Elliptical Vs. Treadmill – Which Is Better For Weight Loss And Toning? Charushila Biswas Hyderabd040-395603080 January 16, 2020

What is the best fat blasting workout? Cardio, of course! But did you know that the two common cardio machines, treadmill and elliptical, target different muscles and give different results?

By understanding which part of your body these two machines work on, you will be able to take an informed decision on which machine to use. This will help minimize injuries, aid weight loss, improve muscle tone, and strengthen your core.

This article lays out the pros and cons of treadmill and elliptical. And makes it easier for you to know which one’s best for you. Read on!


Treadmill Pros

  • Versatile

You can use the treadmill to walk (slow or brisk), run (at 6 mph), or sprint. You can also use the incline option to add resistance to your workout.

  • Engages Your Abs

Running requires you to engage your core and activate your ab muscles. And that helps your body to be balanced and prevents you from falling off. So, if you run for, say, 20 mins, your core is engaged the whole time. By practicing it regularly, you will build a strong core, which will improve your posture, tone, and exercise stamina.

  • Burns Calories

Running at 8 mph for 20 minutes may help you burn about 200-300 calories. The treadmill can help you blast the fat and slim down. The number of calories burnt also depends on your body weight and degree of incline used. It is best to keep your treadmill at an incline of at least 3 degrees and run intermittently (run at 6 or 7 mph for a minute and then at 13 or 14 mph for 10 seconds).

  • Feels More Natural

Walking and running are something that we are so used to doing every day. So, when you hop onto a treadmill, it will just take you a few seconds to get used to the moving platform. And then, it will feel all natural. This comfort and ease of use will quickly make you like walking or running on the treadmill.

  • Great For The Lower Body

Walking or running on the treadmill targets your calves, hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, abs, and heart muscles. So, it is a great workout for your lower body. If you have excess fat accumulation in your lower body, running intermittently on the treadmill will help you lose the flab effectively.

  • Strengthens The Bones

Running requires you to balance on alternate legs. This means that your legs bear the weight of your body alternately. Plus, the incline and speed of running exert double or sometimes triple the weight of your body. Running with correct posture on alternate days strengthens the bones.

  • Improves Heart Health

Running and walking briskly on the treadmill helps pump up your heart rate and activates the lungs, which helps improve the health of your heart muscles and increases circulation. Over a period, you will be able to run for a long duration without going out of breath. In fact, you will be able to do any other type of cardio (like playing an outdoor sport) without feeling out of breath too soon.

Yes, there are many benefits of running or walking on the treadmill, but there are also a few disadvantages that you should be aware of. Here are the cons of using a treadmill to burn calories.

Treadmill Cons

  • Posture May Get Affected

The size of the belt may cause you to change the way you walk or run. And over time, it can cause posture problems that may lead to lower back pain and joint pain.

  • Not Easy On The Joints

Running fast on the treadmill or slowly for a long duration can be tough on your knees. That’s because your knees have to bear double or triple your body’s weight. They also absorb shock from the impact of your feet touching the platform.

  • Works Only The Lower Body

Walking or running on the treadmill is a great lower body workout. But only that. It might feel like a whole body workout, but if you think about it, running on the treadmill doesn’t target your upper body muscles to a great extent.

  • May Cause Muscle Loss

Running or walking on the treadmill may cause muscle loss. And that’s because when you do cardio for a prolonged period, to fuel your activity, the cells start breaking down protein (of course, after glucose and muscle glycogen are used up) and converting them into glucose (through gluconeogenesis). And if you do not have a good proteinaceous meal post workout and do strength training every alternate day, you will lose muscle mass. And that can deteriorate your body tone.

  • May Not Be Safe

Not every exercise is meant for everyone. You might kill it when it comes to running in the field, but you might feel dizzy when it comes to running on the treadmill. Running at high speed and the need to change the speed of the belt can also increase the chances of falling and hurting yourself.

So, does that mean you should steer clear of treadmills? No! Here’s when the treadmill might be useful.

When To Use A Treadmill

You may use the treadmill if:

  • You want to walk or run as a warm-up session before heading off to do other exercises.
  • You need to lose extra flab from your lower body. Use it once or twice a week for 20-30 minutes to burn fat and include strength training to prevent muscle loss.
  • You are in a rehabilitation program, and walking slowly on the treadmill helps to strengthen your muscles and bones. You must be supervised by a professional.
  • You want to run, but it is not possible to go out for a run.
  • You are stressed out or depressed, run on the treadmill for 15 mins at 8 mph.

When To Avoid Using A Treadmill

Avoid running or walking rigorously on the treadmill if:

  • You have recently injured your knee or have plantar fasciitis or lower back pain.
  • You have just had heart surgery.
  • Your physician does not allow you to use the treadmill for walking or running.

Tip: Always wear good running shoes while running on the treadmill or outside.

Now, let’s look at the pros and cons of the elliptical.

Elliptical Pros

  • Low Impact And Easy On Joints

Cardio on an elliptical machine puts less pressure on the bones, especially the knee joints. This machine emulates the movement of climbing the stairs or cross-country skiing. So, you do not have to stomp your feet on the belt or floor, and that will save you from injuring your knees in the long run (literally!).

  • Full Body Workout

The elliptical targets the leg muscles and the biceps, triceps, lats, and the core. So, basically, you will get a full body workout that will help you tone up your body, strengthen your core, and improve balance.

  • You Can Go Reverse Too

You can pedal reverse on an elliptical. That way, you will target other muscles and engage in a mixed workout that will get you great results.

  • Good Calorie Burner

The elliptical helps burn about 200-300 calories in 30 minutes – which is the same as running on a treadmill. But with the elliptical, you will get a full body workout.

  • Does Not Strengthen The Bones

The elliptical does not impact your bones and joints. And that’s good news and bad news. Running on the treadmill will help you improve the strength of your bones. But working out on the elliptical has less impact and does not help in making your bones strong.

  • Not So Dynamic

On a treadmill, there are options to increase the incline degree to add resistance to your workout. But, on the elliptical, because the pedals are high up, you do not even fully bear the weight of your body. So, there’s minimum resistance to your movement.

When is it best to use elliptical? Let’s find out in the next section.

When To Use Elliptical

You may use the elliptical when:

  • You are recovering from an injury.
  • You are over fatigued and need to do low-impact exercises.
  • You need a mix of lower and upper body exercise.

When is it best to avoid using the elliptical machine? Find out next.

When To Avoid Using Elliptical

Avoid using the elliptical if your doctor says so.

Tip: Make sure you are standing upright and not bending forward while using the machine.

If you want to lose weight, you need to burn calories. And both the elliptical and the treadmill burn about the same number of calories. So, which one’s better for weight loss? Let me explain.

Calorie Burn – Elliptical Vs. Treadmill For Weight Loss

True, calories play a vital role in weight loss or weight gain. But that’s not the only thing about losing weight.

Using a treadmill can help you burn almost the same number of calories as you would if you use an elliptical. But depending on your goal, you should decide if you need a full body workout or just a lower body workout. And that will determine if you should use the treadmill or the elliptical.

Yes, you will lose weight with the treadmill and the elliptical, but make sure you also do strength training to preserve your muscles and improve the tone of your body structure.

So, what’s best to buy for your home? Let’s find out.

Treadmill Vs. Elliptical: Which Is Best To Buy For Your Home?

The best cardio machine to buy depends on your fitness goals. If you want to prepare for an upcoming marathon, it is best that you buy a treadmill and use it effectively. But if you are recovering from an injury or have a weak knee, it is best that you opt for an elliptical machine.


Treadmill and elliptical machines have advantages and disadvantages. But the main points to consider are your fitness goals and if you have weak joints or are recovering from an injury or surgery. To use these machines effectively, wear good shoes, maintain good posture, and do not overstrain yourself.

Go slow and build your stamina and strength before attempting to do a full 30-minute or 60-minute workout on any of these machines. More importantly, listen to your body. If the pain is unnatural and sharp, stop. Take rest and do foam rolling.

With these points in mind, I am sure it will be easier for you to judge what’s best, depending on your body’s condition – the treadmill or the elliptical. Have more questions? Please post them in the box below. Cheers!

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Charushila Biswas

Charushila Biswas is a Senior Content Writer and an ISSA Certified Fitness Nutritionist. She is an alumni of VIT University, Vellore and has worked on transgenic wheat as a part of her Masters dissertation from NRCPB (IARI), New Delhi. After completing her Masters, she developed a passion for nutrition and fitness, which are closely related to human psychology. And that prompted her to author a review article in 2015. She has written over 200 articles on Fitness and Nutrition. In her leisure time, Charushila loves to cook and enjoys mobile photography.

In winter, colder weather and slick sidewalks likely have you spending more time in the gym. This means you’re forced to choose between the treadmill and other machines rather than running routes if you want to mix it up. So, you might be wondering how beneficial other machines are to your training and how the treadmill vs. elliptical stacks up. Turns out, the elliptical is also a great piece of equipment for runners. If you’re smart, you’ll work both into your regular workout routine. Here are the pros and cons of each.

The best reason to use the treadmill is the most obvious: It mimics that natural movement of running outside (without subjecting you to the elements). “Treadmills are also the most honest machines on the planet,” says David Siik, senior manager of running and creator of Precision Running at Equinox in Los Angeles. “If you input nine miles per hour, it is going to make you go nine miles per hour until you step off. That honesty and the ability to micro­program your speed, incline, and time creates a form of accountability that is so healthy and so rewarding.”

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And on the treadmill, your body is going to experience a little less impact than on the pavement, which can keep your joints feeling good. But there is still some impact, which is also a good thing. “The healthy impact from a treadmill is so important in maintaining bone density as you age,” explains Siik. According to research from the University of Missouri, running may actually have more of an impact on building stronger bones than resistance training,

Even though you’re not putting a ton of stress on your upper body, running also causes what Siik calls “natural reaction,” where your infrastructure—your muscle and cartilage—is provoked to stay strong. “And mile after mile, that burns a lot of extra calories,” he says.

So if burning calories is your goal, treadmill running is a great option. Running a 10-minute mile burns about 9.8 METs—or the “metabolic equivalent” for a task, which is an estimate of how much energy the body uses during physical activity (sitting still is just one MET). A 150-pound person would burn 668.2 calories per hour running. That same 150-pound person would burn around 340.9 calories per hour using the elliptical at a moderate effort.

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Of course, there’s a flip side (and a reason the treadmill is also called the “dreadmill”). “If you don’t have a plan or a coach to guide you, going nowhere fast can be boring without that engagement in your workout,” Siik says. And maybe even more relatable, running is hard! It takes a lot of work to push yourself forward on the treadmill (even with the moving belt), which can be discouraging to some people.

When to Use the Treadmill

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If you’re used to running for fitness, working out on the treadmill three to four days a week can be a game-changer in terms of strength, stamina, and leanness, Siik says. And if you’re training for a race, two to three treadmill days is a great way to log runs with more hands-on control in terms of pace and incline. “The treadmill can take you to limits far beyond what an elliptical can, and can push you to do more work,” Siik says. “The amount of energy it takes to push off the ground to fight gravity is very big.”

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Elliptical Benefits

You might write off using the elliptical as an easier workout than running. And it is—but that can actually benefit you. “The elliptical can provide a lower-impact workout for runners, because you’re constantly connected to the pedals, causing less strain on the knees and joints,” says Lee Wratislaw, a certified personal trainer for Gold’s Gym AMP app. That means you’ll save your lower-body joints from a lot of wear and tear—one study estimates that 80 percent of running injuries are caused by overuse.

Another plus: You’re going to get a better total-body workout when using the elliptical. “Pushing and pulling the handles can provide a challenge for the upper body, plus you’re really engaging your core to balance the movements between your upper and lower body,” Wratislaw says. “Changing the incline and resistance settings can be a great tool for targeting different areas of the lower body.” Also, the elliptical lets you stride backward. “Pedaling in reverse can be an effective way to target the hamstrings, while increasing the incline can bring the focus to the glutes,” he adds. “All of these areas are important for runners to work on.”

You burn about half the amount of calories on an elliptical compared to what you can burn on a treadmill in the same amount of time, though, if you go by METs. But you’re working harder than you think—some studies have shown that you can burn the same number of calories on each piece of equipment, only it may actually feel easier to do it on the elliptical thanks to a higher perceived rate of exertion. “If you adjust your intensity output, you can really increase the calorie-burning effects of an elliptical,” Wratislaw says.

Here’s where we remind you that, while it’s okay to keep tabs on calories, obsessing over calorie burn can be an unhealthy behavior, and most machines inaccurately estimate calorie burn anyway.

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One major con: The elliptical moves in a locked pattern, and you can’t use it to focus on running form. “Runners who are training for a race will want to focus more of their time on a treadmill or outdoors to improve their technique because they won’t achieve that on the elliptical,” Wratislaw says. And the elliptical does share a common flaw with the treadmill: A steady-state session can be boring AF, and might just feel like you’re spinning your wheels.

When to Use the Elliptical

While the elliptical can’t replace running outside or on the treadmill, it can seriously benefit runners—especially runners who are injured or overtired. “The elliptical offers a lower-impact experience, giving you a break on your joints when you need it,” Siik says. “Also, variety is good for you! Moving the body a little differently also helps create some balance.”

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The elliptical can also be used as active recovery and low-impact conditioning for a runner who may need a rest day from their running routine, says Wratislaw (remember, sometimes, all that impact isn’t great). “Incorporating the elliptical will allow you to still reap the cardiovascular benefits of a tough workout while providing lower impact,” he says. “That can be a great tool for runners who want to prevent injury or who just want to mix up their fitness routine.”

Ashley Mateo Ashley Mateo is a writer, editor, and UESCA-certified running coach who has contributed to Runner’s World, Bicycling, Women’s Health, Health, Shape, Self, and more.

In the era of virtual fitness, high intensity interval training, and more boutique studios than you can count, it’s easy to forget about two cardio classics: the elliptical and the treadmill.

Of course, both machines promise to cater to your cardio needs—and most gyms usually dedicate equal space to each one. But they differ in a few important ways…

What are some pros and cons of the elliptical?

The elliptical is a low-impact machine that’s especially beneficial if you have a lower body injury or joint pain, says K. Aleisha Fetters, CSCS. The smooth and circular movement of the elliptical allows for little-to-no impact on the joints since your feet never break contact with the machine’s suspended pedals.

The elliptical burns 322 to 478 calories per hour (based on a 125- to 185-pound woman).

And while your movements on the elliptical are meant to mimic running and walking, the elliptical forces your knees to come up way higher than they would if you opted for the treadmill. This range of motion promotes hip flexion with less extension than is required from running and walking. Though Fetters says this doesn’t automatically make the elliptical any safer than the treadmill, there’s certainly lower risk of strain.

As tame as it sounds, consider sticking to the elliptical even if you’re looking for a more challenging workout. Unlike the treadmill, you have the option of manipulating the elliptical’s resistance. “And you can use that to your advantage,” explains Fetters, especially if you’re looking to up the ante and put a little more power behind your movements.

“A lot of time people just feel like the elliptical is easier,” says Fetters. And because they don’t expect a challenge, they coast through the workout by relying on the machine’s momentum. Of course, this won’t do much in the way of building muscle and bone-strength. The treadmill requires users to keep up with the belt’s speed, but since your feet are anchored to the elliptical, it’ll keep moving with you regardless of whether you decide to actually the put in the work and keep pace.

Part of this work includes resisting the elliptical’s handlebars—a structural downside. They eliminate a lot the benefits of the workout, because you’re not getting the core rotation you’d get if your arms were to naturally sway at your sides, Fetters says. Plus, this distributes some of your weight to the hand rails, which means less of a leg workout. Rely on the handles to brace yourself, otherwise ignore them.

And what about the pros and cons of the treadmill?

“Loading the bones through high impact strengthens your bones,” says Fetters. “Stress the bones just like the muscles, and they’ll get stronger.” Weight-bearing machines such as the treadmill are ideal for this because your bones brace the impact of the ground as you walk and run.

The treadmill burns 566 to 839 calories per hour (based on a 125- to 185-pound woman).

And as you get stronger, you can shake things up by manipulating the incline and training programs to resemble varied outdoor workouts, which obviously comes in handy if you’re a runner.

Treadmills allow you to meet your running and pacing goals with the same versatility that comes with running uphill and suddenly sprinting on flat terrain, regardless of weather, says Kat Ellis, CPT.

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While you’re propelling your body on a treadmill (which requires more effort than an elliptical), you’re not totally relying on your own force since the belt is moving under you. So, as many features as there are to make your treadmill workout feel like an outdoor run, you’re not pushing off of stationary ground which Fetters says, isn’t optimal if you’re training for a marathon or a race. However, she points out that non-motorized treadmills, where you push the belt to move instead of having to keep up with an automatic one, gets you one step closer to that outdoor marathon-training experience.

And just like that outdoor experience, running on a treadmill puts a lot of pressure on your joints. While the impact from the treadmill is good for your bones, even the most experienced runner risks knee, ankle, and hip injuries, which are less common in elliptical use, Ellis explains.

So, which is better?

It depends on your skill level and the intensity you’re after.

Fetters says when it comes to these two machines, it’s more of an and situation rather than an or one.

Yes, the treadmill does have an edge over the elliptical when it comes to calories burned, according to Ellis, since it requires more energy, but it doesn’t mean much if injury is preventing you from running altogether.

The major disparity is rooted in how much harder people tend to work on treadmills compared to ellipticals, says Fetters. But as long as you’re keeping your torso steady and really working those legs in time with the machine, an elliptical workout can feel just as intense as one on a treadmill.

Aryelle Siclait Assistant Editor Aryelle Siclait is an assistant editor at Women’s Health where she writes about relationship trends, sexual health, pop-culture news, food, and physical health for verticals across WomensHealthMag.com and the print magazine.

Elliptical Cross Trainer vs Treadmill: Which is Better?

It is very important to understand the differences between the elliptical cross trainer and the treadmill before you make your choice. Is the elliptical machine more effective for weight loss than the treadmill? Which one should I use if I want to work my thighs and glutes? What if I just want to get some exercise to stay in shape? Is the treadmill recommended if I have knee problems? To help you make the right choice, discover our comparison and understand the differences and benefits of each fitness machine!

1) Elliptical Cross Trainer or Treadmill to lose weight?

Both the elliptical cross trainer and the treadmill are effective for weight loss! Indeed, to lose weight, you need to burn calories and these two cardio machines will allow you to burn a lot of calories.

Which cardio machine burns the most calories: the treadmill or the elliptical trainer?

The answer is straightforward: it depends;) Indeed, the calories burned depend on the intensity and the duration of your workout. For example, you’ll burn a lot more calories by doing an HIIT interval training on your elliptical cross trainer than if you walk or run on your treadmill at a medium speed. However, at equal heart rate, the treadmill wins over the elliptical. Why ? Because the elliptical trainer always accompanies you in your movements and therefore provides some of the effort while you have to move your entire body and weight on the treadmill.

How many calories are burned on the elliptical machine vs treadmill?

1h of exercise Calories burned
Elliptical cross trainer, low to high intensity 500 to 880 kcal
Treadmill, low to high intensity 455 to 830 kcal

Another important factor to be taken into account in the calculation of calories burned is your weight. While it has little influence when you exercise on an elliptical trainer since the machine carries you and accompanies your movements, it does matter when you run on a treadmill. For example, a 60 kg person will burn on average 470 kcal per hour on a treadmill for an average speed of 8 km/h. A 70 kg person will burn 560 kcal and an 85 kg person 690 kcal.

That being said, is the cross trainer more effective than the treadmill to lose weight and fat?

Sure, the treadmill helps you burn more calories. However, the elliptical cross trainer seems more effective for weight loss and fat burning for several reasons. First, the elliptical trainer allows you to follow high intensity workout routines (HIIT) and burn a lot of calories in a short time, which is still possible with the treadmill by increasing its incline but in a much less flexible way. Secondly, it is possible to target certain muscles such as the thighs, buttocks or arms with the elliptical bike, especially during an interval training (HIIT) by increasing the resistance of the machine, as we will see in the following chapter, and tone specific parts of your body. Finally, the elliptical trainer is more accessible than the treadmill and easier to handle.

When you want to lose weight, you should also work out your muscles to strengthen the weak parts of your body in order to have a more athletic body. That’s why it’s important to know which muscles are used on the treadmill and on the elliptical cross trainer.

The treadmill wins over the the elliptical bike in terms of calories burned. However, the difference is not that big and you will manage to lose weight with either machine if you exercise regularly at a medium or high intensity. You need to work out hard if you really want to burn calories!

If you want to burn calories, you need to increase your heart rate, which means that you need to increase your speed and the resistance level of your fitness machine. If you walk on your treadmill, you will burn on average only 300 kcal per hour. On the elliptical bike, make sure you do not let yourself be carried by the machine without making any effort. You’ll feel like you’re exercising but you’re not. You have to work out if you want to burn calories and lose weight!

2) Elliptical Cross Trainer vs Treadmill: Which muscles work?

Elliptical trainers and treadmills are not strength machines but cardio machines, which means that they will help you tone your muscles, especially in the legs, thighs and butt, but not to inflate them. If that’s your primary goal, then you should look for a strength machine or lift weights.

The elliptical trainer and the treadmill both work the muscles of the lower part of the body:

– the gluteal muscles (or the butt)

– the muscles of the thighs (quadriceps and hamstrings, located respectively at the front and the back of the thighs)

– leg muscles (calves and anterior tibial)

The advantage of the elliptical cross trainer over the treadmill is that it also works the muscles of the arms, belly and chest. When you actively pull the handlebars, you work your biceps and abdominals, and when you push the handlebars, your triceps and pecs are targeted. On the elliptical machine, you can also pedal backward to work the hamstrings which are the muscles located at the back of the thighs.

The treadmill particularly targets the legs, thighs and calves. Your legs will work more on the treadmill than on the elliptical trainer since the shocks induced at each stride on the treadmill are more demanding for the body and also for the muscles whereas your movements are accompanied by the machine on the elliptical bike.

Is the elliptical cross trainer or the treadmill the best cardio machine to work the thighs?

Both fitness machines are effective for strengthening your thighs. On the elliptical trainer, HIIT workouts are easier since the machine responds much faster than the treadmill. To work the thighs on the treadmill, you will need to increase the incline. On the elliptical trainer, hold the handles in the middle, put your butt back and do an interval training during which you will increase the resistance of the elliptical as well as your speed for 20 to 30 seconds, then recover for 30 to 40 seconds and repeat 8 to 10 times. It is a very effective exercise to strengthen your thighs and glutes.

To sum up, if your goal is to work your thighs and strengthen your buttocks, then the treadmill and the elliptical trainer are both effective. For that purpose, we have a little preference for the elliptical trainer since you can more easily target specific muscles during an interval training with an increase in the resistance. However, if you want to strengthen your arms, then we definitely recommend the elliptical bike.

Muscles need resistance to work. If you want to strengthen your muscles, you need to increase the resistance of your cross trainer or the incline of your treadmill. By doing so, you will also burn more calories!

3) Elliptical trainer vs treadmill when you have knee or joint problems?

The treadmill stresses the joints more and causes shock at each stride. Running on a treadmill can cause very small injuries called microtrauma in the hips, knees and ankles because of the weight of the body absorbed with each stride (the feet absorb 2 to 3 times the weight of the body with each stride). If you have problems with the joints or the knees, it is recommended to choose an elliptical trainer rather than a treadmill. On the elliptical bike, there is no impact and no shock. The elliptical movements are smooth, making it a very gentle fitness machine for the joints. For this reason, the elliptical trainer or even the stationary bike is more recommended for the seniors and elderly than the treadmill.

However, for the knee rehabilitation for example, the elliptical can in some cases be contraindicated because the knees continuously work (see with your doctor in this case), the exercise bike can in that case be a better option.

Exercising on a treadmill is however better running outside on a solid surface for the joints because the treadmill partly absorb the shocks.

4) What is better: a treadmill or an elliptical machine? Advantages and disadvantages

The treadmill and the elliptical machine are cardio machines that offer great benefits: they help you work your cardiovascular system and your heart, improve your endurance and maintain your fitness, burn calories and fat, lose weight, and finally tone your muscles, especially the legs, thighs and glutes. However, these fitness machines correspond to different types of usage and users we are comparing in the table below.

Treadmill vs elliptical machine: Comparison of the advantages and disadvantages of each piece of cardio equipment

Elliptical Cross Trainer: Pros and Cons

• Easy to handle

• Varied movements: with or without arms, backward pedaling

• Cardio and HIIT workout routines

• Muscle legs, thighs, glutes and arms

• Energy expenditure: 455 to 830 kcal per hour

• Safe for the joints

• Suitable for everyone (beginners and advanced)

Treadmill: Pros and Cons

• Requires some experience to find right position and balance

• Walking or running

• Cardio training (not really appropriate for HIIT)

• Muscle legs, thighs and glutes

• Energy expenditure: 500 to 890 kcal per hour

• Joint stress (hips, knees and ankles)

• Suitable for runners and joggers

In general, the elliptical trainer is appreciated by all those who wish to stay in shape, lose weight, strengthen the muscles of the thighs, legs and buttocks, without being professional athletes while people who are already jogging or running tend to favor the treadmill to find the sensations they already know and continue to track their performance when they train at home. To learn more, read our article about the 10 criteria to consider when choosing your elliptical trainer.

Keep in mind that you should at least exercise for 10 minutes per session on your elliptical cross trainer or treadmill, ideally 30 to 45-minute sessions to maximize the benefits of exercise on your body and health!

David Anderson, Fitness Writer
David Anderson is a professional writer with 15 years of experience in the sports and fitness industry. He has been writing about fitness and giving workout tips and advice for the Vescape Fitness Shop since 2016.

10 Tips to Choose the right Elliptical Machine

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A: When people talk about using two methods to get the “same workout,” they are often referring to the cardiovascular response to exercise. In other words, they figure that if you’re using the same muscles, and your heart rate is elevated, the workouts are equal in their respective effects on the body. This isn’t the case.
Running involves considerably more impact, and every time your foot strikes the ground, or treadmill, your leg experiences a force about two and half times your bodyweight. Think about this way: in the middle of a stride, your entire body is airborne. Due to gravity, you’re actually picking up speed, downward, as you land on your forward leg. That leg has to catch you, completely arrest your downward motion, and then generate enough force to accelerate your body mass back into the air.
With the elliptical trainer, your body weight is constantly supported. You’re always attached to the machine, and your feet are traveling in a prescribed arc. The elliptical trainer is not exerting the force against your body that the ground or treadmill exerts as you land with each foot strike. Your heart rate might be elevated, and you might be breathing hard on the elliptical machine, but your muscles, ligaments, tendons, and bones aren’t undergoing the same stresses.
The bigger question, however, is whether running for ten minutes on a treadmill and using an elliptical trainer for 45 are equal in their impact on your fitness. To improve cardiovascular fitness, the longer you can sustain exercise, the better. If that means using a lower-impact machine so you can go nonstop for 45 minutes, that’s better than exercising some other way for just ten minutes. The key elements in cardiovascular fitness are time and consistency.
If your goal is to finish a local charity run, a 10k, or a marathon, you have to start running for real. Right now if you can sustain ten minutes, and you’re struggling by the time you’re done, your body sees that unpleasant experience as a good reason to adapt, so the same effort isn’t as difficult the next time. The elliptical machine might stress the cardiovascular system, and cause it to adapt, but in order to develop the muscles and technique necessary to be a runner, you need to run. Filed To: Performance InsidersRunningEndurance Training

Which Is Better: Treadmill or Elliptical?

Photo: spyderskidoo/skynesher/Getty Images

The cardio room is rife with a rivalry more contentious than Kanye vs. Taylor-obviously, we’re talking about the elliptical vs. treadmill.

Sure, both pieces of equipment are classified as cardio machines, but each has its own advantages and disadvantages. To figure out whether the elliptical or treadmill is better, we took the question to fitness experts.

Best for tracking progress: Treadmill

The biggest benefit of running on a treadmill is that they’re easy to use and micro-programmable, says Mackenzie Banta, a personal trainer with Trainiac, a personal training app-everything you need is right on the screen in front of you.

Because treadmills are so high-tech these days, they’re incredible tools for data, says Karli Alvino, a run coach at Mile High Run Club in New York City. “You can track time, distance, segment time, and pace on most treadmill models, so you can easily track your progress.” The screen doesn’t lie, which makes it a great accountability tool and way to see improvements week over week. (Related: The 30-Day Treadmill Workout Challenge That’s Actually Fun)

On the flip side, because there’s more variation between different elliptical machines and manufacturers, one mile on one elliptical can require a different amount of work than one mile on another.

Best if you have an injury: Elliptical

The biggest benefit of the elliptical is that they’re lower impact than the treadmill, says Manning Sumner, C.S.C.S., a certified strength and conditioning coach for RSP Nutrition. Your foot is in constantly on the pedal, which eliminates the force of picking your foot up and placing it back down with all your bodyweight (which happens while running), he explains. This makes it a great option for both people who are workout beginners, returning from a gym hiatus, or who have injuries.

“Since the elliptical has a significantly lower impact on the major joints, it’s a safer and more accessible way for people with knee, hip, or back injuries to get a good aerobic workout,” adds Banta. Even if you don’t have a preexisting lower-body injury, incorporating the elliptical occasionally may help prevent wear-and-tear on the body. (Related: This Boxing-Style HIIT Workout Is Designed for People with Knee Pain)

Best for race training: Treadmill

While treadmills may be higher impact than ellipticals, they’re a lower-impact running option compared to the pavement, explains Banta. “Treadmills get a bad rap for being a high-impact training tool, but they’re not,” she says. “The treadmill has less impact on the body, especially the feet, knees, and hips than running on pavement because a treadmill is built to absorb some of that impact.” (BTW, did you know there’s a cutting edge pace-matching treadmill that could make pacing even easier?)

Unlike the elliptical, which operates on a set moving pattern, the treadmill also gives you the opportunity to focus on running form, which will translate to both the pavement and the trails-a major perk for folks training for outdoor races. (Related: 8 Treadmill Mistakes You’re Making)

Best for a full-body workout: Elliptical

Most elliptical trainers combine a leg and arm motion. “Because there are handlebars that you push and pull against resistance, you’re getting a full-body workout,” says Banta.

Yes, your arms are indeed moving enough to strengthen your upper body, agrees Allen Conrad, D.C., C.S.C.S., a chiropractor and certified strength and conditioning coach. (Specifically, your triceps, upper back, shoulder, and chest muscles.) Increase the resistance or add in some arm-only intervals for an even better arm pump.

Plus, because you’re using your lower and upper body at the same time, your core has to engage to keep your body balanced, says Banta. You can even try pedaling backward to change the muscles being worked and target the hamstrings, glutes, and calves differently.

Best to strengthen your legs: Treadmill

Sorry, folks, but running can’t replace leg day. (Though, why would you want to, considering all the benefits of lifting heavy?)

That said, the treadmill can strengthen your leg muscles if you take advantage of the machines incline range, says Conrad. Moving on an incline is like doing hill runs but on steroids. Running on a variety of inclines will force you to engage your quads, glutes, calves, and core to a greater degree. Why? Because you have to work against gravity even if the incline angle isn’t super steep.

Friendly PSA: “If sprinting or running is too hard, you can walk at an incline and still get great strength results,” says Sumner.

Best to burn more calories: Treadmill

Let’s be clear: Both cardio machines are better compared to the alternative of performing zero cardio and both can be used to burn calories, says Alvino.

“But when comparing apples to apples, the treadmill will earn you a greater calorie burn than the elliptical,” she says. That’s because any time you have to pick your foot up off the ground, your body is going to use more energy than when your foot stays planted. (Here are some tips to max out your treadmill workout for even more benefits.)

That said, how hard you’re working plays a role: For instance, a slow, 20-minute jog on the treadmill won’t burn as many calories as going H-A-M on the elliptical set to high resistance.

Whichever machine you opt for burning calories, Alvino suggests sticking to interval-based training, which has been shown to burn fat and boost metabolism. (If you’re on the treadmill, try these running interval workouts; if you’re on the elliptical, try this interval plan.)

Best for weight loss: Either

You’re probably wondering which machine is better from a weight loss perspective. Sumner says there’s no clear winner on this front. “Neither is ‘better’ you just need to figure out what’s best for you,” he says. This will depend on which machine you prefer, if you have any preexisting injuries, and which machine helps you personally reach your goals.

“Both the treadmill and the elliptical are great tools for weight loss,” agrees Banta. “When combined with a healthier diet, both can help individuals log the caloric deficit necessary for weight loss.” (More: How to Create Your Own Workout Routine for Weight Loss).

To save money: Elliptical

If you’re reading this because you’re not sure whether to purchase a treadmill or elliptical for your home gym, know that ellipticals are generally less expensive. For instance, the top-selling elliptical on Amazon only costs $260, compared to the top treadmill’s $600 price tag.

Note: Neither treadmill nor elliptical workouts can take the place of strength training, says Banta. So you might consider buying an elliptical and using the savings on other affordable at-home gym equipment like dumbbells or kettlebells. (Not sure which elliptical to invest in? Check out the Shape elliptical picks.)

So, which is better: elliptical or treadmill?

“Ultimately, it depends on your body and your goals,” says Conrad. The treadmill mimics the natural movement of running outside, which makes it a better option for race and sports training. But the elliptical is the lower-impact option of the two, so it’s a safer and better option for folks with ankle, hip, and knee issues.

As for weight loss and calorie burn, it’s best to choose a workout you actually want to do. So, hey, if you’re not in the mood for either, there’s always the stair climber or the weight room.

  • By By Gabrielle Kassel


First, know that your concern is not unfounded. Research has shown that novice runners with a BMI of 25 or higher have a higher risk of injury than their lighter counterparts, likely because the extra pounds increase impact forces on your body. Dropping your BMI below 25 can decrease your risk of injury by 10 percent.

If it’s early on in your training, say four or fewer months out, substituting the elliptical for one or two runs a week while you drop some pounds is fine, says Dr. John Porcari, an exercise scientist at the University of Wisconsin La Crosse.

At the turn of the century, when elliptical machines were exploding in popularity, Porcari studied the difference between ellipticizing and treadmill running and found that heart rate and oxygen consumption were nearly identical when exercising at a similar rate of perceived exertion. The impact forces on the elliptical, however, were more comparable to walking than to running, making the elliptical a good alternative for cardiovascular conditioning without the pounding.

But, Porcari points out, cardio is only part of the marathon prep equation. “The problem, especially if you’re a recreational runner, is not so much your cardiovascular endurance as your musculoskeletal endurance,” he says. “When you’re running a marathon, you’re not really taxing your cardiovascular system, you’re taxing your musculoskeletal system.” Most recreational runners race a marathon at a fairly relaxed effort of 60 to 65 percent of their VO2 max, Porcari says.

Yes, you can certainly use the elliptical to keep up your cardio conditioning and shed some weight. But only running will properly prepare your body—bones, joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments—to pound out 26.2 miles. Once you’re within four months of race day, try to get your scheduled runs in.

(Bonus: Still worried about injury? Increasing your cadence by just five percent can help lessen impact forces on your knees, and therefore your risk of injury at that joint, according to a study published last year. If you take 170 steps per minute, for example, try upping that to 178.)

Lead Photo: Maridav, bikeriderlondon/

The answer: The treadmill pulls ahead of the elliptical—but just barely. Of course, that’s assuming you’re working at the same level of exertion. “If we were to compare apples to apples—same heart rate on both machines—you would burn a few more calories running on the treadmill,” she says.
What’s the advantage of hitting the belt? Simple: Your feet don’t stay planted the entire time. “Any time your body leaves the ground, as with running, that requires more energy,” says Perkins.

MORE: Is It Possible to Run Too Much?
The caveat, of course, is that how hard you push yourself determines how many calories you burn on either piece of equipment. Although most people find it easier to elevate their heart rate on the treadmill, says Perkins, those who consider running to be absolute torture may prefer to fire up their calorie-burning engines on the elliptical. “If you’re on the elliptical and you crank it up to level-20 resistance, you’re going to be burning more calories than if you jog along on the treadmill at four miles an hour,” she says.
MORE: 18 Ways to Change Up Your Running Routine

If you’re one of the treadmill-hating exercisers, you can make your elliptical workout tougher by going hands-free. “If you’re holding on, you’re stabilizing yourself,” says Perkins. “That means all of the little baby stabilizer muscles don’t have to work.” By letting go, you force these balancing muscles to do their job—and that can help you torch a few extra calories, even if you’re swinging your arms to help keep your body upright. (Similarly, if you hold on to the treadmill bar, you’ll compromise your burn.)

You can also try switching the direction your legs are pumping. “A lot of people forget to go backward on the elliptical,” says Perkins. “That’s an awesome way to increase the intensity and get a new kind of workout.”

MORE: 5 Ways to be a Faster and Happier Runner

Elliptical vs Treadmill: Which is Best for You?

Are you looking to purchase cardio equipment but aren’t sure whether a treadmill or elliptical is best for you? The following might help you make a decision if you only have the option for one piece of equipment.

You will find that both a treadmill and an elliptical cross trainer deliver a great cardio workout and provide an effective means of training. Both equipment types are a great way to escape the weather all while getting your heart rate up and burning calories. There are however, advantages and disadvantages to each so it’s important to find your best fit.

Elliptical Machine Benefits

  1. One of the primary benefits of using an elliptical is that it provides a low-impact cardiovascular workout letting you avoid the pounding associated with other activities such as running. If done correctly, there is minimal impact on the hip, knee, and ankle joints. Along with an elliptical, an exercise bike and rowing machine will provide a low-impact workout as well.
  2. Unlike a treadmill, an elliptical can deliver a full-body workout provided you use the handles. To do so effectively, you will want to actively push and pull on the handles while engaging your core muscles. This done in conjunction with the movement and power generated from your legs will provide all-around muscle toning. If you are looking to mainly target your lower body, you can however forgo the use of the handles focusing most muscle exertion to your legs and core.
  3. Generally speaking, an elliptical may be slightly safer than a treadmill since your feet never leave the pedals. This eliminates the potential misstep resulting in a potential fall or loss of balance.
  4. Depending on the type of treadmill, some treadmills will require periodic maintenance whereas an elliptical does not require regular maintenance. While the maintenance is only requires the lubricating and possible centering of the treadmill belt, if you are looking for a no-maintenance machine you may want to consider an elliptical or no-maintenance treadmill.
  5. Depending on the model, some elliptical machines will let you pedal backwards allowing you to more directly target a different set of leg muscles.

Treadmill Benefits

  1. Running on a treadmill provides you with a more consistent workout when relating to running outdoors. Targeting your calves, quads, hamstrings, glutes, and hip muscles. Treadmill running provides a great means of training for your outdoor runs and races in the comfort and convenience of your home or gym. When the weather outside isn’t ideal or if your schedule doesn’t permit the time, running on a treadmill may be the perfect alternative.
  2. Unlike an elliptical, running on a treadmill allows for your feet to completely lift off the treadmill belt. In doing so you are required to engage your ab muscles more to keep your body stable and centered within the treadmill.
  3. While both a treadmill and elliptical have roughly the same footprint, treadmills are generally shorter and easier to fit within an average sized ceiling height. Not only is an elliptical machine taller, but it also requires more room due to the ocular rotation of the pedals. Furthermore, people tend to “bounce” while using an elliptical, especially at the apex of the rotation requiring additional available head space. All things considered, if you have limited available space, a treadmill may be the best fit.

Weight Loss: Elliptical vs Treadmill

For the most part, all forms of cardio exercise equipment have the same potential for weight loss. It all depends on the amount of effort you are willing to put into it. The more you crank up the resistance, incline, or speed, the more you will maximize your caloric burn and weight loss potential. So if your end goal is weight loss, both a treadmill and elliptical will help you achieve your goal.

The bottom line: choose which option best fits your needs and remember fitness equipment is only beneficial if you use it! Set attainable goals and create a circle of health for yourself for today and the future!

Elliptical vs. Treadmill

Treadmill vs. Elliptical for Burning Calories

Treadmills and elliptical trainers are both great for burning calories but with elliptical machines it is important to crank up the resistance and not rely on the momentum of the fly-wheel.

A study by the Medical College of Wisconsin found that running on a treadmill for an hour burned an average of 705-866 calories. An hour on an elliptical trainer burns approximately 773 calories.

Mechanism of operation

An elliptical trainer emulates a running motion using suspended peddles that move in an elliptical motion. A treadmill provides a moving platform that could be flat or inclined at an angle for the user to walk or run on.

Advantages of Elliptical Trainers over Treadmills

Elliptical machines offer three advantages over treadmills:

  • No impact on joints: Treadmills are low impact machines for joints in the lower body — knees, ankles and hips. The degree of impact depends upon the style of the person exercising. Walking, for example, has minimal impact while running has a larger impact on the joints. An elliptical machine, on the other hand, has no impact on joints. So it is preferable for people with joint problems.
  • Full body workout: Some elliptical trainers are equipped with movable handles or poles. These allow you to exercise both your arms and your legs (lower and upper body).
  • Elliptical machines can be pedaled in reverse, which allows you to work your calf and hamstring muscles a bit more than during a forward motion.


Ellipticals provide a good workout, but the perceived exertion is lower. This means they can burn more calories with less (perceived) effort.

Although treadmills have many settings, they are an intense workout, and some users may prefer something less draining.

Safety of Ellipticals vs Treadmills

Treadmills can be dangerous at high intensity settings, such as incline sprints, if a user does not have adequate skill. The use of a treadmill can also put stress on the spine, hips, keens and ankle joints, especially if used without a warm up. They may also cause posture problems.


Elliptical machines are less versatile than treadmills, as they lack the same number of uphill options. Treadmills offer a variety of options, including in speed and incline.

Cross training

Elliptical trainers, however, have an advantage in that they provide a full-body workout and allow for cross training. Some elliptical machines are equipped with movable handle bars that allow the user to exercise the upper body and lower body simultaneously.

Tips for using Treadmills and Elliptical Trainers

When using an elliptical trainer, crank up the resistance; don’t just use the machine’s momentum. Get your muscles moving and your heart rate up. The more oxygen you consume, the more calories you burn. If you use an elliptical machine, maintain good posture — keep your shoulders back, your head up and your abdominal muscles tight. Look forward, not down at your feet. And don’t lean on the handles; let your lower body support your weight.

Running is an inefficient movement. So from a fat or calorie burning perspective, running (whether on a treadmill or outdoors) burns a lot of calories. So just like using a treadmill, crank up the intensity on the treadmill, huff and puff to burn calories. If walking on a treadmill, set the incline so that you are walking uphill.

The key in both cases is to work hard. If you can watch TV or read a magazine, you are not working hard enough at the exercise and will not get the maximum benefit from it.

Space requirements

If a treadmill or elliptical trainer is for home use, space could be an important consideration. In general, both machines take up roughly the same space because they are roughly the same size. Several treadmill models can be folded to conserve space when not using the machine. Some elliptical machines also allow folding but there are fewer such models. There are, however, smaller elliptical setups that require less room compared to treadmills.


Some good elliptical trainers are available on Amazon.com starting at less than $145. Treadmills on Amazon.com start at $150. The cardio exercise machines page on Amazon.com lists over 20,000 treadmills and less than 700 elliptical trainers for sale. This gives an idea of the relative popularity of the two machines.

  • Mayo Clinic

Treadmill vs. elliptical: Which one is better for your workout?

Treadmills and elliptical machines are two of the most popular ways to get in a cardio workout, but is one better than the other?

Sergio Pedemonte, trainer and co-owner of Your House Fitness in Toronto, said there are a few differences between the two.

“The difference between the treadmill and the elliptical is that the treadmill allows you to adjust the incline levels and switch the speed (whether you want to walk, jog, run or sprint),” he told Global News. “It provides you with more of a lower-body workout and mimics the natural movement of walking or running outside.”

READ MORE: 5 reasons why it’s better to work out in the morning

The elliptical, he added, allows you to select the resistance with which you want to work.

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“As your feet are placed into pads, the movement is more controlled,” he explained. “It allows you to shorten or elongate the stride of the machine. The elliptical machine comes with two side handles for the hands and pads for your feet, allowing the user to work on their upper body and lower body.”

He added that when you use the elliptical, you can choose either to include the arms or not. Switching from a forward motion (dominant on the glutes and hamstrings muscles) to a backward motion (dominant on the quadriceps and calves) focuses on different muscle groups.

Both are good for warm-ups and interval workouts.

When to use each one

Elliptical machine:

Elliptical machines are best for low-impact cardio because there is less pressure on the joints.

“If your knees hurt while running on the treadmill or if you suffer from shin splints, it might be worth trying out an elliptical,” he said.

There are ways to get a good workout on an elliptical machine. Experts for Self magazine note that you should always keep your feet flat on the pedals.
READ MORE: Is the treadmill test a good measure of your risk of death?

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“Proper form will help you avoid the aches and pains that can creep up when your body isn’t in alignment. Your feet go on the pedals, and your hands hold the bars alongside the machine or at the base of the monitor, depending on the type of elliptical. Be sure to keep a micro-bend in your knees and elbows, and remember to keep feet flat against the pedals as opposed to standing on your toes,” Annette Comerchero, founder of Elliptifit studio, told the magazine.


Pedemonte said treadmills are better if you are prepping for a marathon or if you want to practice incline walking (or walking on hills).

“(Treadmills are also good) if you want to focus on sprinting and don’t have the space available,” he explained.

Treadmills are good alternatives for people who aren’t able to do their workout outside but still want to walk, jog or sprint.

“They’re both great machines. Just remember to only use them once you know how to. If you don’t know, ask a trainer or someone that knows in the facility you are working out in,” he added.

“One of the most common mistakes is when someone tries to mimic what someone else is doing without knowing why or what the purpose of what they’re doing is,” he explained. “Certain things should only be done by seasoned athletes so make sure you are working within your fitness levels and respect your physical limitations. Always ask a professional if you’re unsure of what to do.”

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Choosing a machine

Before choosing a machine, Pedemonte said there are four things to consider: your goals, your fitness level, your comfort level and your risk of injury (as well as if you have a past injury).

“Do you need support to walk or having trouble balancing yourself? Both the elliptical and treadmill have a support bar that you can hold onto if you need to steady yourself,” he said. “One thing to keep in mind is that the elliptical only allows you to do a specific movement versus the treadmill, where it allows variation on every step.”

READ MORE: Treadmill dangers a fresh concern after death of U.S. tech CEO

If you can run, use the treadmill. If not, start with the elliptical and select a resistance that allows you to simulate running.

“Do … your knees bother you or your shins hurt? Switch to the elliptical until you feel better. This way, you can continue to work on your cardiovascular system without risking injury,” Pedemonte said.

[email protected]
Follow @ArtiPatel © 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Body Workout: Stair stepper vs. elliptical vs. treadmill

07 Sep Body Workout: Stair stepper vs. elliptical vs. treadmill

Posted at 08:24h in Miscellaneous by Karina Ionescu

Stair stepper, elliptical and treadmill machines are some of the most popular machines known for cardio vascular workouts. These machines are related to each other because their basic purpose is low impact endurance training but a closer look at these three will reveal the real differences in their functioning and impact. Given below are the points of differences between stair stepper, elliptical and treadmill machines.

  • UPPER BODY WORKOUT: Both stair steppers as well as treadmill is not beneficial when it comes to upper body workout. Elliptical machines are known for the ski-like motion and these are very useful for the people who want to work upon their triceps, biceps and upper back muscles.
  • LOWER BODY WORKOUT: In the case of stair stepper, there is a wavelike motion which tends to release the body muscles, thereby toning gluteus muscles, leg and quad exercises. In the case of treadmill, there is an increased calve motion which steer aerobic exercises and helps in improving inclination postures. Elliptical machines have a lower hand when it comes to lower body workout.
  • CARDIO WORKOUTS: Amongst all the three cardio machines, stair stepper is known to be the best cardio workout machine. It is so because exercising on a stair stepper regulates the blood flow very fast, no matter at what speed you are working out. Treadmills are preferred because of the digital screen feature which can measure your heart beat and MPH speeds. While in the case of elliptical, the benefits to cardio muscles depend upon the intensity and speed but these machines are still known for the complete body toning and muscle workouts.
  • CALORIE BURNING: If you are looking forward for the machine that would burn your calories in lesser time, go in for elliptical machines. It is so because both stair stepper as well as treadmill is not beneficial when it comes to upper body workout. 30 minutes of workout on an elliptical will nearly burn around 335 calories; on stair stepper you will burn nearly 223 calories whereas on treadmill the count would be approximately 300. It is therefore advised to choose an elliptical machine if you are looking forward for burning calories.
  • BENEFITS: In stair stepper the power is generated through the legs and the speed of workout is totally dependent upon the user. In treadmills all the functions and aspects of the exercises that are performed can be controlled by the operator. Elliptical machines are beneficial in balancing quad and hamstring exercises. Also, these machines are highly safe for the obese and overweight people.
  • DISADVANTAGES: Stair steppers and treadmills fail to provide upper body inclusion. Stair steppers sometimes result in posture problems and the actual calorie loss is lesser. In the case of treadmill, there is no reflex training because of the smaller stride length. Elliptical machines are often cursed because of the complexity of its movements. Many people fail to understand the rules and regulations of using the machine and many a times this result in injuries or posture issues.

Variety of these machines like Bowflex Treadclimber, NordicTrack Elliptical and many others are available in the market, among which you can make a choice depending upon your requirements.

Last Updated on November 24, 2019

You can check out our selection of the top picks here: best mini ellipticals & best mini steppers

Both these machines are targeted at home users who maybe don’t do as much exercise as they would like. Often these machines are a starting point for improving fitness and helping with weight loss. Although both styles of equipment are relatively inexpensive, easy to store and portable, they differ in the results they can achieve. Here we have a quick rundown of the differences between mini elliptical vs mini steppers so you can choose the best machine to meet your needs.

How They Work

Although both machines look similar they actually work in fundamentally different ways. A compact elliptical is essentially the footplate only section of the traditional elliptical fitness machine. The users mount the footplates and turns the footplates through an arc. The body weight is spread evenly over both feet throughout the exercise action and a walking action is produced.

With a mini stepper, the user mounts the footplates and depresses the plates to create an up and down stepping action. Essentially the user’s body weight is focussed through each leg during each step so more resistance to each leg occurs.


Both machines are low impact machines. Essentially, high impact activities tend to involve periods where both the user’s feet are off the ground. When the user lands the shock of the user’s body weight slamming down through each foot causes stress on bones and joints. This can lead to joint problems over time. Neither of these machines requires the user to leave the ground or leaves the user unsupported. Essentially neither machine should cause impact-type injuries to joints.

In a direct comparison between the two pieces of equipment, it could be argued that the portable elliptical offers less impact than the compact home mini stepper. The step machine requires you to lift your body weight and transfer it back down to the ground through different legs. This action probably incurs slightly more impact than the elliptical. On the portable elliptical machine, both feet are fully supported and body weight is spread evenly throughout the exercise action.

Cardio Benefits

Both machines should offer a cardio aerobic workout as they use large muscle groups (thighs and glutes) during the exercise activity. Out of the two machines the under-desk elliptical trainer is likely to offer better cardiovascular exercise as there is no cheat option. The portable stepper can be cheated if the user does not use the correct technique. Many users have a tendency to bounce on steppers and use body weight to displace the steps. Ideally, you should use thigh power alone to move the steps.

A good cardio aerobic workout usually means getting your heart rate up between 60-80% of max heart rate (MHR = 220 – Age). At these levels, the heart and lung muscles develop improved stamina. Fitter individuals find it takes high levels of exercise intensity and duration to reach these levels as their heart and lungs have better stamina. For a beginner, these levels can be reached very quickly. If you are a beginner you are likely to get cardio aerobic benefits from both machines, although if aerobic benefits are the goal you might be better advised to opt for the elliptical. Fitter individuals may find these machines to be less effective than other exercise machines when it comes to getting a full aerobic workout.

Is weight loss possible?

If weight loss is your goal you want to choose the machine that is most effective at burning calories. We already investigated calorie burning in our post on mini exercise bikes where we gave formulas that could be used to calculate calorie burn. These formulas rely on a mixture of variables such as age and current weight, but heart rate plays a major role. Essentially the machine that allows the user to consistently maintain a higher rate is the machine that will burn more calories and therefore be better for weight loss.

We would expect the mini elliptical trainer to be a better choice for weight loss bearing in mind our previous discussion on cardio aerobic workouts.

Muscle Toning Possibilities

Although both machines use leg and lower torso muscle groups neither machine uses exactly the same muscle groups and furthermore the muscles used are not used in the same manner on each machine.

The compact elliptical will exercise the core muscles (mid-torso muscles used for balance including abs, lats, etc), the glutes, hamstrings (back of thighs), quadriceps(front/top of thigh) and calve muscles. The portable step machine places emphasis on the core muscles, calves, glutes, quadriceps and hip flexors.

The elliptical exercise action is a momentum action like walking or running. The muscles are used to propel the body rather than lift the body. The stepper action is a resistance action. Each leg is required to press through the action against resistance. Although both machines will tone legs, hips, and butts, if your goal is a more shapely figure or improved leg shape and toning, the mini stepper is the better machine because of the resistance action.

In conclusion, the mini elliptical trainer is probably better for those individuals who are looking to concentrate on weight loss and improve general fitness levels. Check out the best selling option on the market at our post on the stamina 55-1610 inmotion elliptical trainer. The mini stepper can contribute to weight loss and fitness but offers better results for leg and butt tone than an elliptical might.

Mini Elliptical vs Mini Stepper. Which is Better for Home?


Both types of equipment is relatively inexpensive, easy to store and portable. They differ in the results they can achieve. The mini stepper, a low-impact machine has two-foot plates to stand on and mimics climbing stairs. It moves against hydraulic pressure in its stepping motion. On the other hand, the mini elliptical also has two-foot plates to stand on. A non-impact machine with continuous movement under variable resistance.

Most smaller versions of machines are targeted at home users who may not do as much exercise as they would want. Often, these machines are the starting point for improving fitness, assisting in a patient’s recovery or helping with weight loss.

It is elliptical trainers and step machines we’re talking about here. Arguably, two of the best cardio workout machines available today.

These machines offer a quick, lightweight and compact way to get your heart pumping. A great way to keep your leg muscle toning and your weight loss goals in focus right in your home without hitting the gym or going out for a walk.

You may not need a huge machine at home or the office especially looking at its size and build.
However, fitness equipment manufacturers keep on bringing new technology products and have realized a need to produce portable, simple and easy-to-use options for cardio training lovers.

For this reason, the mini elliptical and mini stepper machines have come to stay.

Table of Contents

Mini elliptical trainer

A lot of people, especially, beginners love the look, feel and build of elliptical trainers. But behind this attraction is the fact that it is a high-impact exercise machine. Just like its smaller version – the mini elliptical which is almost of a low-impact pressure or effort.

They are portable, compact, and lightweight. For example the Stamina InMotion E1000 Compact Elliptical Trainer. If you’re keen on improving your cardiovascular health, toning your leg muscle or burning some calories at the comfort of your home or office – then this elliptical machine will be a good friend for a long time.

For those who prefer home gyms to gym membership subscriptions – this will be a great addition.
A compact elliptical trainer will serve the aged, ill stricken, a homebound person who requires blood circulation all around their body.

This research shows how elliptical exercise compares and provides better results against ground walking, overground jogging, treadmill jogging in a referent adult population.

Mini stepper machine

A mini stepper comes with two-foot plates to stand on. Like climbing stairs, a steeper or a stair stepper utilizes a steady stepping motion.

This slow but steady step motion is exerted against hydraulic pressure. A true low-impact exercise machine you can trust. An example is the Sunny Health & Fitness Twist Stepper.


1. Both are portable, quiet, lightweight and compact machines.

2. These machines can get your heart pumping quickly, tone your leg muscle and burn some extra calories right in your home.

3. These portable elliptical and stepper machines are very affordable. At a price point of between $50 and $200, you can buy any of these exercise machines to improve your fitness and overall health.

4. You can workout on both machines at home or in the office during lunchtime.


1. The up and down continuous movement of the mini stepper causes an impact on the knee. The knee impact should be gentle and checked to avoid any unforeseen knee injury. On the other hand, the consistent and continuous movement of a mini elliptical exerts no direct knee impact.

2. The up and down continuous movement of a workout on a smaller stepper place much emphasis on the core muscles, calves, quadriceps, glutes, etc… Unlike the one continuous movement on an elliptical which emphasizes the hamstrings, mid-torso muscles – abs, lats, etc..

When a Mini elliptical or stepper may be necessary for you…

1. You may be getting all your cardio training needs through long walks or your favourite power walks. But the days are shortening and the weather may be standing in your way, so you may have to bring all your cardio workouts indoor.

2. You live in an apartment with neighbours all around you. Noise making may be a no-no. All you need is a compact elliptical or step machine – basically an elliptical without the handles – just the feet part.

3. You’re desperate to get your heart rate up. You probably get your heart pumping from stair climbing, jogging, walking, or running. However, with a smaller stepper or an elliptical machine, all you need is a
heart rate monitor to track your progress.

4. Who wants to use every bit of space in their home or living room to workout. However, cardio is your thing. So these lightweight and compact machines will be a great addition to your home fitness equipment arsenal.

Benefits of the Mini Elliptical vs Mini Stepper

Weight loss

You’re not alone in your weight loss journey. These compact exercise machines come with no assembling required. They’re pre-assembled. What about burning about 1000 calories before breakfast.

Is that too much to ask? It is possible.

However, choosing the right machine that will help you achieve your weight loss goals is very important. Again, we’ll tie weight loss to your cardio because your heart can’t be ignored when burning calories.

They work hand in hand. The elliptical trainer has a reputation for assisting in weight loss, therefore we can be sure that the mini elliptical will be best for burning extra calories.

Muscle Toning

Many especially beginner complain about how the step machine is difficult to push with your legs.
The stair stepper just like climbing stairs utilizes a steady up and down stepping motion.

This movement hit different muscle groups through a resistant force. And unlike the elliptical machine, which also hit different muscle groups, they all work towards a nice toned leg muscle and body.

Your goal of toning your leg muscle will be better experienced on the stepper machine because of the opposing resistance applied.

Cardiovascular Health

Does your stepper get your heart rate up?
For beginners, these smaller machines will get your heart pumping in no time. Just like climbing stairs if there’s one in your home.

In that, your mind and the effort you exert on the machine would be geared towards seeing results quickly. Whether you’re standing or sitting for a long stepper session or an under-desk elliptical workout in the office.

Professional, on the other hand, may require these compact machines to recover from an acute knee injury or a warm-up for a high-intensity cardio aerobics. And also a great way to get a good workout for your lower body.

How does it compare to other forms of cardio?
Actually, these portable machines are low-impact exercise machines. Unlike the elliptical trainer, we find in gyms that are for high-impact cardio aerobics.

These smaller ones will be okay and fit for purpose. A quick 30 minutes of exercise at home will be great and better than nothing.

Now you know all the nuances of performing an aerobic exercise on a mini stepper or elliptical. What they have in common and how they differ.

What do you think about these amazing cardio machines for your home?

I hope you can make a better decision when you’re in the market for the one that best fits your needs.


Treadmill vs elliptical

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