Which one is Best – Treadmill VS Elliptical

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Want to purchase cardio equipment like treadmill or elliptical for weight loss and body fitness, but don’t know which one suits best for you? However, both are perfect and delivers great cardiovascular workouts to have effective training and improves aerobic fitness.

A treadmill will allow you to walk, jog or run on a moving belt by controlling the speed and incline. Whereas the elliptical will let you place your feet on a platform and move in elongated circles or ellipses.

Each one has its own set of pros and cons. In case, if you have to decide to have only one option. Then go through this article to get an idea on how to select and which one fits best for you.

Before deciding what’s best for you, you have to know all about the elliptical and treadmill.


The treadmill comes with a moving belt that let you walk, jog or run in a place. It allows you to control the incline, speed, pace, track your distance covered and calories burned. It mainly targets the lower body and burns calories in the calves, quads, glutes, hamstrings and abs.

When to use and when not to use this treadmill:

Before heading into the pros and cons of a treadmill, we will discuss when to use and when not to use this treadmill.

Why and when to use:

  • A treadmill can let you track mileage, set your goals, and monitor your pace. This suit perfect for racers and avid runners (especially in adverse weather).
  • You can customize a shorter HIIT workout, which lasts from 10 – 30 minutes but effective for weight loss or endurance.
  • One can easily control the pace and speed up their movement. The MPH will make you run faster to reach your goals.
  • When running on an incline, it will strengthen your lower body effectively.

When not to use this treadmill:

If you’re suffering from any ankle, hip or knee injury, then it is not the best machine to use. The reason is that it causes some stress on joints and has a high impact on the legs. So, consider choosing other cardio options like swimming or elliptical.

Knowing its advantages and drawbacks will help you in making the right decision.

Treadmill Pros:

  • Great & versatile option for weight loss and cardio workouts.
  • Can be used to improve speed, running performance, and customize HIIT workouts.
  • Strengthens your lower body and ab muscles and improves heart health.
  • Fits easily within an average-sized ceiling height when compared with an elliptical.
  • Running on a treadmill may have more impact on building stronger bones than resistance training.
  • An excellent option for training when an outdoor condition is unpleasant.
  • Burns calories more effectively than ellipticals.


  • Not a good option for those who are perfecting running gait.
  • Not easy on the joints and works well only for the lower body.
  • Won’t recommend using for people healing from joint or leg injuries.
  • Sometimes called dreadmill, if you don’t have any plan or coach to guide you. The reason is that only running is hard and may discourage you.


This elliptical comes with foot holders (to place your feet) and two pole-like handles to grab. The movement on this machine is quite different, in which one has to use their hand arms to make the handles move back & forth. This will make your feet cycle in the shape of an ellipse. So, it is simply termed as elliptical.

Just like cycling, it increases the resistance of your muscles to work harder. A few modern versions offer you to change the incline while exercising on it. This mainly targets quads, hamstrings, glutes and other muscles of the lower body. Also, pushing and pulling its handles, the device works on the arm and upper back muscles along with the core. So, it provides a full-body workout.

When to use and when not to use the Elliptical?

Knowing when and why to use and not to use this elliptical will always assist you in taking the right decision.

When to use this Elliptical:

  • It is a great alternative for people suffering from achy, overtrained joints due to high impact activities/weight-bearing exercises. It is a perfect option for low impact cardio workouts.
  • It allows you to move backwards (reverse pedalling), which is great for isolating your glutes and hamstrings.
  • Also, it helps you to perform HIIT workouts, which is a great option for those who want to lose their weight.
  • Elliptical will provide a total body workout – pushing and pulling handles for the upper body, core for balancing the upper and lower body. Also, reduces the risk of injury while exercising.

When not to use:

  • Not the best option for functional training like jumping, squatting, running, or throwing. Suits best for cycling exercises.
  • All ellipticals are not created equally. So, it is not useful for those who are looking to log their mileage. Provides a low-impact workout for runners.
  • A few experts and runners say that the elliptical won’t put much stress on your legs and joints, which in turn, means it may/may not strengthen your leg muscles as the treadmill does. So, it won’t suit for those who are looking to strength their gains.

Elliptical Pros and Cons:

Have a look at its pros and cons for making the best decision on its selection.


  • Can target both upper and lower body (full body workout) and a good option for people with weight loss goals.
  • Allows you to move front and back, which isolates the glutes and hamstrings.
  • A good option for HIIT workouts and interval training.
  • Suits perfect for low-impact cardiovascular exercises.
  • Slightly safer than a treadmill, as you won’t misstep your feet resulting in any potential fall or loss of balance.
  • Don’t require regular maintenance like a treadmill or any other exercise equipment’s.
  • A few elliptical models will allow you to pedal backwards and thereby you can have a different set of exercises that target your leg muscles.


  • Won’t track mileage accurately, especially for runners who want to track and focus on time and distance covered.
  • Only a few models will allow you to train on an incline.
  • Can’t be used to train functional movement / strengthen the leg muscles, like a treadmill.
  • A steady-state session can always be boring – like spinning the wheels and may discourage you.


Even though there are similarities in these machines but there are some differences, which are tabular below.

Suits Best forRunners and WalkersCross Trainers
ComfortabilityHard to cope up with belt’s pace. Somewhat uncomfortableComfortable when compared with treadmill
Risk of InjuryHigh risk due to motorized partsNon-motorized machine, low risk
DurabilityDepends on motor and repairs are cost more. Should have a warranty that covers motor repairsWon’t have a motor and thus fewer repair costs. Durable than treadmill
ImpactHigh impact on legs, back, and joints, as legs carry the whole-body weightLow impact on joints, as legs won’t carry body weight.
CostCostlierCheaper than treadmill
VarietyJust running or walking with inclination.Provides a variety of movements. Can go reverse or add resistance
MimickingNatural running or walking movementEven though, position like standing on cycle but won’t mimic natural movement
Calories BurnedProvides a full body workoutSimilar to a treadmill
SpaceRequires some space but there are folded version for easy storageSpace-savers and comes with fold-up pedals.
Type of WorkoutLower body workout – jogging, walking, running and hill exercisesFull body workout – running, jogging, walking, with arm resistance
Energy EfficiencyRequires electricity to run the motorNo electricity required

How safe are these treadmills and elliptical machines?

Both these machines are safe to use if you follow the safety guidelines or working under a personal trainer.

  • If you’re new to the elliptical then simply use elliptical without arm handles and then add the handles till you feel comfortable with the movement.
  • While on elliptical, keep your posture upright and keep the core tight throughout the movement. Or simply ask your trainer on how to use it safely.
  • Make sure to attach the safety clip to your clothing while using the treadmill. This will stop the treadmill and help you not to fall.
  • Exercising on a treadmill may put some stress on the joints and leg bones. So, it’s essential to warm up and cool down properly before and after your workout.
  • In case, if you feel dizzy, faint or lightheaded then simply stop using any of these machines. Drink plenty of water and get some rest before re-starting your exercise.
  • It’s best to consult your doctor before starting any new physical fitness routine to know whether they are safe for you or not, as per your health condition.

Final Words about Which one is better?

Both the elliptical and treadmill are effective tools. For instance, a person with 150 pounds can burn 668.2 calories per hour by running on the treadmill whereas the same person will burn 340.9 calories per hour by using this elliptical at a modern effort.

So, having any musculoskeletal condition/injury – prone, then stick to elliptical. If you want to burn calories and build – up strength and speed then opt for a treadmill. In case, if you’re not particular about this, then simply use both by mixing it up from time to time.

All you need is to choose it by depending on your physical health, workout goals, and other factors like the amount of effort you put into it and type of workout/training you do (or) what you’re training for. This will help you to get the best machine that suits perfectly for your requirement.

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