• 03 Oct - 09 Oct, 2020
  • Mag The Weekly

The cardio room is rife with a rivalry more contentious than Kanye vs. Taylor-obviously, we're talking about the elliptical vs. treadmill.

Sure, both pieces of equipment are classified as cardio machines, but each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Here’s something to help you figure out whether the elliptical or treadmill is better.

Best for tracking progress: Treadmill

The biggest benefit of running on a treadmill is that they're easy to use and micro-programmable, a personal training app-everything you need is right on the screen in front of you.

Because treadmills are so high-tech these days, they're incredible tools for data. You can track time, distance, segment time, and pace on most treadmill models, so you can easily track your progress. The screen doesn't lie, which makes it a great accountability tool and way to see improvements week over week.

On the flip side, because there's more variation between different elliptical machines and manufacturers, one mile on one elliptical can require a different amount of work than one mile on another.

Best if you have an injury: Elliptical

The biggest benefit of the elliptical is that they're lower impact than the treadmill. Your foot is in constantly on the pedal, which eliminates the force of picking your foot up and placing it back down with all your bodyweight (which happens while running). This makes it a great option for both people who are workout beginners, returning from a gym hiatus, or who have injuries.

Even if you don't have a preexisting lower-body injury, incorporating the elliptical occasionally may help prevent wear-and-tear on the body.

Best for race training: Treadmill

While treadmills may be higher impact than ellipticals, they're a lower-impact running option compared to the pavement. Treadmills get a bad rap for being a high-impact training tool, but they're not. The treadmill has less impact on the body, especially the feet, knees, and hips than running on pavement because a treadmill is built to absorb some of that impact.

Unlike the elliptical, which operates on a set moving pattern, the treadmill also gives you the opportunity to focus on running form, which will translate to both the pavement and the trails-a major perk for folks training for outdoor races.

Best for a full-body workout: Elliptical

Most elliptical trainers combine a leg and arm motion. Because there are handlebars that you push and pull against resistance, you're getting a full-body workout.

Yes, your arms are indeed moving enough to strengthen your upper body (specifically, your triceps, upper back, shoulder, and chest muscles). Increase the resistance or add in some arm-only intervals for an even better arm pump.

Plus, because you're using your lower and upper body at the same time, your core has to engage to keep your body balanced. You can even try pedaling backward to change the muscles being worked and target the hamstrings, glutes, and calves differently.

Best to burn more calories: Treadmill

Let's be clear: Both cardio machines are better compared to the alternative of performing zero cardio and both can be used to burn calories.

But when comparing apples to apples, the treadmill will earn you a greater calorie burn than the elliptical. That's because any time you have to pick your foot up off the ground, your body is going to use more energy than when your foot stays planted.

That said, how hard you're working plays a role: For instance, a slow, 20-minute jog on the treadmill won't burn as many calories as going H-A-M on the elliptical set to high resistance.

Best for weight loss: Either

You're probably wondering which machine is better from a weight loss perspective. There's no clear winner on this front. Neither is better, you just need to figure out what's best for you. This will depend on which machine you prefer, if you have any preexisting injuries, and which machine helps you personally reach your goals.

So, which is better: elliptical or treadmill?

Ultimately, it depends on your body and your goals. The treadmill mimics the natural movement of running outside, which makes it a better option for race and sports training. But the elliptical is the lower-impact option of the two, so it's a safer and better option for folks with ankle, hip, and knee issues.

As for weight loss and calorie burn, it's best to choose a workout you actually want to do. So, hey, if you're not in the mood for either, there's always the stair climber or the weight room.