Susan asks, “What is better, a treadmill or an elliptical?” Great question Susan! As with most things, there is no clear answer, it is dependent on the user of the machine.
Before I proceed, I do want to mention that none of us here are personal trainers nor medical professionals. However, we do know a few. Kevin Deeth, one of our Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) friends at builtlean.com wrote a phenomenal article about the pros and cons of both. Check out the full article at the link above, we’ve also included Kevin’s list of the benefits of each below:
Versatility– From a brisk walk to an uphill sprint, treadmills offer a wide range of options in terms of speed, incline, and multiple training programs.
Emulates Natural Movements– As technology continues to develop, fitness moguls are developing new machines that can be awkward or confusing. The treadmill is familiar and emulates natural movement for walking, jogging, or sprinting.
High Work Output– Propelling your body weight requires substantial effort. As a result, your body will burn calories at a higher rate.
Weight Bearing Effect– Contrary to popular belief, running and walking can help strengthen your bones and muscles which can aid your posture and sustainability as you age.
Well-Researched– Treadmills have been around since the 1800’s and are a staple at every gym and many homes. Naturally, they have been researched, developed, and perfected more than any other piece of cardio equipment.
Non-Impact Conditioning– The elliptical allows your body to emulate a running motion without causing the strenuous impact on your joints that occurs on a treadmill.
Cross-Training Ability– Most elliptical trainers are now equipped with moveable handles which allow you to exercise your upper body and lower body simultaneously.
Reverse Stride– Most elliptical allow you to stride in reverse which can activate different muscle groups and put more emphasis on your quads and offer an adjustable variety mid-workout.
Perceived Exertion Is Lower– Studies show that people are actually working harder than they actually perceive when operating an elliptical. Subjects in the studies were asked to rate their perceived output when operating an elliptical and the majority of research showed subjects underestimating actual output based on their heart rate. Therefore, the elliptical can burn close to the same amount of calories with less effort.
From a technician’s standpoint (something we are qualified to speak about!) maintenance is key. Treadmills require regular lubrication in the same way your car requires regular oil changes. Don’t get scared off by that, check out our easy to follow instructions. Most ellipticals feature sealed bearings and do not require regular lubrication, however, the numerous moving parts and joints do require regular attention. Yearly, if not even more frequently, crank arm hardware, shaft hardware, and arm hardware all need to be tensioned properly. If your machine, no matter what the type, starts making any irregular noises, pinpointing the issue and resolving it as soon as possible can save a service call as well as parts that may have been damaged. Improperly tensioned hardware is the leading cause of premature wear on bearings, bushings, and joints.
When looking to purchase either machine, have all users test the machine you are considering before purchasing. Treadmills come in different lengths and widths, it is important that each user feel stable and secure during their workout. Elliptical patents include the ellipse motion of the machine. You will notice a variance in motion from brand to brand, some being more severe than others. Have each user test the elliptical before purchase, if you are able to get a full workout in that would be even better. As the body mechanics of each person are different it is important to find a motion that is comfortable for everyone. We do highly recommend adjustable stride systems, both manual and motorized. This feature broadens the usability for people with different gaits as well as allows each user to perform different workouts to focus on more specific muscle groups.
One word of caution regarding bells and whistles. Although they are nice to have they are VERY expensive to replace if they break down. It’s not uncommon to see those parts individually cost more than the entire purchase price of the machine. Integrated speakers are nice, but a quality set of headphones, earbuds or a Bluetooth speaker are not only usable elsewhere, but likely have a much lower cost of replacement. Similarly, TV integration is a nice feature, but a standalone TV mounted to the wall, or a tablet mounted to the wall with 3M Command Hooks or resting on the unit’s book holder is generally a more cost-effective option. Lastly, be conscious of your posture while using the machine and viewing a screen. A mount or integrated screen that is too low or too high could negatively impact your posture. Don’t add neck and back pain to your workout!
Thank you again for your question Susan, keep them coming!