Workout Wednesday: Treadmill or Elliptical? Which is better?


By Ben Smart

Quick – what are the dangers of using the treadmill versus the elliptical? And which gives you a better workout? Most gyms contain rows of different cardio machines and it can be overwhelming to choose the right one. We’re going to focus on the two most common machines here, the treadmill and the elliptical. Each one has it pros and cons, and the bottom line is that is depends on your body and your fitness goals.

Let’s talk about the treadmill first.

Basically, this machine emulates walking and running on a flat surface. The treadmill is very versatile and can be adjusted to different inclines and speeds. When you use a treadmill, you are using familiar body movements rather than having to deal with awkward machines. Above all, walking and running strengthens muscles and bones over time. However, overuse of the treadmill without stretching before can really do a number on your joints if you aren’t careful. Running is hard and intense – you need to be ready and in adequate shape before using a treadmill for too long.

On to the elliptical!

The elliptical is low-impact (good for your joints) and allows for cross-training with the arm handles. Not to mention – you can use the elliptical backwards to work different muscle groups. It’s a great choice if you are recovering from an injury or if you want to do a long cardio session. However, this machine can be awkward to use at first as it’s unlike walking or running. The elliptical much less dynamic than the treadmill in terms of speed and intensity. Its also deceiving how hard you are working out, as its easy to use only the momentum at low intensities.

Overall Thoughts

All in all, the elliptical is a great choice for you if you want to improve cardiovascular health with low impact (safer on the joints!). High interval training (there is usually a button on the machine) will give you the best workout on the elliptical. On the other hand, a treadmill will make you work harder and is a better choice for more experienced exercisers. For the best workout regimen, try to include both machines to reap all the benefits without overbearing your body. Not to mention – variety can really spice up your workout!

Workout Wednesday blog posts are written by UNC Campus Recreation staff members. Each Wednesday we swap blog posts with the Tarheel Tone Up blog so that readers can view more diverse post topics that will benefit their health and wellness. Workout Wednesday blog posts can be found both here and on tarheeltoneup.com.

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