I often get asked whether the treadmill or the elliptical is better. I always have to smile – as it is sort of like asking if kale or spinach is better. The answer is they both are good – for different reasons. The treadmill is more weight baring potentially burning more calories – yet the elliptical is a better overall body workout. The treadmill can be hard on your joints – although is can be easy to “just coast” on the elliptical. What is really boils down to is: what do you like? If you like the activity you are more likely to do it. And any activity is better than sitting on the couch!
Here is a bit more of a thorough review of the pros and cons of each:
Elliptical Pros and Cons
Don’t listen to people who say the elliptical can’t give you a good workout. What they’re probably referring to is someone who lets the momentum carry them forward without actually doing any work. Of course- you would never do that! As long as you focus on your perceived exertion, you can keep pushing to that place of hard work. (Perceived exertion is a way to measure how hard you’re working on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being lounging on the couch and 10 an all-out sprint.) Best of all, the elliptical offers a way to get a heart-pumping workout that’s low impact – a major plus if you have joint or muscle pain.
Can Vary Resistance
Can Use Arms For a Whole Body Workout
Can be easy to go into “auto-pilot” on an elliptical
Motion can be awkward for beginners
How To Get The Best Results On An Elliptical
Ok – low impact doesn’t mean low intensity. Do the work and reap the rewards. You get out of the elliptical what you put into it. You want to be working hard and breathing out of your mouth. Use these tips to get an awesome elliptical workout and lose weight:
- Watch Your Posture
Don’t slouch over the machine—stand tall and engage your core. It’s harder—but better. Don’t lean on the handrails – you are just cheating yourself out of a good workout.
- Get The Foot Positioning Down
Keep your feet in contact with the pedals the entire time. Don’t take them off the pedals – but do let the back of your heel come up a tiny bit. They shouldn’t lift entirely, but you want a rolling motion from the balls of your feet to your heels. Keep your knees slightly bent.
- Use The Handles
Using the handles and pumping up the resistance can be equally as intense as a run on the treadmill. If you want to establish and maintain ideal workout intensities, the ‘talk test’ is an informal way to measure whether you’re getting the most out of the workout. Your workout should be intense enough to make you breathe deeply and to make you feel a little winded.
- Use Interval Training
Slow, steady-state cardio is less effective at burning fat than higher intensity intervals. Varying the resistance & intensity, you can work at a variety of different speeds at resistances. An easy interval workout is 5 minute warm up, 20 minutes of 1 minute hard and one minute easy and then a 5 minute cool down. Try it!
Treadmill Pros and Cons
The “deadmill”. You’ve heard that – right? Or you have felt that at times while you are on it. But – it doesn’t have to be that way! The treadmill is the next best thing aside from running outside—and can come in handy on days when the weather is not coorperating! The fact that most treadmill machines offer an incline option offers an added challenge and opportunity to ramp up your workout. By varying the speed and the incline, you can customize your treadmill workout in countless ways.
Can work on an incline – simulating hills outside
Get in a great run no matter the weather
High impact; not necessarily bad unless you have joint pain
Doesn’t incorporate the rest of the body
How To Get The Best Results On A Treadmill
Whether you’re a serious runner looking to log some miles indoors or you just want a solid 30-minute cardio workout, the treadmill can be your best friend. Don’t let it become the “dreadmill;” there’s no need for a treadmill workout to be boring! Use these tips to get a great cardio workout (that’s actually fun!) on the treadmill.
- Be Best Friends with the Incline
One of the best things about most treadmills is that they offer the feature to spice up your workout by adding the element of incline. Challenge yourself by walking at a brisk pace or jogging lightly at an elevated incline. It will target different muscles in your lower body (hello, glutes!) and not only challenge your aerobic abilities but tone your muscles, too!
- Use Perceived Exertion and the Talk Test
Determining your rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) is simple: it’s based on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being the easiest (think lying on the sofa) and 10 being all-out effort (sprinting to catch the plane before it leaves). You can also use the “talk test” to help you determine your intensity. How easy is it to talk while you exercise? If you want a kick-butt cardio workout, you want it to be difficult carry on a conversation.
- Intervals, Intervals, Intervals
Are you sensing a theme here? On both machines, using intervals is a great way to ensure you get a solid workout. Instead of jogging at a slower pace for 30 minutes, mix it up with a few minutes of brisk walking, then comfortable jogging and a few all-out sprints. Doing these cycles of training works your heart in different heart rate zones, which not only helps your heart health but helps you burn more fat, too.
So Which One Is Better?
Ultimately both the elliptical and the treadmill can give you a great cardio workout, but you have to put in the effort. Using intervals and working hard on both machines is the key to getting a great workout. It mostly comes down to which machine you prefer, and whether or not you need a low-impact workout or not.
Move your body, put good things in and ENJOY every day!