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What Burns More Calories? Ellipticals vs. Treadmills

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, you should do at least 60 to 90 minutes of aerobic exercise at least three days a week to lose weight. Treadmill and elliptical workouts are among the most popular ways to hit those goals. Read on to know which is better: treadmill or elliptical training.

Four women jogging on treadmills

Elliptical machine vs. treadmill: what’s the difference? 

The best workout to burn calories is cardio training. But did you know that the two most common cardio machines — ellipticals and treadmills — target different muscle groups and provide different results? 

Elliptical machines incorporate two types of movements in a single machine: rhythmic striding and stair stepping. Some elliptical machines also have poles that you can hold to move forwards and backwards during the workout.

The total number of calories you burn in a given session depends on the ramp height, stride speed, and resistance level. Because your feet don’t leave the pedals of the elliptical machine, it provides a low-impact workout, which is easy on your back and joints.

A treadmill lets you walk, run, or jog indoors. The speed of a treadmill can range from 1 to 15 miles per hour. You can also adjust the ramp of a treadmill from a 0 to around 15-percent incline. 

Elliptical benefits

Some elliptical benefits include:

  • Ellipticals offer a low-impact cardio workout that is easy on your back and joints, particularly your knees. When you’re using an elliptical machine, you’re simulating the movement of cross-country skiing or climbing stairs, and your feet don’t leave the pedals. This makes your knee joints less prone to injury. It’s also a good alternative to jogging or running for people with joint pain as a result of arthritis. Since it’s a low-impact exercise, you can do elliptical exercises during your period or as part of your exercises after a cesarean delivery
  • Elliptical machines target the muscles of the legs, triceps, biceps, lats, and your core. This full-body workout helps tone your body, strengthen your core, and improve balance. 
  • You can also pedal in reverse on an elliptical machine. This helps target other muscle groups and gives you a varied workout with great results. 
  • Ellipticals help you burn a good amount of calories. Depending on your own stats (like weight and age), working out on an elliptical machine can burn about 250 to 300 calories in around half an hour.

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Treadmill benefits

Some of the benefits of using a treadmill include:

  • It is a versatile cardio machine. You can use a treadmill to walk, jog, or sprint. You can also add an incline to increase the intensity of the workout. 
  • While running on a treadmill, you are engaging your core muscles and activating the abs. This helps maintain your balance. If you are running for 20 minutes, your core muscles are engaged the whole time. With regular practice, your core muscles get stronger, improving your tone, posture, and stamina. 
  • Using a treadmill burns a good amount of calories. Again, depending on your body, running at a speed of 8 mph for 20 minutes can burn around 200 to 300 calories. The total number of calories burned also depends on the incline of the treadmill. 
  • Working out on a treadmill feels as natural as running or walking, activities that you are probably already pretty used to. 
  • Running or walking on a treadmill is a great workout for your lower body, as it targets the muscles of your calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, abs, glutes, and heart. 
  • Running on a treadmill with correct posture helps strengthen your bones. 
  • Walking briskly and running on a treadmill help improve the health of your heart. 
  • Running on a treadmill releases natural endorphins, which help relieve pain and elevate your mood. Hence, running when you’re on your period may help ease menstrual discomfort.
Elliptical vs. treadmill

Now the question arises, which burns more calories: treadmills or ellipticals? Regardless of the machine, the total number of calories you burn depends on your body weight, exercise efficiency, and the workout intensity. Beginners tend to burn more calories — whether they’re on the treadmill or elliptical — than people who have trained their muscles to move efficiently. 

A woman weighing 150 pounds who does a moderate-intensity workout on an elliptical machine burns about 250 to 300 calories in 30 minutes. If you use the arm poles on an elliptical, then you burn more calories. A woman weighing 150 pounds burns around 300 calories while running on a treadmill at a speed of 10 mph in 30 minutes. Running on an incline increases the total number of calories burned. 

Ellipticals are a great choice for beginners or people who have a significant amount of weight to lose. This is because you can adjust the resistance of the machine according to your needs. 

You can work out at the highest level that your stamina and endurance allow without putting excessive pressure on your back or joints. Your upright position while working out on the elliptical machine also helps keep your back strong and avoids strain that may occur when running. 

Which is better for weight loss: treadmills or ellipticals? Although you can burn a lot of calories working out on the treadmill, it mostly depends on your pace and the total time you run. You need to build a certain level of stamina and endurance to run for enough time to burn calories to lose weight. 

Beginners should initially walk or jog before easing into running on the treadmill. Otherwise, you risk developing joint pain or shin splints. Walking burns remarkably fewer calories in comparison to running, unless you work at variable speeds or add high inclines. 

Is an elliptical better than a treadmill? 

You can get an effective cardio workout using either a treadmill or an elliptical machine. In general, let your personal preferences and fitness goals determine whether to choose a treadmill or an elliptical machine. However, an elliptical machine can offer certain advantages over a treadmill. For instance:

  • Working out on an elliptical machine is a low-impact exercise and less stressful on the weight-bearing joints of your body, such as your hips, back, and knees. 
  • Some elliptical machines also have movable upper poles or handles, which allow you to move your arms along with your legs. This helps provide a full-body workout. 
  • You can also pedal an elliptical trainer in reverse, working the hamstrings and calves a little more than when moving forwards. 

To avoid muscle pain and soreness, make sure to stretch after a workout. Also, drink plenty of water to stay hydrated

Both machines target different muscle groups and provide different results. Working out on an elliptical machine is a low-impact exercise and less stressful on the back and joints. It is a great workout for your whole body. The treadmill, on the other hand, targets the muscles of your lower body and abs. 

For weight loss, ellipticals are a great choice if you’re a beginner or have a large amount of weight to lose. Even though ellipticals offer certain advantages over treadmills, let your personal preferences and fitness goals determine which is best for you.




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