Elliptical vs Treadmill – Running Through the Pros and Cons

When it comes to cardiovascular workout, two types of machines immediately come to mind –the Treadmill or Elliptical. Most gyms have them but both machines can also be used at home. Effective for burning calories and enhancing the body’s capacity for aerobic activities, an Elliptical or Treadmill may, at first glance, seem to have the same purpose but if you’ll look more closely, you’ll see that each machine has its own pros and cons, and unique characteristics.  Below we dig deep into the Elliptical vs Treadmill discussion.

Be it for losing weight, boosting your heart’s strength or building your muscles, both machines can definitely deliver results. But to help you identify which of the two is right for your needs and can help you reach your fitness goals faster, safer and more effectively, we’ve lined up some of the benefits and drawbacks of each machine. Run through them and weigh each machine’s pros and cons before deciding on your options.

Treadmill Benefits

Below are some of the benefits that treadmills offer.

1. Versatile

Treadmill or EllipticalWith a wide range of speed rates, incline levels and preloaded workout programs to choose from, fitness enthusiasts can run, walk or jog at different intensities and therefore greatly benefit from a treadmill’s versatility. As such, you can stay challenged, focused and determined to reach your fitness goals.

2. Follows natural motions

Walking, running, jogging or sprinting on a treadmill feels just as natural as walking, running, jogging or sprinting on the streets. Outfitted with parts and the technology that allow its users to move as naturally as possible, treadmills can give its users the opportunity to do aerobic and cardiovascular exercises even at the comfort of their own home.

3. Built for high-intensity workout

Quality treadmills are engineered to withstand even high-intensity aerobic and cardiovascular exercises that result in greater output in terms of cardio and muscle strengthening and calories burned.

4. Improves posture

Regularly running, walking or jogging on a treadmill builds and strengthens bones and muscles that support your weight. This, in effect, improves your body posture as you age and reduces the risk of incurring health problems caused by poor posture.

5. Backed up by research and years of study

Invented in the 1800s, treadmills have gone through years of research and study that have significantly improved the designs and technologies used in manufacturing this piece of exercise equipment that’s now widely available and used in many gyms and homes.

Treadmill Cons

Below are some of the drawbacks of using treadmills.

1. Exposes joints to stress and impact

Benefits of TreadmillRunning excessively and strenuously on the treadmill for long hours and without properly warming up can harm and cause injuries on your knees, ankles, joints, hips, and spine, especially if the machine is not equipped with a shock absorption system that helps reduce the impact of the activity on the joints.

2. Risk of incurring injuries

Doing high-intensity exercises such as uphill sprints on treadmills with high speed rate and incline level settings that don’t match your skill and capacity can be dangerous and put your safety at risk. Thus, to avoid injuries, it’s important that you know your fitness level, and training needs and requirement before going for higher levels.

3. Inconvenient heart rate monitoring grips

Working out within your target heart rate zone can be inconvenient and challenging if you have to keep your hands on the grips or handles in order to monitor your heart rate as you run, walk or jog on the treadmill. This is one of the disadvantages of treadmills with heart rate monitor grips.

4. Muscle imbalances

While running on treadmills can help improve our weight-bearing capacity by building and strengthening muscles and bones, it can also negatively affect and change the way we walk or run especially if the size and quality of the treadmill belt is not up to par and conducive to enhancing balance and stability.

5. Running is generally hard

While running on a treadmill is one of the most effective types of aerobic and cardio exercises, it’s not always a favorite. Despite the benefits it offers, it takes much discipline, commitment and consistency before one finds it to be an enjoyable type of workout.

Elliptical Benefits

Below are some of the benefits that an Elliptical machine offers.

1. Non-impact exercise

Elliptical Calories BurnedRunning on an elliptical is a type of non-impact workout and is less taxing on your knees, hips, ankles, spine and joints than running on a treadmill. Thus, there’s lower risk of incurring injuries due to impact.

2. Fit for cross-training

Most elliptical machines come with moveable handles so users can simultaneously train upper and lower body muscle groups as they workout. This is also particularly beneficial for those who are into cross-training.

3. Reverse stride function

Striding in reverse is an effective quad exercise that you can do with most elliptical machines. With it, you can put to use different muscle groups so you can have a more comprehensive and effective workout session.

4. High output, less effort

Ideal for non-impact conditioning, an elliptical machine allows its users to burn almost the same amount of calories as they would with treadmills but with lower perceived exertion and less effort.

Elliptical Cons

Below are some of the drawbacks of using an Elliptical machine.

1. Lower versatility

Elliptical For Weight LossWith not much option to increase the intensity of workout in terms of incline level, an elliptical may be deemed less versatile and dynamic than a treadmill.

2. Lacks weight-bearing effect

With pedals suspended off the ground, elliptical machines are not designed for weight-bearing exercises that help build bones and muscles necessary for improving posture.

3. Tends to overestimate calorie burn

Elliptical trainers’ calorie expenditure calculators tend to overestimate results, which might get users to think they have reached their targets when they haven’t.

The Verdict

If you’re into low-impact calorie workout, go for an elliptical. If you want higher calorie burn, and greater versatility, go for a treadmill. If you can incorporate both machines in your workout, the better.


Elliptical vs Treadmill
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