Treadmill Vs. Elliptical: Which Is Better for Weight Loss?

 Written by 

Julien Raby

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Being a beginner, are you confused between an elliptical cross trainer and a treadmill for weight loss? 

Both elliptical cross trainer and treadmill have their pros and cons which we want to provide you with. So, in this article, we are going to tell you how to choose between a treadmill and an elliptical cross trainer for weight loss. 

A man compating which machine between treadmill and elliptical is the best for weight loss

Let’s get started with a brief introduction to the treadmill and an elliptical cross trainer.

Elliptical vs Treadmill: Overview 

A treadmill is an exercise piece of equipment that has an endless belt on which an individual walks or runs while staying in the same place. It is the best option for cardio, especially if you are a beginner.

An elliptical cross trainer, on the other hand, is a stationary exercise machine that is used to run or walk without causing extra pressure on the joints.

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Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Elliptical
Based on our testing, this is the best budget Elliptical for beginners. For less than 475$, it has most essential features that you've come to expect. It's compact and sturdy, frankly it offers great value for money. It's also backed with an 3 years warranty.
Sunny Health & Fitness Electric Treadmill
Based on our testing, this is the best budget treadmill for beginners. For less than 400$, it has most essential features that you've come to expect, it's small and sturdy, frankly it offers great value for money. It's also backed with an 8 years warranty.

Both treadmill and elliptical cross trainers are cardio machines that help in effective weight loss. So, how to choose between them? 

Experts answered this question by suggesting that a good understanding of the body parts that both these machines target can help you make the best decision.

An overweight woman running on a treadmill to lose weight at the gym

Elliptical vs Treadmill: The Differences

The treadmill is a versatile piece of equipment that can be used to walk, run or sprint at any speed. It is easier to use. That’s why a study reports that over the past decades, there has been an increasing interest in the use of the motorized treadmill for walking and running.

An elliptical cross trainer is also a versatile fitness device that is believed can burn more calories and provide effective weight loss

Elliptical training is a low-impact full-body workout that is easy on joints. This exercise puts less stress on joints and bones which makes it a safer option for weight loss, especially if you have musculoskeletal problems.

1. Movement Pattern

Working out on a treadmill mimics the natural movement pattern of the body. Your arms and feet move freely as if you were running outside the gym. While elliptical cross-training may not feel so natural because of the design of the machine. 

2. Muscle Groups Worked

Experts say the treadmill aerobic workout mainly targets the lower body and the cardiovascular system of the body. This exercise works the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and glutes. Running on the treadmill also engages the core and activates ab muscles. This gives you a balanced strong core.

On the other hand, elliptical cross-training targets both the upper body and the lower body. That’s the main reason why elliptical cross-training is called a low-impact exercise.

Pedaling on this device engages the lower body while moving the handles works the upper body. The muscles of the lower body involved in this training are the glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps. While upper body muscles include the biceps, triceps, back, and chest muscles.

Interestingly a high-intensity workout on an elliptical cross trainer also engages the core.

A man tunning on a treadmill at the gym to lose wieght

3. Elliptical vs Treadmill: What to Choose to Keep Fit When Injured

Another benefit of an elliptical cross trainer is that it can help maintain fitness even after an injury. Isn’t it amazing that any kind of knee or leg injury can’t let you lie on the bed and gain back the lost kilos?

However, running on a treadmill can’t provide you with this benefit. This is because running or jogging on a treadmill puts extra stress on the joints and bones which may lead to injuries like shin splints, knee injuries, and stress fractures. 

That’s the reason fitness trainers advise a warm-up and cool-down for a treadmill cardiovascular workout. And if you want to reduce the risk of injuries further, then make sure to stretch after a treadmill session. This will help relax the contracted muscles of the body and decrease the chance of injuries.

Here’s a tip for you

If you are running on a treadmill, be sure to attach the safety clip to your clothing. This will stop the treadmill if you happen to fall and reduce the chance of injury. 

4. High-Intensity Interval Training

Treadmill workout machines give you the option to dial in the exact speed and incline of the workout so that you can easily enjoy the benefits of high-intensity interval training. Whereas an elliptical machine, as compared to the treadmill, is not the first exercise machine you may think of when it comes to high-intensity interval training.

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5. An Impact on Bones and Joints

A treadmill also helps strengthen the bones as it forces the legs and feet to lift from a belt with each movement. This movement against gravity puts pressure on parts of the body and helps build stronger bones.

Research indicates that intermittent running with correct posture limits bone fatigue and increases ground impact forces which are particularly bone strengthening. However, elliptical cross trainers do not impact your bones and joints as much as treadmills.

6. An Impact on Cardiovascular System

Another benefit of a treadmill is it works the cardiovascular system of the body and that’s good news for heart patients who want to lose weight. Running on a treadmill increases cardio capacity and improves heart health. 

A study shows that running on a treadmill raises one’s heart rate to 85% of the maximal rate which can help burn fat effectively. This is because strenuous workouts increase the oxygen demand of the muscles which can only be fulfilled through the increased blood supply and fat burn.

On the other hand, the elliptical cross trainer doesn’t improve the cardiovascular system as much as the treadmill. But it engages a large number of muscles in the workout to improve their tone and increase calorie burn.

People using ellipticals instead of treadmills to lose weight

7. An Impact on Posture

A treadmill provides many benefits but its major drawback is it negatively affects their posture. That’s true! The size of the belt may cause you to change the way you walk or run which can cause posture problems leading to lower back pain and joint pain.

An elliptical trainer can help you attain a good posture only if you remember to keep your shoulders back, head up, and abdominal muscles tight while exercising. You can also pedal reverse on an elliptical that will target other muscles of the body and help you engage with a mixed workout to get better results.

8. Time to Learn the Technique

Using an elliptical cross trainer, especially if you’re a beginner, is not so easy. Firstly, you should work out under the supervision of a certified personal trainer. And when you become confident that you’ve got complete control over the machine, you may practice it alone.

Exercising on a treadmill doesn’t demand this type of training. You just need to have basic knowledge about machine functioning to get started. But remember to wear good running shoes while using a treadmill. Also, if you have a knee or head injury, avoid exercising on the treadmill.

Elliptical cross trainers improve stamina and work on your balance. Just make sure that the incline and resistance of the elliptical exercise machine are set at manageable levels so that you can use the elliptical safely without using the handles.

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Based on our testing, this is the best budget Elliptical for beginners. For less than 475$, it has most essential features that you've come to expect. It's compact and sturdy, frankly it offers great value for money. It's also backed with an 3 years warranty.
Sunny Health & Fitness Electric Treadmill
Based on our testing, this is the best budget treadmill for beginners. For less than 400$, it has most essential features that you've come to expect, it's small and sturdy, frankly it offers great value for money. It's also backed with an 8 years warranty.

9. Calorie Burn

Now it’s time for the most important difference between an elliptical cross trainer and a treadmill and that is the calorie difference.

Whether you should choose a treadmill or an elliptical cross trainer, both pieces of equipment offer cardio workouts so there will not be a significant difference between calories burnt. But remember factors like body weight, intensity, and duration of workout are important for determination.

Calorie Burn on Elliptical 

A 30-minute moderate-intensity elliptical workout burns 270-380 calories on average. While a 60-minute elliptical training burns approximately 770 calories.

Calorie Burn on Treadmill

Similarly, treadmill running also helps burn a significant number of calories and body fat. You can burn 700-1000 calories per hour with a treadmill workout.

A muscular man running on a treadmill to lose weight

10. Cost

Let’s talk about the average prices of both treadmills and elliptical cross trainers.

In the United States, the average price of a well-made well-equipped new treadmill model designed for runners is $3000. While an elliptical cross trainer costs between $150 to $11,000 depending upon the range of functions it offers.

11. Elliptical vs Treadmill: What Makes More Noise 

Treadmills also produce more sound due to running as compared to elliptical cardio machines which make these machines less environment friendly.

Elliptical vs Treadmill for Weight Loss: FAQs

Is the elliptical more effective than the treadmill?

Both machines are equally beneficial for burning calories and improving overall health. But the final decision largely depends upon your fitness goals and physical health.

Is treadmill or elliptical better for weight loss?

For some people, an elliptical cross trainer is better while others prefer a treadmill. For example, if you are prone to injuries and have some musculoskeletal issues, you should choose an elliptical cross trainer for weight loss. Because this device is easy on joints and helps maintain fitness levels even after an injury.

If you want a full-body workout in a shorter period of time, elliptical cross trainers are a good option as they engage the muscles of your whole body altogether.

On the other hand, if you want to prepare for an upcoming marathon or don’t have any injuries, then a treadmill is a safe option.

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About

Julien Raby is the owner of BoxLife. He owns a bachelor in literature and a certificate in marketing from Concordia. He's Crossfit Level 1 certified and has been involved in Crossfit since 2010. In 2023 he finally made it to Crossfit Open Quarterfinals for the first time. LinkedIn Instagram Facebook

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