published: 7/15/19

Elliptical vs Treadmill: What’s the Difference?

In today’s battle of the cardio section, we are looking at the elliptical and the treadmill. You can usually find these machines next to or near each other at the gym. And it is for a good reason—they are both great options when working on your cardio fitness goals. But, which is better: the elliptical or treadmill? We’ll find out now! 

Elliptical vs. Treadmill for Cardio

An important thing to look at when scheduling out your cardio exercise for the week is whether or not you are loading in cardio workouts that have a lot of impact on your joints or if you have a mostly low-impact workout routine. As in most cases, balance is the key to success! Unless you are walking on the treadmill either on flat ground or on an incline, a treadmill workout can have a lot of impact on your joints. Some impact is good for you and can keep your bones healthy as you age as long as you don’t have an injury; however, it is smart to mix in low-impact cardio workouts with your treadmill training so that you don’t end up developing an injury over time—which is where the elliptical comes in. Using the elliptical for cardio offers the same movements as running but is a low-impact exercise. It is low-impact because your feet are not leaving the belt and then hitting it again. Instead, your feet are on pedals the entire time. The pedals virtually remove the impact of this routine on your joints, which is perfect for creating a balanced exercise routine, and great for people who need low-impact workouts due to injury. 


In terms of speed, there are differences between treadmill exercise benefits vs elliptical exercise benefits. If you are on a treadmill and you want to go three mph, the belt will move at three mph. For the treadmill to slow down or speed up, adjustments must be made on the display. For some people, the ability to stay at the same pace is excellent, like those who want to work on their running pace. The speed on a treadmill makes it easy to track your progress and tag on or take off an extra 0.1 mph when you are ready. However, with the elliptical, you move at your own pace. There is no assist in how fast or slow you go, so you have to work to get to speed. If you need help to stay on track during your exercises, something with a controlled pace may be better for you. But, if you have worked on your discipline, having the freedom to set your speed by moving your arms and legs harder is a great way to go. Think of an rpm goal you would like to hit and a level, like 80 rpms on Level 4 and then push yourself to complete that. You can create that goal based on your activity level. The first time you try the machine, see how your rpm and levels feel, and then try to beat them the next time you hop on. Tracking your progress is a great way to keep yourself on the right path and ensure that you are getting the most out of your elliptical training.

Leg Workout

The elliptical has your legs moving higher than you would in a typical run. The more significant range of motion makes your quadriceps work harder and can assist you in getting a greater range in your hip flexors.  Similarly, you can go backward on most ellipticals. The backward motion helps with your quadriceps to get a different kind of workout. Just be sure to hold onto the handlebars and go slow if you are trying the backward movement for the first time. If you have an injury, check with your doctor to make sure this machine will work for you.


When it comes down to the elliptical vs. treadmill calorie burn, when going at the same pace, you will burn more calories on a treadmill. However, you may be able to go longer on the elliptical due to the low-impact nature of the machine. So, think about your energy level and the type of workout you want to achieve and head to the best machine for you.

Elliptical and Treadmill

One great way to complete a cardiovascular exercise is to use them on the same day. The elliptical is a great way to warm up your muscles to get ready for a run. Hop on the elliptical for 5-10 minutes. Once you are warmed up, go over to the treadmill and complete your run. This use of both machines is beneficial for runners who need to partake in dynamic stretching before they run or anyone who wants to get a little more treadmill time into their routine. 

So, what is the definitive answer, elliptical or treadmill? The answer is, it depends on what you need and what you love to use. In the end, if you love your workout, you’ll work out. Try it all and see what keeps you interested in coming back for more. We have ellipticals and treadmills at all of our locations. Stop in, say hello, and get to working out. We hope to see you soon.

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