Exercise Bike vs Treadmill: Which Should You Buy?

If you're searching for some cardio equipment, you're probably asking yourself 'should I buy an exercise bike or a treadmill?'

You might only have space for one of them in your home gym as the rest of the space may be filled with weightlifting gear like a top squat rack and the best dumbbells.

With cardio being key to a well-rounded training schedule, we're here to help you decide which bit of kit is right for you by giving our opinions on their price, ergonomics, and more.

With that being said, let's get into it.

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Exercise Bike vs Treadmill - Price

First and foremost, like when comparing exercise bikes to ellipticals, the price of both machines will vary depending on their features, brand, materials, and more, but you're probably still wondering, on average, which is the best value?

Well, in our list of the best treadmills, our best all-rounder, the NordicTrack T Series, is currently less expensive than a NordicTrack Commercial Studio featured in our list of the best exercise bikes

NordicTrack treadmill product image of a blue treadmill
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Image Credit: NordicTrack

However, you can of course find cheaper machines than the ones above like this Magic Life Folding Bike, but, at this level, you won't normally find as many resistance settings or handy features like HD touchscreen displays, Bluetooth, or WiFi connectivity.

It is a similar story with treadmills where, at around the £200 range, you'll find more simplistic machines without an HD display for watching TV on or incline settings to make things more challenging and varied.

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Exercise Bike vs Treadmill - Ergonomics

Although the primary health benefit of improving your cardio remains the same with an exercise bike and a treadmill, the way you achieve this is different from an ergonomics standpoint.

Exercise Bike

When comparing the two movements, cycling on an exercise bike has the advantage of being slightly easier on your joints, particularly on your knees and ankles, as your body is not put through the same kind of high impact shock as it would be when running.

Exercise bike vs Treadmill NordicTrack product image of a stationary bike with an HD screen and magnetic drive
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Image Credit: NordicTrack

Moreover, you tend to remain seated on a stationary bike and, therefore, are working your legs and glutes far more than any other muscles in the body so should suit anyone looking to train their lower body in particular.

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There are also more ways to track progress as you can calculate your functional threshold power (your ability to sustain the highest possible power output for around 1 hour).

This can be tested by measuring your power output over a set time frame, approximately 20 minutes is recommended, and comparing the results to previous attempts to see if you've improved.

For beginners, given stationary bikes are typically less demanding, you may find it easier to get to grips with as it will likely be less taxing on your cardiovascular endurance.

Treadmill

By contrast, much like using a top elliptical, running incorporates your entire body and is one of the reasons why you will probably burn more calories on a treadmill compared to an exercise bike - running is simply hard work.

If you're looking to improve your core stability then a treadmill might be the way to go as running activates your abdominal muscles in order to keep your body balanced and upright.

Additionally, running should be a more effective and complete way of improving lung capacity and your heart's condition because you'll likely find it easier to reach a higher training zone, where you'll be working closer to your maximum heart rate, than on a stationary bike.

However, despite treadmills being designed to absorb shock, running still puts more pressure on your body as the continuous pounding of each stride can create a shock that amounts to nearly 5 times your weight which then travels up your legs and to your spine.

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Exercise Bike vs Treadmill - Storage

On average, a stationary bike will take up less space when set up for a workout than a treadmill.

This should make them a better option if you're limited for space e.g. in a flat, and will probably be kinder to your neighbours as treadmills can be loud due to the constant pounding of your feet.

With that being said, when it comes to storing your cardio equipment away post-workout, you will usually find the majority of treadmills, like this TR150, are foldable in some way which can then free up floor space.

While some exercise bikes, like the Lanos Folding Bike featured in our best exercise bikes under 500, can be folded, they're typically harder to come by and, therefore, could limit your options when searching for the perfect one for your available space.

Should You Buy an Exercise Bike or a Treadmill?

In our opinion, both are great machines for improving your cardiovascular fitness if used correctly and if you incorporate progression.

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However, running is predominately a free form of exercise outdoors whereas, to start cycling outside, you'd need your own bike which would ultimately cost.

With that being said, we feel a stationary bike offers better value for money as you are tackling two birds with one stone by taking a form of exercise you cannot do without a bike anyway and bringing it into your home gym.

If you like the idea of an exercise bike but want something that incorporates your entire body, then check out our list of the best cross trainers available right now.