Weighing The Pros and Cons of the Treadmill and Elliptical

For years the treadmill has been the dominant force in the fitness and weight loss marketplace. The simplicity and practicality have allowed it to become a household item that many people rely on. In the 1990's the introduction of the elliptical cross trainer has challenged the dominance of the treadmill. 

Elliptical vs treadmill: Treadmill pros

precor treadmill


1. User friendly: any person new or experienced in the world of fitness and exercise can easily jump on board a treadmill and be able to complete a full workout with little to no time to get used to the motion. By utilizing the natural motions of walking, jogging, and running it alows a wide range of users.

2. real world application: The motion of the treadmill can be applies to every day life. A person will walk, jog, or run every day of their life so by training with these motions any improvements noticed on a treadmill training regiment will also be noticed in real world applications.

3. Affordability: The basic treadmill is far more affordable than the most basic of elliptical cross trainers. Treadmills can start from prices as low as $500. Upper level treadmills can be as much as $5000 which is comparable to high end ellipticals.

Elliptical vs treadmill: Treadmill cons

1. Harsh motion: The motion of running on a treadmill places great deals of stress on the knee joints, feet and ankles. Over long periods of time users may develope runners knee, flat foot, and shin splints. this is because during the motion of running your feet, knees, and ankles will experience forces equal to four times the users body weight.

2. Maintenance: Since treadmills are run by a motor and not user propelled there is a need for regular maintenace. Treadmill maintenance ranges from lubricating the rollers, washing the belt, cleaning the speed sensor etc...

3. Safety: Due to their simplistic design users of the treadmill are exposed to the risk of being ejected from the rear of the machine. When combined with high speeds of running or sprinting serious injury can occur from the fall and impact with objects behind the machine.

4. Noise: noise can be heard from this device when the users feet fall onto the running deck, the motor running, and rattling. Depending on the quality of machine some of these factors can be reduced. Higher quality treadmills such as Precor machines will have softer absorbant running decks that will somewhat dampen the noise of the footfall as well as be contructed solidly to minimize loose parts and rattling.

Elliptical vs Treadmill: Elliptical pros

precor elliptical1. Variety: Since the elliptical cross trainer is a highly scientific machine there is a large amount of room for different manufacturers to create different selling features. Ellipticals range from seated, standing, as well and both foot and hand propelled.

2. Whisper Quiet: The motion of using an elliptical trainer is a single gliding smooth motion. This prevents a single moment of pressure from creating unwanted noise. More noise will be heard from the user breathing than from the machine in higher end models.

3. Non aggressive motion: The motion of an elliptical trainer is very smooth and fluid which alleviates much of the stress associated with running. This results in a lower chance of developing training related injuries.

4. Provide full body workout: The majority of elliptical trainers incorporate a mixture of both a striding motion as well as a pushing and pulling motion, utilizing the upper bodies major muscles such as the pectorals, lats, triceps and biceps. This encourages even muscle stimulation and growth over more of the body.

5. Safety: Since the machine is driven by the user it is nearly impossible for a user to be ejected or fall from the machine. Elliptical trainers also incorporate many hand holds which further stabalize the user and increase the level of protection.

6. Maintenance: Elliptical Trainers have very few parts that require maintenance due to the fact that they are user driven. The absene of a motor eliminates the cause for 90% of problems that consumers will experience with other cardiovascular trainers.

Elliptical vs Treadmill: Elliptical Cons

1. cost: The basic elliptical cross trainer runs at a much higher cost than the most basic of treadmills on the market. Elliptical trainers can start as high as $1000 for even a basic model.

2. Non Practical Motion: The motion of using and elliptical trainer is not transferable from a training session to everyday life. This means that the only benefits from using this machine will be to cardiovascular capacity and not to technique.

3. Abnormal muscle growth: When using an elliptical trainer users are forced to move in a slightly un-natural stance. The hips are more spread than they would normally be and this over time can cause the gluteus medius (side of the thigh) to become stronger than the inner muscles and put strain on the knee resulting in the need for light physiotherapy.

Which provides the better workout?

The phrase "you get what you put into it" is never more true than it is in this elliptical vs treadmill battle. The key to determining which machine will provide the user with the best workout is to determine which one is the most enjoyable on a user to user basis. The most important factor in calorie burn is the amount of energy being put into the system by the user. Studies have shown through oxygen consumption testing that users exerting the smae amount of force on both ellipticals and treadmill burn nearly identical numbers of calories. this leaves the choice up to the preferance of the user.


From weighing the pros and cons in the Elliptical vs Treadmill battle it appears that the elliptical trainer emerges victorious. There is more of a scientific process put into the design of the elliptical trainer which has resulted in a safer, more efficient, and reliabl machine. Even though the average cost is more than a treadmill the level of quality being achieved far surpasses its competitor.