The Elliptical Versus The Treadmill

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What’s the best way to move without moving?

Growing up, my mom had two primary exercise machines in the basement that she let me use: a treadmill, and an elliptical. The treadmill was my favorite for a while, less for working out purposes and more because I could race Hot Wheels on it, but when I started taking my fitness a little more seriously, I found I gravitated toward the elliptical a little more. Both machines focus on similar principles: walking in place at varying speeds, getting your cardio, building endurance, so on and so forth. But the question is, if you could only have one, which machine is better? Let’s compare.


Between the two machines, the elliptical offers a more relaxed workout. Unlike a treadmill, an elliptical isn’t powered or self-propelling; you only get as much work out of it as you put in. It’s a low-impact workout, which can be nice if you’re not looking to get too crazy and just want to stay in good general shape. Also, because ellipticals have handles that move along with the pedals, you can get a pretty good arm workout in addition to your legs. Besides all that, though, ellipticals just tend to be a little cheaper than treadmills due to their aforementioned low-power design.

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While treadmills cost a little more money, though, they’re better suited for more intense, high-impact exercises. An external stimulus like a treadmill’s belt forces you to get into it and raise your heart rate. It’s also a more versatile machine, since pretty much anyone can walk or run in place, while an elliptical’s pedals may not work for all body types. Statistically speaking, exercise on a treadmill tends to burn far more calories than an elliptical, so if you’re looking to go hard at it, it’s the better choice.

So the bottom line is that if you’re looking for an intense, calorie-burning exercise, you’ll probably want a treadmill. If you want something a little more laid back and at your pace, the elliptical is the way to go.