Treadmill vs Elliptical for Weight Loss

There are many different opinions when it comes to choosing the best piece of equipment for weight loss. Some people swear by the treadmill, while others prefer the elliptical. So, which one is better for losing weight? Let’s look at both machines and see what their features tell us.

Warning: There’s no right or wrong answer here. It all depends on your needs, preexisting conditions, and preferences. 

Read on as we untangle everything to clarify your choice.

Calories Burnt

The Medical College of Wisconsin found that people who jog on a treadmill burn 705 to 866 calories, depending on how fast they go and how steep the incline is. Health Status says that people who work out on an elliptical for an hour burn 773 calories.

So, on average, the elliptical machine burns more calories. Here’s why:

When using the elliptical, you’re working more muscles than when you are on the treadmill. The elliptical targets your upper body, while the treadmill only works your lower body.

Injury Risk

treadmill or elliptical for losing weight

You can’t lose weight on a machine unless you’re actually using that machine.

Treadmills are notorious for causing injuries, such as shin splints, Achilles tendinitis, and plantar fasciitis. On the other hand, elliptical machines are generally considered to be much safer because they put less stress on the joints.

If you have chronic pain or joint issues, choose an elliptical.

Muscle Building

Building muscle accelerates your metabolic rate and thus helps you burn more calories even when you’re resting. 

Treadmills are arguably better than ellipticals for lower-body muscle building because: 

  • You’re pushing harder with your legs on the running band, especially when using the incline feature.
  • Some treadmills feature upper body resistance bands. As such, you can activate and strengthen your arms too.

Don’t ellipticals have handlebars?

Yes, but these handles don’t pose much resistance. While moving your upper body increases calorie burn during the workout, you won’t build actual muscle.

That’s why a treadmill is more convenient. If yours doesn’t have upper-body resistance bands, you can always hold onto weights during your jog.

Perceived Effort

elliptical vs treadmill running for weight loss

Perceived effort is essential for weight loss because you want to be able to work out at a high intensity for an extended period. 

The elliptical is known to be easier on the body and cause less fatigue, meaning you’ll be able to exercise for a more extended period.

If you’re starting or have joint problems, go with the elliptical. It’s more fun and seems easier.

However, you can decrease perceived effort on the treadmill too. Here’s what you can do:

  • Watch your speed. Running slowly will make the workout easier. Use the added resistance bands or a weighted vest to burn more calories without upping your effort too much.
  • Increase the incline. This option simulates hills, making the workout harder on your body without feeling it too much. Every 1% incline increase raises your calorie deficit by 12%.
  • Put on music or your favourite show. Focusing on something else will take your mind off how hard you’re working.
  • Consider a virtual workout. Some treadmills have app compatibility so that you can participate in a virtual event or try different tracks around the world. These programs will increase your motivation and make the workout more pleasant.

Pro tip: Some ellipticals also have an incline, so you can still get that challenge you’re looking for.

Wrap Up

So, which one is better for weight loss? The treadmill or the elliptical? It depends on your individual needs and preferences. 

If you’re a beginner or recovering from an injury, go with the elliptical. However, if you want to work harder and build more muscle, the treadmill is better.

Whichever machine you choose, make sure to increase the intensity of your workout as you progress. Challenging yourself appropriately will help you achieve your weight loss goals faster.

Also, choose the right machine for your needs. 

If you need quick weight loss, you’ll want to keep track of your calories and heart rate. If you like running, consider a high-speed treadmill. You also need incline, more built-in programs, and high resistance for your elliptical.

Don’t forget to stay kind to yourself and remember that this is a process, not a race.

Mary D. Brown

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