Elliptical vs. Treadmill: Which is Better?

Elliptical vs. TreadmillIf ice skating or cross-country skiing is not something you will be doing on a regular basis during the winter months, you might be asking which form of indoor aerobic exercise equipment would be the better choice for your particular fitness goals: a treadmill or an elliptical trainer. This blog will provide the information needed to make an informed choice whether your goal is weight management, general aerobic conditioning, cardiovascular exercise for health maintenance, or training for a fun run that’s coming up in the spring.

Comparative Exercise Physiology of Treadmill vs. Elliptical Trainer

Greg Brown and colleagues at the Human Performance Laboratory of the University of Nebraska had nine male and nine female untrained college-aged participants perform at submaximal effort on treadmills and elliptical trainers. The heart rate was found to be higher after 15-minute exercise sessions on elliptical trainers (164 beats/min) than on treadmills (145 beats/min). In spite of the higher heart rate on elliptical trainer, there was no significant difference in oxygen consumption or energy expenditure after exercise sessions on the two types of gym machines. The conclusion of the study was that both treadmill and elliptical trainer elicit similar physiological responses at the same perceived level of exertion and are equally suitable for aerobic conditioning, weight management, and for non-competitive cross training.

High Impact vs. Low Impact Aerobic Exercise

Although the previous study found no substantial differences between the two types of machines for weight control or for aerobic exercise, the biomechanics of the two types of exercise are completely different; elliptical machines are low or no impact while treadmills relatively high impact exercise machines. If you are overweight or have joint problems then an elliptical trainer will be the better choice for avoiding ankle, knee, or hip injuries. Choose an elliptical machine with movable handle bars for simultaneous upper and lower body training. For seniors with balance problems, elliptical machines are generally safer than treadmills. For people who are concerned about osteoporosis, high impact exercise offered by treadmills is preferable for strengthening bones and muscles. Another advantage of treadmills is greater versatility of settings for speed and incline.


Depending on construction and the sophistication of built-in electronics, treadmills and elliptical trainers models span a wide price range. Suitable elliptical and treadmill models start around $150. At the high end of the price range non-commercial elliptical trainers run up to $1,500 while treadmills can cost up to $2,000

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