If you’ve decided that it’s time to get in better shape, and you’re looking for the best at-home cardio workout that will also work your muscles, you might be in the market for one of the treadmills or elliptical trainers you’ve seen advertised. Maybe you have a favorite machine at the gym and want something similar for home. With so many models of treadmills, ellipticals, and machines that seem to be a combination of both, it can be hard to decide which one’s right for you. Before spending the money on any machine, it’s important to understand what qualities to look for to help ensure that you’ll stay motivated to use your treadmill as a treadmill and not as a coat rack. Below, we’ll take a look at the differences and potential pros and cons of treadmills and ellipticals.
Treadmills rely on a belt that moves around a conveyor. Typically, you set the speed at which the belt moves and have to walk, jog, or run in place at a speed that keeps up with the belt; move too slowly, and you’ll fall off of the back of the machine. Ellipticals rely on raised pedals or footplates that are powered by the machine’s motor combined (to varying degrees) with your own momentum. “So, which one’s better?” you might ask. There really is no one-size-fits-all answer, since the better option for you depends on a number of factors.
Treadmills allow you to use your natural walking, jogging, or running gait and motion, whereas ellipticals more closely resemble the pedaling motion of a bicycle (only you’re standing instead of sitting, of course). As a result, treadmills offer more of the weightbearing benefits that doctors promote for healthier bones and joints. On the flip side, ellipticals offer a lower impact, less jarring workout, which is ideal for those who already have foot or knee concerns. Most ellipticals also make it possible for you to reverse direction, which engages even more muscle groups in different ways.
If you’re looking for a machine that also allows you to work your upper body, an elliptical may be your best bet, since many of them are equipped with moveable handles designed for upper body work whereas treadmills are not.
Many of today’s treadmills and ellipticals offer variable speeds, resistance levels, and inclines, so you should be able to find this feature with no problem. Taking advantage of the ability to change any or all of these different settings is the best way to get the most out of your workout by working more muscles from different angles and by making it less likely that you’ll get bored. For optimum variety, look for a machine that has pre-programmed workouts. Models of both also offer you the ability to monitor your heart rate during your workout, but many users find that treadmill monitors can be more awkward to reach than those on an elliptical.
Whichever type of machine you choose, make sure to look for one that can easily match your stride. While treadmills are more likely to work for people with varying stride lengths, some taller users might need to look for longer models. Ellipticals can pose this same problem for the tallest users, but shorter users will want to make sure that the natural stride of the elliptical isn’t too wide.
In addition to heart rate monitors, both treadmills and ellipticals usually offer tracking of stats like distance traveled and calories burned. While most will give you accurate calculations of distance, the calorie tracker is usually less reliable. Given that we all burn calories at different rates based on gender, age, height, weight, and personal metabolic rate (which will be higher for those already in pretty good shape, lower for those who are less fit), the calorie tracker should not be seen as carved-in-stone accurate.
If you’re more interested in a stationary bike, check out best recumbent exercise bike, which compares both upright and recumbent models, including pros and cons of each.
Visit best home elliptical machine for reviews of some of the top-rated machines. This site includes highlights as well as potential concerns that should guide your decision-making process.