A great workout starts with a great workout plan. You don’t want to arrive at the gym on cardio day and spend five minutes trying to decide if you should hop on the elliptical or the treadmill. While you might have one machine that you prefer over the other, a question still remains: is one actually better for you? We compared factors like calorie burn, safety, and more to determine if one of these machines is superior to the other.
The better calorie burn: It’s a tie
The Medical College of Wisconsin conducted a study to compare calories burned on both the treadmill and elliptical, and the verdict may come as a surprise: there was hardly any difference in calories burned. The calories burned on a treadmill averaged about 786 in an hour. The average on an elliptical was 773 calories. The difference is negligible, so both of these machines provide a solid workout. However, the calories burned on a treadmill varied a bit more from person to person based on the individual, their speed, and their incline.
The safer choice: elliptical
When it comes to safety, the elliptical is the better option. Since ellipticals are low impact, you don’t need to worry about straining muscles the way you do while running. Ellipticals are less stressful on your knees, hips, and back than actual running. Plus, since ellipticals have to keep up with you (rather than you keeping up with the machine, like with a treadmill), you’re less likely to trip up and injure yourself.
The more versatile option: elliptical
Most of today’s ellipticals have handles that allow you to exercise your upper body as well as your lower body. You can pull with your arms to give yourself a better arm workout than you’d ever get on a treadmill. Plus, they have incline and resistance options that can make you feel like you’re going uphill, the same way a treadmill would, but without that worry of putting too much pressure on your shins and feet.
Better for real-world training: treadmill
If you’re looking to pull off your first 5k or up the ante and train for a marathon, you should probably do it on a treadmill. Treadmills better imitate the movements made during road or track running, so your pace and stamina will be more accurate.
While you shouldn’t use an elliptical in place of running, it can be a good workout on days when you don’t want to stress your legs.
The clear winner: It’s a tie
The winner depends on what you’re using the machine for and what your personal preference is. If you’re prone to injuries like shin splints or simply want a safer workout, the elliptical is probably your best option. However, if you’re training for an event or want a machine that will more closely match a road run, the treadmill will work better for you. The calorie burn comparison between the two is about the same, so it ultimately comes down to your personal use.