When you want to get a solid cardio workout done at the gym (or at home), chances are you have your eyes set on one of two machines: the elliptical and the treadmill. There are a lot of myths about these two machines, but the truth is they can both give you a great workout if used correctly.
The machine that works the best is the one you like the best! If you enjoy it, you’ll be more apt to stay consistent. (And that is what matters the most.)
That being said, there are pros and cons to both types of machines.
Let’s explore the main differences between treadmill and elliptical machines and how to use them most effectively for your weight loss goals.
Why is Cardio So Important for Weight Loss?
The CDC recommends that everyone get at least 150 minutes of moderate cardio activity per week. You can divide that up however you like, whether it’s five 30-minute cardio workouts, three 50-minute cardio workouts, the occasional 10-minute jump rope session, or brisk walking or jogging.
Getting enough cardiovascular exercise is crucial to your heart health and overall well-being. But if you want to lose weight, you need to take those cardio recommendations to heart!
It’s true that strength training helps boost your metabolism and can make your muscles long and lean, but if you’re not doing some form of cardio, you won’t see the number on the scale go down. Cardio can be anything from jogging in your neighborhood to doing an interval workout at home.
If you’re hitting the gym, though, there’s also plenty of equipment available to get a solid calorie burn; and the treadmill and the elliptical are two of your best bets. They can both get your heart pumping and fat burning—but in different ways. Let’s look at the pros and cons of these gym equipment staples.
Benefits of Ellipticals for Cardio Workouts
The elliptical is a popular choice for a cardio workout for many reasons:
- Low-impact exercise, meaning it is easy on the joints.
- If you have a cross trainer, you also get a full-body workout, which works the upper and lower body simultaneously.
- Great cardio machine, meaning it gets the heart rate up and burns calories.
If you are looking for a great cardio workout, an elliptical trainer is a great choice. They offer a low-impact, full-body workout that is easy on the joints and great for burning calories.
Benefits of Treadmills for Cardio Workouts
Treadmill workouts are a great way to improve your cardiovascular fitness. Not only do they provide a great cardio workout, but they also offer a variety of other benefits:
- Mimics outdoor walking and/or running, which is often familiar and fun for people.
- Help you reach your fitness goals by providing a challenging workout that will burn calories and help improve your cardiovascular fitness.
The Pros & Cons of Using Treadmill or Elliptical Machines
Even though they offer a slightly different format, treadmills and ellipticals share a lot of positives—but there may be a few cons, too.
Pros of Treadmills and Ellipticals
There are many advantages to both of these pieces of equipment:
- Low Impact: Ellipticals are low-impact machines, which are easy on your joints. If you have joint pain or other issues that make high-impact activities difficult, an elliptical can give you a great workout without aggravating your condition. Similarly, you can choose a low-impact workout, like walking, on a treadmill.
- Cardio Benefits: Ellipticals and treadmills both provide a great cardio workout. If you’re looking to improve your cardiovascular health, either machine can help you reach your goals. Both machines will help you burn calories, so if you’re looking to lose weight or get in shape, either machine is a great way to reach your goals.
- Muscle Toning: Besides helping you burn calories, ellipticals and treadmills also tone your muscle groups without much risk of injuries. When using an elliptical, choose a cross-trainer model if you’re looking to tone your legs, arms, and core. If you prefer a treadmill, grab some hand weights to hold while walking.
- Weather Proof: Either of these machines will allow you to get a great cardio workout in the convenience of your home or gym, no matter the weather. Rain or shine, you can still hit your aerobic exercise goals.
- Variety: Ellipticals and treadmills are versatile machines that can be used for a variety of workouts. Whether you’re looking to do a gentle workout or a more intense workout, you’ll be able to find something that works. Moreover, ellipticals offer different resistance controls, while treadmills use incline.
Cons of Treadmills and Ellipticals
Since both machines are significant in cost and space usage, they both have a few cons as well:
- Cost: Ellipticals and treadmills can be pricey, especially if you’re looking for a high-quality, commercial-grade machine. If you’re on a budget, either machine might be out of your price range.
- Space: Ellipticals and treadmills can take up a lot of space. If you’re short on space in your home, these machines may not fit properly. If space is an issue, there are even simpler versions of treadmills called walking pads. They are great for low-impact exercise and movement during the workday and are easily stored under a bed or in a closet.
- Boredom: Some people find treadmills and ellipticals boring. The repetitive motion of an elliptical, or the consistency needed for walking and running isn’t for everyone.
As you can see, there are both pros and cons to using a treadmill or elliptical machine for your cardio workouts. Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to use either machine is up to your personal preference.
How To Get The Best Results On An Elliptical
Low impact doesn’t need to mean low intensity. You get from your elliptical workout what you put into it!
Use these tips to get a kick-butt elliptical workout and lose weight:
- Watch your posture. Don’t slouch over the machine—stand tall and engage your core. (It’s harder, but better!) You’re not supposed to lean on the handrails; you’re supposed to stand tall with an activated core. Good form is important if you want the maximum health benefits!
- Get the foot positioning down. Keep your feet in contact with the pedals the entire time without taking them off the pedals, but do let the back of your heel come up a tiny bit. They shouldn’t lift entirely, but you want a rolling motion from the balls of your feet to your heels. Keep your knees slightly bent.
- Use the handles. Using the cross-training handles and pumping up the resistance can be just as intense as running on the treadmill. To establish and maintain ideal workout intensities, the ‘talk test’ is an informal measure of whether you’re getting the most out of the workout. It should be intense enough to make you breathe deeply and feel a little winded.
- Use Interval Training. Slow, steady-state cardio is less effective at burning fat than higher-intensity intervals. You may not realize it, but you can use high-impact intervals on the elliptical and treadmill, too!
Check our Elliptical Workouts For Weight Loss if you want ideas, or try making up your own.
How To Get The Best Results On A Treadmill
Whether you’re a serious runner looking to log some miles indoors or want a solid 30-minute cardio workout, the treadmill can be your best friend. Don’t let it become the “dreadmill;” there’s no need for a treadmill workout to be boring!
Use these tips to get a great cardio workout (that’s actually fun!) on the treadmill:
- Make the incline your best friend. One of the best things about most treadmills is that they offer the feature to spice up your workout with incline settings. Challenge yourself by walking at a brisk pace or jogging lightly at an elevated incline. This will target different muscles in your lower body (hello, glutes!) and not only challenge your aerobic abilities but tone your muscles, too!
- Use perceived exertion and the talk test. Determining your rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) is simple: it’s based on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the easiest (think lying on the sofa) and 10 being an all-out effort (sprinting to catch the plane before it leaves). You can also use the “talk test” to help you determine your intensity: How easy is it to talk while you exercise? If you want a kick-butt cardio workout, you want it to be difficult to carry on a conversation.
- Intervals, Intervals, Intervals! Are you sensing a theme here? On both machines, using intervals is a great way to ensure you get a solid workout! Instead of jogging at a slower pace for 30 minutes, mix it up with a few minutes of brisk walking, then comfortable jogging and a few all-out sprints. Doing these cycles of training works your heart in different heart rate zones, which not only helps your heart health but helps you burn more fat, too.
For ideas, you can check out our 4 Best Treadmill Workouts for Weight Loss.
Choosing the Right Cardio Machine for Your Fitness Goals
The elliptical and the treadmill are both great cardio machines. They both offer a great workout and can help you reach your fitness goals.
But which one is right for you?
Here are some things to consider when deciding between an elliptical and a treadmill:
Your Fitness Goals
What are you trying to achieve with your workout?
If you’re looking to lose weight, the elliptical may be a better option as it burns more calories. If you’re looking to improve your cardiovascular health, the treadmill may be a better option as it gets your heart rate up more.
Your Fitness Level
If you’re just starting out, the elliptical may be a better option as it’s low-impact and easy on your joints. If you’re more experienced, the treadmill may be a better option as it offers a more challenging workout.
Ultimately, the choice between an elliptical and a treadmill comes down to your own personal preferences. Try out both machines and see which one you like better.
No matter which machine you choose, make sure to start slow and gradually increase the intensity of your workouts as you get more comfortable. And most importantly, have fun!
So, Which is a Better Workout—Elliptical or Treadmill?
Ultimately, both the elliptical and the treadmill can give you a great cardio workout, but you have to put in the effort. Using intervals and working hard on both machines is the key to getting a great workout!
At the end of the day, it comes down to personal preference and what you think you’d use the most.
If you’re looking to mix up your cardio routine, try one of our Interval Workouts on Get healthy U TV, Cardio Kickboxing, or a bodyweight interval workout! Whatever gets your heart pumping and fat burning will be good for your body, so mix it up occasionally to prevent boredom.
3 Elliptical Workouts For Weight Loss
These elliptical workouts are designed to give you a workout plan that will make your time a little more interesting and more challenging!
By working for different muscle groups and changing things up, these elliptical workouts will shape your lower body, burn more calories, and keep your routine fresh.
The 4 Best Treadmill Workouts For Weight Loss
An effective treadmill workout can help you reach your fat loss goals a little quicker. Plus, you can easily adjust the intensity of your workout to a level that works for you.
So, are you ready to try something new and actually see results? These four treadmill workouts will help you burn fat, lose weight, and keep your workout routine interesting!
53 Best Weight Loss Snacks
To keep you from going crazy with calories even when the saltiest of cravings hit, my team and I rounded up our best weight-loss snack recipes that are super easy to throw together.
And when you don’t have time or you’re on the go, we also made a list of our favorite healthy purchased snacks too!