Treadmill vs Bike: Which Is Better?

 Written by 

Julien Raby

 Last updated on 

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You might be wondering what’s the difference between an exercise bike and a treadmill. In this article, we compare them and break down the key differences to help you decide which one is best for you. We hope this article will help you understand the basics of these two types of machines.

The truth is, they both can help improve your fitness level, reach your fitness goals and help you lose weight, but they work in different ways to achieve these results. Let us help you decide if you should buy a treadmill or bike! Let’s get started.

A man using a treadmill to try the treadmill vs bike comparison
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Treadmill vs Bike

1. Burned Calories and Intensity

Running requires more muscles therefore more oxygen and calories. So, why do we need to go through all this article? No, it’s not that simple. The same athlete at the same intensity for the same duration can actually burn to 25% more calories when running compared to indoor cycling. But when it comes to heart rate, it’s easier to work out at a high zone on a treadmill than on a bike.

2. The Variability

The reason we want to perform different cardio workouts is we want to push our fitness level. So make sure that you have the variability of your body workout. Not just over the first few weeks but six months from now, or a year from now. You’re going to get more fun and motivation from the cardio training if you can vary. But here are the limitations. 

When we increase the speed of the treadmill, we increase the speed of the bell. Therefore your run speed has to increase as well. And it takes time for the belt to decrease in speed. But your legs have to keep going. So, you either control that movement or try to jump off or just fall over and hit the wall.

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.

For a bike, we have got three points of contact whereby we are supported through the pedals, the saddle, and the handlebar. It allows you to increase the intensity to a point where you can have a peak power and a peak heart rate and then stop. We can freewheel and take a rest.

That variability is important because you’re going to make sure that you’re not turning up every session to do a steady-state physical activity. You’re going to want to raise the heart rate, increase the speed and the intensity and make the cardio workout give you that sweat. We can actually get a better workout on the bike even over 20 minutes and we can manipulate those calories.

So, the bike wins because it takes a high level of skill to be able to vary the full-body workout on a treadmill compared to a bike.

A woman running on a treadmill compared to a bike
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3. Floor Space

Let’s talk about the floor space where these pieces of cardio equipment are going to go. 

Have you sorted out the space that it can take all the time? Even if you’ve got a treadmill that will fold up and down, we would recommend you get something static. Because if you have to move it or you fold it up, it becomes a little bit of an ordeal or a chore. So, get it its own space. If you haven’t got the space all the time for the treadmill and it needs to be brought out and unfolded, please think again. 

The bike usually takes up half the floor space of a treadmill. And if it’s got its own unique space, it’s much more likely to start your workout. 

4. The Durability

It depends on your budget. Before purchasing, you’ve got to do your research. Make sure you read the reviews and check the warranty on the product. 

Also, you’re going to make sure that it’s got an incline and decline setting. This will allow you more variability in workouts. Also, the inclining will allow you to biomechanically set your body up into a less aggressive position. However, it’s that very function that breaks down more times than not. So, make sure you’ve got a product that is well-tested and got great reviews.

For the bike, it’s got fewer moving parts. Fewer moving parts means fewer things to break down. By the way, indoor bikes run on a belt. They don’t run on chains. This belt can last for years before it needs to be replaced. If you look after your stationary bike and clean it after the workout, the bike is going to win vs the treadmill because of the fewer moving parts.

5. The Price

There are good products for about 500-750 dollars. But if you go under that, you are taking a risk. If you push the budget up, you’ll get a more durable product and you’ll also get more interaction with online platforms. If that’s your thing, then look at that as well and choose a bike.

But if you buy at the bottom end, make sure that you can get the interaction. Because the more efficient you become, the more you want to engage in other activities that make it more motivational for you to challenge and test yourself against previous scores and even against others. 

Now, let’s look at the benefits and disadvantages of the treadmill vs bike.

Someone running on a treadmill compared to a bike
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Pros of Treadmills

1. Weight Loss

This type of gym machine is the closest thing you can get to running outdoors. Treadmills typically burn a lot of calories compared to other types of cardio machines. Running on a treadmill requires the use of your entire body and muscle groups, which will get your heart rate up and get you into the fat-burning zone. 

Most treadmills for home use have some sort of an incline feature, which allows users to simulate running uphill. This will increase your caloric burn and build muscle using resistance.

2. Need Less Adjustment

Another important thing to note is that treadmills require very little adjustment between users. If you have multiple folks in your home who plan to use this machine, they can simply hop on and start moving.

Cons of Treadmills

While treadmills are fantastic for home use, they do come with a few downsides. 

1. Risk of Injury

First and foremost, treadmills are much more dangerous than exercise bikes. Now, we’ve all seen the fail videos of folks falling off a treadmill, and it could be a real danger if you’re not careful. 

The other downside here is that treadmills are hard on your joints. Even with deck cushioning technology, they still put more stress on your joints than stationary bikes. 

2. Noise

Treadmills are quite loud when in use, especially while running at full speed. 

3. Takes a lot of Space

Last but not least, the treadmill is a large type of exercise equipment, so this may not be suitable for smaller home gyms.

Now, let’s jump into exercise bikes.

A man using a stationary bike instead of a treadmill
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Pros of Stationary Bikes

1. Reduced Risk of Injury

This piece of equipment was made for people who want to simulate cycling indoors. When riding a stationary bike, the chances that you will fall off are very slim. They are stable and grounded with heavy flywheels, so your chance of injury is greatly reduced. 

Exercise bikes are also much easier on the joints since your weight is on the bike seat instead of holding your body upright. Compared with treadmills, bikes impact your body less, which particularly helps protect your feet and lower back.

2. It Works Quietly

If you work out in the early morning or late at night, you don’t have to worry about waking anyone up. Magnetic resistance bikes are extremely quiet. 

3. Communities

Another bonus for many users is that home exercise bikes often have superbly engaging fitness communities and real-time races with friends. If you’ve ever heard of Peloton, then you know exactly what we mean!

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.

Cons of Stationary Bikes

While these low-impact exercise machines are a great addition to home gyms, they do have some drawbacks. 

1. Need to Be Adjusted

First, they need to be adjusted between users. The seat height, handlebars, and pedals will need to be adjusted to fit each user’s measurements. 

2. Back Pain

Another negative here is that spin bikes can put some stress on your shoulders and lower back. To avoid this, we recommend a recumbent bike. 

3. Burn Less Calories

One of the biggest downsides of exercise bikes for people trying to burn as many calories as possible is that they won’t burn as many as a treadmill, which is best for losing weight and burning calories and body fat.

A woman using a stationary bike instead of a treadmill
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Is Running or Biking Better for Knees?

A lot of people suffer from knee pain at some point or another. So, is it better to use the treadmill or bike? 

Is Riding Stationary Bikes Bad for Your Knees?

Many people know that the bike is beneficial for people with knee pain. Here are three big points why indoor cycling can be beneficial.

The first point is that the bike is non-weight-bearing. It can take the pressure and the load off the knees and allow you to continue to exercise despite your knee pain. 

The second point is that the pedaling motion of the bank allows you to maintain a sufficient range of motion, and because it’s non-weight-bearing, it can help you still be able to exercise in a nicer fashion.

The third point is that whether you’re cycling for resistance or speed, both can increase the strength of your quads which can help to manage your knee pain.

Is Treadmill Running Bad for Your Knees? 

There are three main things that we want to talk about, regarding how treadmill running can impact your knees.

The first one is that running is weight-bearing. So weight bearing activities are important because we do them in our day-to-day lives. But treadmill running increases the force going through your knees. So it’s important for us to have strong muscles before we do our treadmill running so that the knees aren’t put under that extra load. 

The second thing about running is that it burns a lot of calories. With a lot of calories being burnt, it means you’re going to get weight loss results out of it. This is fantastic because we need a bit of weight loss to ensure that our knees aren’t loading as much and they feel a lot better.

The last pointer is that running is important if we’re returning to activities that require running, like any sport that we’re going to go back to. It’s good for us to return to treadmill running because it keeps us in a straight line before we progress into things like lateral running or hopping and bounding.

Some people using a treadmill instead of a stationary bike
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The Long-term Risk of Injury

Chances are if you’re new to running and you’re using treadmills to lose weight. In that case, your body weight is going to be greater than your specific joint strength. 

Most people who start running pay little attention to the strength of the body muscles that are going to propel their body forward. As we go from walking to jogging to running to sprinting the loads through the joints increase. And most people haven’t spent much time increasing the strength of their muscles through the joints. 

So, when we go out running, we will feel the fatigue normally in our legs before anything else. And the brain tells us “That’s just too hard, I’m going to stop.” And the chances of maintaining a long-term fitness journey are massively reduced if you stop exercising after the first few attempts.

On the bike, we are supported through the saddle and the pedals, so the loading through the joints is less. Therefore joint strength is not that important when we’re on a static bike. If we’re going out onto the road, we need to move body weight plus bike. But we will not do that on a static bike. Therefore the load through the joint is less. And the risk of any damage is massively reduced.

Treadmill vs Bike: FAQs

Which is better, treadmill or bike?

If you have the space and budget and are looking for a high-intensity cardio session to burn calories, then a treadmill is your best bet. On the other hand, if you have a small home gym and want a low-impact workout, then an exercise bike is the way to go.

What is better to lose weight, treadmill or bike?

We recommend using a treadmill to lose weight as running can burn more calories. But you need to strengthen your muscles to decrease the risk of knee pain.

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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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