Elliptical vs. Treadmill for Weight Loss: Which is Better?

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Elliptical vs. Treadmill for Weight Loss

The battle of the best rages on as elliptical machines measure up against legendary treadmills.

While many are content with their cardio routine that includes 30 minutes on the treadmill coupled with a bit of weight training, some believe that the elliptical trainer provides more opportunity for weight loss. Is the minority right?

About the treadmill

The treadmill has its origins in the 19th century, when it was used to channel the power of animals and humans during work hours. The machine preceded power tools by giving the momentum needed for employees to complete a day’s worth of strenuous labor.

Treadmills were later used as punishment for criminals sentenced to hard labor in prison. Prisoners would have to keep up with the flywheel while walking along on the conveyor belt and guards would have the pleasure of watching.

In many respects, the treadmill hasn’t changed. We still try to keep up with the rhythm of the motor while others in the gym look on with either inspiration or pity. Instead of, however, being forced into manual labor as punishment for a crime that we committed, we choose to step on the mill and pound out thirty minutes of strenuous cardio activity in hopes of reaching that 3,500-calorie deficit and losing one pound.

How useful, though, is the treadmill in helping us achieve this goal?

The treadmill and weight loss

There are a few things to take note of when it comes to treadmills and weight loss:

  • Taking a leisurely pace, around 3.5 mph, burns about 120 calories off a person who is already 125 pounds.​
  • The same person can burn 150 pounds if they power walked at 4.5 mph.
  • Running on a treadmill for 30 minutes burns around 240 calories off a 125-pound person.
  • Sprinting burns even more fat as a 125-pound person is 495 calories lighter after running at ten mph for a half hour.

​It is important to note that exercising on the treadmill only gets better when you are overweight or obese. A person weighing 250 pounds burns twice as much as the individual who is in shape from the start. Such is the reason why many turn to the treadmill when trying to get back on the fitness wagon.

There are, however, several disadvantages associated with the machine that can prevent progress on the road to health and wellness.

Cons of treadmills

Treadmills, as efficient as they are, can be pretty tough on the joints. Running for 30 minutes burns a significant amount of calories but places stress on your spine, hips, ankles, and knees. In fact, many athletes develop what is known as runner’s knee after years of consistently jogging or sprinting on the mill.

You would think that holding onto the machine’s handles would lighten the loan, but not so.

In actuality, the handles on the treadmill are in a weird place that changes the dynamics of your posture stance when you take hold of them during a workout. You do more harm than good when holding onto the rails for dear life while walking or running on the conveyor belt. Still, treadmills give the athlete variety and eventually leads to weight loss.

Is there a better way in the elliptical machine?

About the elliptical trainer

The elliptical machine is a stationary exercise system that simulates walking or running just like the treadmill. Unlike the conveyor belt, the elliptical presents low-impact exercises that keep excessive pressure off the joints. You can essentially get the same walking or running session in that you would on a treadmill by using an elliptical machine.

The equipment comes with the added benefit of individual handlebars that are connected to the foot area. You can get a full body workout with an elliptical trainer because the machine works your arms, chest, legs, and back simultaneously.​

A few more benefits of elliptical machines include:

  • Reduced mineral loss in the bones, which is a significant perk for the elderly.​
  • More comfortable than trudging it out on a conveyor belt for a half hour. Elliptical machines have a gliding ability that their treadmill counterparts lack.
  • Change your speed by adjusting the resistance and incline of the elliptical.
  • Diversity in the sense of there being more than one type of machine. Cross-trainers and gliders are two other types of ellipticals that work separately from one another and deliver different results.

Elliptical trainers, of course, come with the incentive of weight loss. Just how much weight can you lose, though?


Image: Elliott Cable

Elliptical trainer weight loss

A study conducted by the Medical College of Wisconsin experimented with a group of subjects who ran on a treadmill for one hour. After completing their routine on the treadmill, the participants found that they were anywhere from 705 to 866 calories lighter.

Meanwhile, a different study showed that individuals who run on an elliptical trainer for 60 minutes could burn upwards of 770 calories.

In comparison: Which is better?

While it is true that a treadmill presents an opportunity to burn more when the analyses are compared with one another, you have to consider two things before determining which machine best fits your lifestyle:

  • Are you in shape? Individuals who are either overweight or obese will burn significantly more on the elliptical trainer than their fit and fabulous counterparts. You may step off the machine 1,000 calories less than what you were before walking into the gym.
  • How would you like your workout? Your quest to feel the burn may cause you to lean more towards the treadmill. The elliptical has a way of making people think that have done much less work than they have accomplished in reality. The treadmill lacks such incentive, which means that you feel every nook and cranny after 30 minutes to an hour on the conveyor belt.

While many view the treadmill as the sole source of a good cardio workout and weight loss tool, some have come to the realization that an elliptical machine is the better way to go when you want to shed calories relatively quickly. Selecting the right device is entirely dependent on your goals and lifestyle.

If you're looking for a tool that brings about weight loss during the beginning stages of your journey back to health, then a treadmill may be the right choice.

Elliptical trainers are the ideal choice for those who value comfort over strenuous activities that could lead to injury. Choosing the right weight loss machine is the first step in your journey to the positive side of health and wellness.​