Treadmill vs Elliptical: Which Should You Buy?

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You've probably asked yourself 'should I buy a treadmill or elliptical?' if you're searching for some cardio equipment for your home gym.

Perhaps you've seen our comparison of rowing machines and treadmills and you're now struggling to decide if an elliptical is, in fact, the way to go.

If this is the case, don't worry. We're here to guide you through some of the key similarities and differences in price, fitness, and storage to help you come to an informed decision.

Let's kick things off with price...

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Treadmill vs Elliptical - Price

One of the most important factors you're probably considering is which of the two machines is cheaper?

Typically speaking, an entry-level treadmill is similarly priced to an entry-level elliptical like this XS Sports Luna Pro featured in our list of the best cross-trainers.

Treadmill vs ellipitcal XS Sports product image of a battery-powered black machine with XS written on the side in red and white writing.
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Image Credit: XS Sports

In both cases, an entry-level machine usually comes with an LCD display that tracks your pulse, time, speed, distance, and potentially your calories.

However, you may find picking up a treadmill to be relatively difficult right now, especially if you're looking at a premium machine like this NordicTrack Commercial Series, due to the immese popularity of treadmills.

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Treadmill vs Elliptical - Fitness

Treadmill

One of the key benefits of a treadmill is the control you have over the tempo and difficulty as most machines, like this NordicTrack T Series found in our list of the best treadmills, will come with an option to run on an incline.

Treadmill vs elliptical NordicTrack product image of a black treadmill.
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Image Credit: NordicTrack

Because of the control you have, a treadmill is often more suited to high-intensity interval training (HIIT) training which, in a 2017 study into the effects of HIIT training, is found to be effective for burning calories, reducing body fat, and improving cardiovascular fitness in a short period of time.

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It can be argued that using an elliptical is more joint-friendly than a treadmill, however, a multi-year study of almost 75,000 runners published in 2013 found that, contrary to popular belief, running doesn't actually increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis.

Elliptical

Where an elliptical differs from a running machine is that it provides a more full-body workout as you're required to coordinate your legs and arms that hold on to the upright handlebars.

Because of its design, a cross trainer is considered a lower-impact workout which may sound like a negative, but a 2017 study on aerobic exercise found that, following a 24-week program of low-impact workouts, participants' body composition, physical fitness, and cardio improved.

However, the elliptical movement isn't considered the most functional as it doesn't truly resemble anything you do in real life and, therefore, might not suit you if you're planning on training for a particular event.

Treadmill vs Elliptical - Storage

In terms of storage and floor space, a treadmill will likely take up more room when in use as ellipticals are typically taller and more compact horizontally, allowing more room for alternative fitness gear like a top squat rack.

However, treadmills can sometimes be foldable, like this XTERRA Fitness TR150, so, when you've completed your exercise, they should be more suited to storing in a cupboard for example.

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Treadmill vs Elliptical: Which Should You Buy?

While both offer an effective form of cardio, they differ in terms of impact on your body.

The bottom line is if you're injury-prone or recovering from an injury, a low-impact elliptical may be more beneficial, however, if you're looking to burn more calories and build up your leg strength, then a treadmill may be the way forward.

With that being said though, you're more likely to get a more complete, full-body workout from an elliptical which, we feel, tips it over the edge as the better cardio-based machine.

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