Elliptical or Treadmill—Which One Should You Buy?

(Unsplash/Justyn Warner)

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Among the cardio machines that are used most in the gym are the treadmill and the elliptical trainer. They're both effective for cardio and for burning calories. However, most people usually go for the treadmill because it has been around far longer than the elliptical trainer.

Moreover, the treadmill feels more natural because it mimics running and walking, whereas the elliptical feels a bit more alien. The question is, which of the two is better for cardio?

The elliptical trainer

The elliptical trainer combines the motion of the arms and legs. With this machine, adjustable tension is provided by the flywheel. It's popular among those who work out at home, as well as those who exercise at the gym.

The pros of the elliptical trainer:

  1. In addition to working out the muscles in your arms and legs, the elliptical helps you build your upper body and core strength.
  2. Your limbs don't experience the same stress they would if you were running, which is important if you suffer joint pains.
  3. You can adjust the resistance to vary your workout and you can also use the elliptical backward, which is not as easy (or safe) to do on a treadmill.
  4. According to some studies, you can burn the same number of calories on the elliptical as you do on the treadmill even though using the elliptical is easier.

The cons of the elliptical trainer:

  1. Your feet can get numb after a long workout.
  2. The workout is low impact, meaning it doesn't work out some muscles effectively.

The treadmill

The belt on the treadmill is moved by a motor, and that allows you to run or walk in place.

The pros of the treadmill:

  1. Unlike the elliptical, which limits you to a low-impact workout, the treadmill gives you the option of getting a low-impact workout by walking, or a high-impact workout by running.
  2. Similarly, you have a greater variety of speeds to work with on the treadmill, meaning it gives you more granular control of the intensity of your workout.
  3. Using the treadmill is intuitive. You get the hang of it a few minutes after you start using it.
  4. The treadmill is better suited for runners than the elliptical, which is more effective for cross-training.

The cons of the treadmill:

  1. It doesn't completely mimic outdoor walking or running because the belt aids your movement and there's no wind resistance. Also, it cannot mimic the downhill run.
  2. A high-quality treadmill costs more than a high-quality elliptical, but you can get either affordably at a well-established fitness equipment store such as Flex Master General.


The bottom line is that both machines are effective and play an important role in your overall workout routine provided you use them correctly. To get the best results, you can use both machines by scheduling a workout on each on specific days of the week.

If you're having trouble deciding on which one to get for your home gym, go out to a public gym that has both machines and use each of them for a while until you get a good feel of both.