Treadmill vs Elliptical

fitness equipment in a gymAre you thinking about buying a piece of home exercise equipment? Or maybe you’ve just joined the gym, and you’re trying to figure out which of the least-intimidating equipment is your best bet. To help you out, we’re going to take a look at the similarities and differences between the treadmill and the elliptical.

What’s a treadmill?
Treadmills have been around since the 1800s, so most of us know one when we see it. You can walk, jog or run on it, and the surface moves so that you stay in one place.


What makes treadmills great?

  • Simple to use, even for newbies
  • Versatile—you can choose speed, incline and even programmable training programs
  • Mimics natural movement of walking or running
  • Great for cardio and calorie-burning
  • Counts as weight-bearing exercise, strengthening bone and muscle
  • Burns more calories than an elliptical


What are the downsides?

  • Can be rough on the joints, especially if running
  • Handles are sometimes in awkward positions
  • Pretty much the most boring workout on Earth

What’s an elliptical?
An elliptical machine has a large “pedal” for each foot. You simply stand on it, and then start “walking,” one foot at a time without lifting your feet off the pedals. Some versions also have handles that offer a workout for your arms, too.


  • Lower impact = less stress on the joints
  • Good for cardio and calorie-burning
  • Versatile—can somewhat mimic walking, running and stair-climbing, and can even go backward
  • Offers a total body workout if using handles


  • Lower impact = less strengthening of bones and muscles
  • Feet can go numb in the pedals
  • Burns fewer calories than a treadmill

Which is better?
Each has its place, and if you can alternate, all the better. Working in an elliptical workout here and there will give your joints a break, while working your muscles in slightly different ways for more balanced fitness.