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Elliptical Vs Treadmill: Which Is Better?

Elliptical Vs Treadmill

Ellipticals and treadmills are two of the most popular commercial and home gym cardio machine options available. Most home users have neither the budget nor the space to invest in both of them. So, which do you choose?

In this article, we’ll break the pros and cons of the two most popular cardio options in our elliptical vs treadmill head-to-head. We’ll discover which is best for weight loss, joint impact, full body development and which one is most suited for runners. We’ll also find out which one is best suited for confined spaces and people who are returning to exercise after an injury.

Read on for the ultimate elliptical vs treadmill cardio machines breakdown.

Elliptical Vs Treadmill – Comparison


In terms of safety, an elliptical is a better option than a treadmill. The main reason for this is that training on an elliptical is an example of a closed chain exercise where the feet remain in constant contact with the foot platforms.

Treadmills are higher impact. They also run the risk of a person slipping and falling on the running belt.


In terms of technical difficulty, the treadmill is harder than the elliptical. On the elliptical your stride path is set, but the treadmill requires balancing and coordination on the running belt.

Click here to learn how to run on a treadmill properly.


Elliptical Vs Treadmill – Training

If you are training for a running event, the best thing to do is to run. As a result, a treadmill is the better option. Exercising on an elliptical will help improve your cardio fitness but is not specific in its motion to any competitive event. So, if you are preparing for a race, you will get more benefit from the treadmill than the elliptical trainer.

Recovering From An Injury

The elliptical is a better option for people recovering from injury. That is because there is very little joint impact on an elliptical compared with a treadmill. It is also easier for people recovering from an injury to stumble on a treadmill.

Race Training

If you are training for a race, you should definitely train on a treadmill. This will allow you to simulate the running action of the race, which you cannot do on an elliptical.

Full-Body Workout

The elliptical is better at delivering a full body workout than the treadmill. Ellipticals include movable arms that allow you to push and pull the arms to work the upper body at the same time that your legs are striding.

In contrast, treadmills only allow for leg and glute exercise.

Legs Workout

A treadmill workout provides a leg focused workout. Depending on the intensity, length and incline level of your workout, you will develop the muscular strength and endurance of your quads, glutes, hamstrings and calves.

Ellipticals will also work the legs but not as intensely as a treadmill.

Weight Loss

Elliptical Vs Treadmill – Weight Loss

An elliptical will burn more calories than a treadmill, helping you to lose weight faster. If you spend 30 minutes on both machines at the same intensity, your calorie burn will be about 70 more calories on an elliptical.

The reason that an elliptical is a better way to burn calories is that it allows you to work both the lower and upper body.

Space Requirements

The treadmill and elliptical both take up the same amount of space. However, many treadmill models are foldable, allowing for ease of storage. You can also find foldable ellipticals but they are fewer and farer between.


Treadmills are generally more expensive than ellipticals. A high end treadmill will cost around $1,500 compared with $2,000 for a top quality treadmill.

Elliptical Benefits

Benefits Of Elliptical Machines

Minimal Impact

Elliptical trainers do not require you to lift your foot off the foot platforms. As a result there is very little joint impact when you do this exercise.

Total Body Workout

Elliptical trainers provide you with both a lower and upper body workout. That’s thanks to the movable arms that allow you to push and pull with your arms.

Go here for our review of the best ellipticals.

Natural Movement

The unique elliptical movement allows you to move your lower body through a natural elliptical motion. You can also step in reverse to more effectively work the glutes and hamstrings.


Ellipticals generally cost less than treadmills.

Maintain Fitness After Injury

An elliptical machine is a better and safer option for people returning from injury.

Find out how to clean a treadmill belt.

Elliptical Cons

Less Muscle Development

Because an elliptical trainer does not provide the same weight bearing effect as a treadmill, it will not give the same level of muscle development.

Less Dynamic

Because ellipticals don’t have as many options for changing up the intensity of the workout, they are not as dynamic as treadmills.


People may find the repetitive motion of the elliptical to be boring.

Treadmill Benefits

Treadmill Benefits

No Outdoors Needed

Treadmills allow you to get an effective running workout in any kind of weather. That is a huge advantage for runners, especially those who are training for an event.

Builds Leg Strength

Treadmills allow you to simulate hill running at speed, this is a great way to build leg strength, especially in the quadriceps and calf muscles.


Treadmills allow you to vary your pace and incline. Beginners can begin with a gentle walk and then advance to a jog, whereas seasoned runners can run at race pace. You can also adjust the running belt angle to simulate running up hills.

Want to reduce treadmill noise? Read more here.

Emulates Natural Movements

Treadmills allow you to move naturally without any restriction, whether you are walking, jogging or sprinting. This makes it a refreshing change from the many machines, like an elliptical, than locking your body into a set movement pattern.

Better For Runners

Treadmills are far better for runners than ellipticals. The best way to get better at running is to run – and that’s what you’re doing on a treadmill.

Many Models Are Foldable

Many treadmills can be folded down to allow for storage under a bed or in a cupboard. This makes them suitable for confined spaces where an elliptical might not fit.

Discover the best ways to lose belly fat at home.

Treadmill Cons

Treadmill Cons

Can Be Tough On Joints

Running on a treadmill places impact stress on your ankles, knees and hips. Even though many treadmills do a good job of reducing this impact stress with their running belt cushioning, it will not be completely eliminated.

May Lead To Injuries

Treadmills are good for high intensity training but this also brings with it the risk of injury. Slipping on the treadmill belt at high speed can lead to a nasty spill.

Do you need a treadmill mat? Click here to find out.

Works Fewer Muscle Groups

While it does give a good lower body workout, exercising on a treadmill does very little for your upper body. The only effect is on the core, which works to balance and stabilize your body as you are running.


Many people find exercising on a treadmill to be extremely boring. This can be alleviated somewhat with a monitor that provides simulated training courses.


There is quite a bit of coordination and balance required to run on a treadmill without holding on the hand rails. This can be challenging for seniors and those with mobility issues. Running at higher speeds is also physically challenging.


Treadmills, especially at the higher end of the market, are generally more expensive than elliptical trainers.

Check our review of the best under bed treadmills.

Elliptical Vs Treadmill Quick Comparison Chart



Joint Health

Very good – non weight bearing

Not ideal weight bearing

Fitness Goals

Weight loss, cardio exercise

Running training, weight loss

Muscles Worked

Quadriceps, calves, glutes, hamstrings, arms, back, shoulders

Quadriceps, calves, glutes, hamstrings

Preferable For

People with joint weaknesses and those wanting to lose weight


Cross Training



Average Calorie Burn In An Hour

706 – 866



$150 – $1,500

 $150 – $2,000


Relatively low because there is no foot impact on the foot platforms

More noisy due to foot impact and motor noise

Frequently Asked Questions

The elliptical is better than a treadmill for some things. If you want to lose weight, an elliptical will allow you to burn more calories. It also gives a better full body workout. However, a treadmill will give a better lower focused workout and allows for more training variety. Elliptical trainers are also better on your joints.

An elliptical is better for weight loss than a treadmill. This is because an elliptical uses both the upper body and the lower body muscles. As a result, you will burn more calories when working out on an elliptical than on a treadmill. Elliptical machines are also easier on your joints than a treadmill, making it better for people with a lot of weight to lose.

An elliptical is better for belly fat than a treadmill. That is because it is better at burning calories due to the full body workout that it allows. On elliptical machines you can use the movable arms to push and pull with your arms whereas the treadmill only works the lower body muscles. The extra effort on the elliptical requires more energy, some of which will come from the stored fat on your belly.

To lose belly fat you should walk 3 miles per day on the elliptical or treadmill.


When it comes to an elliptical vs treadmill head-to-head, both are excellent choices of cardio equipment for your fitness routine. The main treadmill benefits are that it is more natural to use, is great for basic aerobic workouts, it allows you to run when it’s raining outside and without as much stress on your joints as you would get with outdoor running.

On the other hand, elliptical exercise works the entire body, burns more calories and is more joint friendly. That makes the elliptical a great piece of exercise equipment for weight loss, rehab after joint injuries, strength training and muscle building.

Want more head to head matchups? Go here for our treadmill vs exercise bike comparison.