Elliptical vs. Treadmill Workouts: Which is Right for You?

Whenever I ask people what their favorite way to get cardio in is, they usually mention two pieces of equipment: the elliptical and the treadmill. This is great because both offer a fantastic cardiovascular workout and work well for people of all kinds of fitness backgrounds. But how do these two pieces compare in regards to cost, ease of use and accessibility? Read on to see how ellipticals and treadmills  compare and how they differ- and find the piece of equipment that is perfect for you!


While both ellipticals and treadmills vary greatly in price and quality, when looking at cardio pieces that are appropriate for home use, ellipticals are typically a little bit less costly than treadmills. You have to be a savvy shopper, but know that your dollar is going to go a bit farther when buying an elliptical. While there are quite a few ellipticals on the market that are less than $1,000 and are OK for general home use, I can’t really say that about treadmills. This is because when you look at the basic machinery of the two types of equipment, a treadmill is just a little bit more complicated than an elliptical. When shopping and looking at price, also take into consideration that both pieces may need repairs under regular use, with treadmill belts usually needing a bit more love and repair than an ellitpical. Both pieces should come with warranties.

Who wins this one? The elliptical is a more cost-effective option.

Ease of Use

Nowadays, cardio equipment pieces like ellipticals and treadmills are super easy to use. Most feature a big green “Quick Start” button that you can push and get to working out, changing your speed and incline or resistance. So both are pretty easy to use. However, when it comes to the actual movement, walking and running is something we were born to do, while being on the elliptical is a little less natural and takes some getting used to (although it is fairly ergonomic).

Who wins this one? The treadmill is easier to use for the average person.

Fitness Level

No matter what your fitness level is, you can get a great workout on both pieces of equipment by increasing your intensity through speed, resistance and/or incline. Interval workouts are particularly good on ellipticals and treadmills!

Who wins this one? It depends! For beginners, walking on the treadmill is a great choice. For advanced exercisers, the treadmill allows you to work harder because you can adjust both the speed and the incline together. And for intermediate exerciser? The elliptical is a great way to do something that is more challenging than a walk yet not quite as hard as a jog, and the treadmill is great to do a walk-run workout on!

Special Considerations

If you have a limited range of motion, a disability, are recovering from an injury or just generally have stiff joints, it’s very important to choose a piece of cardio equipment that gets your heart rate up without causing you physical pain (remember, soreness is different than pain). For most people with injuries, the elliptical and walking on the treadmill are both low-impact options that are appropriate for most beginner exercises. (Always contact your doc first though!)

Who wins this one? When it comes to injuries and limited mobility, the elliptical has the slight edge because, although both offer low-impact and weight-bearing exercise, there is a lower risk of injury. The ergonomic motion on an elliptical is already set, so it’s pretty much impossible to do it incorrectly.

The bottomline is that — on the whole — neither the elliptical or the treadmill is better. It really depends on your goals, your needs and what you like. If you hate getting on the elliptical, then it’s probably not the pick for you even if it is a little cheaper.

I tend to like treadmills a little bit more because I like the ability to either walk or jog, but what about you? Which do you prefer more: the elliptical or the treadmill?

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