Is Treadmill or Elliptical Better for Weight Loss: The Ultimate Comparison




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Deciding if a treadmill or elliptical is best for shedding pounds can be tricky. These machines are top picks in gyms for burning calories and improving fitness. This post will break down the benefits and drawbacks of each to guide your weight loss journey.

Discover which equipment matches your goals, and let’s jump into the ultimate comparison!

Key Takeaways

  • Treadmills offer versatile workouts with incline options and benefits such as burning calories, strengthening bones, and improving heart health. They are good for all fitness levels but can be hard on your joints.
  • Elliptical machines provide low – impact exercise that’s easier on the joints. They also give a full body workout by engaging arms and back muscles, although they may not strengthen bones as effectively as treadmills.
  • Both treadmill and elliptical workouts aid in weight loss. A treadmill might burn more calories through higher intensity training like running or HIIT. An elliptical ensures steady cardio that’s safe for those with joint issues or injuries.
  • Key factors to consider when choosing between a treadmill and an elliptical include personal fitness goals, joint health, available space at home for the equipment, and preference for variety in workout routines.
  • Consistency in working out is vital for weight loss success regardless of the machine selected. Adding strength training and maintaining a balanced diet enhances results from either treadmill or elliptical workouts.

Understanding the Treadmill

A person running on a treadmill in a modern, bustling gym.

The treadmill, a staple in gyms worldwide, offers a straightforward way to mimic running or walking with the convenience of staying in one place. Let’s dive into what makes this machine an ally for many in their weight loss journey and examine the flip side that might have some users hitting the pause button.

Advantages of Using a Treadmill

A treadmill is a popular piece of cardio equipment in gyms and home gyms. It offers a straightforward way to get in a good cardio workout. Here are some benefits of using a treadmill:

  • Versatile workouts: You can walk, jog, or run at various speeds. Incline settings let you mimic hills.
  • Engages muscles: A treadmill targets your lower body and core muscles, helping to tone them.
  • Calorie burn: Running on a treadmill burns calories, which aids in weight loss and boosts your metabolic rate.
  • Strengthens bones: Weight-bearing exercises on the treadmill can make your bones stronger.
  • Heart health: Regular use improves cardiovascular workout capacity and heart fitness.
  • Weather-independent: You can exercise regardless of outside conditions – rain or shine, hot or cold.
  • Customizable training: Treadmills allow for interval training, where you switch between high intensity and rest periods.
  • Safe running surface: The belt provides a consistent surface that can reduce the risk of tripping over uneven ground outdoors.

Disadvantages of Using a Treadmill

Treadmills can be great for losing weight, but they are not perfect. Here are some downsides to using a treadmill.

  • Treadmill running can be hard on your joints, especially your knees and hips. The repeated pounding may lead to pain or injury.
  • They can affect your posture if you’re not careful. Leaning too far forward or looking down often causes issues in the neck and back.
  • Some people find treadmills boring because you stay in one place the whole time. This might make it harder to keep up a routine.
  • Not all treadmills offer an upper body workout. You may need other exercises to work your arms and shoulders.
  • Treadmills might be unsafe for those with heart conditions or certain injuries. Always talk with a doctor before starting any new exercise.
  • Using a treadmill comes with the risk of falling off if you lose balance or get distracted during your run.
  • The size of treadmills makes them hard to fit in small spaces, so they’re not ideal for every home.

Treadmill Workouts for Beginners

A woman jogging on a treadmill in a modern gym.

Starting on a treadmill can be exciting. It’s a great way to lose weight and get fit. Here are some beginner workouts:

  • Walk It Out: Begin with a brisk 5-minute walk to warm up your muscles. Gradually increase your speed every minute until you’re walking at a pace that makes you breathe harder, but still allows you to talk.
  • Jogging Joy: After warming up, jog at an easy pace for one minute. Then walk for two minutes. Repeat this cycle five times. This helps build endurance.
  • Incline Challenge: Warm up by walking for five minutes. Set the incline to 1% and walk for another five minutes. Every few minutes, raise the incline a little more to really work those leg muscles.
  • Speed Play: Start with a warm-up walk of 5 minutes. Alternate between jogging for 30 seconds and walking for one minute. As you improve, extend the jogging time.
  • Endurance Builder: For this longer workout, start with a 10-minute walk. Then jog slowly for 5 minutes followed by fast walking for 3 minutes. Keep alternating and try to extend the jogging sections each week.

Understanding the Elliptical Machine

4. Understanding the Elliptical Machine.

Dive into the mechanics of this gym staple; the elliptical machine is more than just a cardio corner’s mainstay. It’s a powerhouse for those seeking a low-impact, calorie-burning session—perfect for anyone grappling with joint sensitivity or looking to inject some variety into their fitness regime.

Advantages of Using an Elliptical Machine

Elliptical machines offer a unique combination of benefits for fitness enthusiasts. Not only do they provide an effective workout, but they also minimize the risk of injury.

  • Low-impact exercise: Elliptical trainers are perfect for people with joint issues or chronic pain. The gliding motion keeps your feet on the pedals, reducing stress on knees, hips, and back.
  • Full body workout: When you use an elliptical machine, you’re not just working your legs. You engage your arms, shoulders, and back by pushing and pulling the handles while pedaling.
  • Calorie burning: A session on an elliptical can burn a lot of calories. This helps with weight loss and maintaining heart health.
  • Improves bone strength: Regularly using an elliptical machine can enhance bone density, which is important for overall skeletal health.
  • Suitable for injury recovery: If you’re recovering from an injury, the smooth motion of an elliptical can help maintain physical activity without further harm.
  • Joint health benefits: Because it’s a low-impact exercise option, using an elliptical can help improve joint mobility without adding strain.
  • Variety in workouts: You can pedal in reverse on these machines to target different muscle groups and keep your routine fresh.

Disadvantages of Using an Elliptical Machine

The elliptical machine is a popular cardio tool. But it’s not perfect for everyone.

  • Limited bone-strengthening: Unlike treadmills, ellipticals don’t help as much with bone density. Your bones and joints get stronger when they handle more weight. The elliptical’s design means less impact on your bones.
  • Less resistance variety: Ellipticals can’t match the challenge of uphill treadmill walking or running. If you want to push harder, treadmills offer steeper inclines and faster speeds.
  • May not target all muscles: When you use an elliptical, some muscles work less than others. It’s great for legs but might not give your arms the same workout.
  • Potential for incorrect use: It’s easy to cheat on an elliptical by leaning on the handles. This bad form can lower the calorie burn and reduce effectiveness.
  • Not as good for intense workouts: High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is tougher to do on an elliptical. Most machines are made for steady-paced cardio, not short bursts of effort.

Treadmill vs Elliptical: Calorie Burn and Weight Loss Comparison

Understanding how treadmill and elliptical workouts compare in terms of calorie burn and weight loss can help you make an informed decision about which machine is more suitable for your fitness goals. Let’s dive into a detailed comparison.

Running on a treadmill can burn a significant number of calories, based on intensity. An average person burns about 100 calories per mile.Elliptical workouts result in slightly fewer calories burned on average compared to high-intensity treadmill running; however, they provide a comparable calorie burn to jogging.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) on a treadmill increases Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC), leading to more calories burned post-workout.Using an elliptical allows for steady-state cardio which maintains a consistent calorie burn rate throughout the workout.
A treadmill workout can be tailored to all fitness levels, from walking to sprinting, allowing for progressive overload and weight loss.The elliptical machine supports a low-impact workout, reducing risk of injury and making it suitable for those with joint concerns.
Calorie burn on the treadmill can be increased by adjusting the incline, simulating uphill running which demands more energy.Elliptical machines often include arm components, offering a full-body workout that can effectively increase overall calorie expenditure.

Weight loss success hinges on consistent effort and a calorie deficit. Whether you choose a treadmill or an elliptical, incorporating regular workouts into your routine is key. Both machines offer benefits that can lead to effective weight management when combined with a balanced diet and strength training. Consider your personal fitness level, joint health, and workout preferences when selecting the equipment that best aligns with your weight loss journey.

When to Use a Treadmill for Weight Loss

Choose a treadmill for weight loss if you enjoy walking, jogging, or running. Treadmills let you adjust the workout to fit your fitness level. Start with a slow walk and increase your pace as you get stronger.

Use the incline feature to make it more challenging. This will help you burn more calories and shed pounds.

Mix in high intensity interval training (HIIT) on the treadmill for faster fat loss. Sprint for short bursts then rest by walking slowly. Do this several times during your workout.

It’s great for boosting your metabolism and burning calories long after exercising is over. If running outside is tough on your joints, try the treadmill’s softer surface to ease impact on your knees and hips while still losing weight effectively.

When to Use an Elliptical for Weight Loss

Elliptical machines shine if you’re aiming for a full-body workout with minimal joint stress. They are great if you have back pain or are recovering from shin splints. Use an elliptical when you want a cardio exercise that’s gentler on your body, especially the knees and ankles.

It’s also the machine to pick if you love cycling but need to give those muscles a break.

Mix up your routine by adding weights or doing high-intensity training on an elliptical. These changes can help burn more calories and keep workouts exciting. Remember that while ellipticals are easier on the joints, they still help with weight loss and cardiovascular fitness.

Adding some strength exercises can further tone your muscles and boost metabolism.

Key Considerations when Choosing between Treadmill and Elliptical

Consider your fitness goals before deciding on a treadmill or elliptical. Treadmills are great for runners looking to improve their endurance and speed. They mimic natural walking, jogging, or running movements which can help if you’re training for an event.

On the other hand, ellipticals are gentler on your body. They work well if you have joint issues like arthritis or lower back pain because they provide a smooth motion that lessens impact.

Think about what kind of workout experience you want. Some people find treadmills to be more challenging since they require balance and can go at high speeds for intensity training.

Ellipticals might offer a safer alternative with their handles for support and preset programs designed by registered dietitians for whole-body workouts. If you enjoy biking or are overweight and concerned about joint health, an elliptical could be the better choice as it mimics the action of cycling without any added strain on your joints.

Next up is exploring how these machines measure up in terms of calorie burn and overall weight loss effectiveness.


Choosing between a treadmill and an elliptical is all about what works for you. Think about your fitness goals, joint health, and fun factor. Love running? Go for the treadmill to burn those calories.

Need to be easy on the joints? The elliptical’s your friend. Remember, both machines kickstart weight loss; it’s your personal needs that tip the scales. Enjoy your workout journey!

For beginner-friendly routines to get started on your weight loss journey, check out our selection of treadmill workouts for beginners.


1. Which burns more calories, the treadmill or the elliptical?

The treadmill can burn a few more calories than the elliptical if you’re doing high-intensity training. It comes down to how hard you work out.

2. Will using an elliptical be easier on my joints while losing weight?

Yes, the elliptical—also known as a cross trainer—has lower joint impact. It protects your knees and hips better than a treadmill.

3. Can I still get a good cardio workout on an exercise bike compared to treadmills or ellipticals?

Definitely! An exercise bike gives you solid cardiovascular workouts too, especially when tackling those love handles!

4. What is whole-body vibration and does it help with weight loss?

Whole-body vibration involves working out on a vibrating platform — like the NordicTrack FS10i — that can improve strength and conditioning along with some calorie burn.

5. How often should I use cardio machines for effective weight loss?

For real results, focus on frequency; aim to do cardio exercises most days of the week, mixing up intensity levels for better physical fitness.

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