Treadmill or Elliptical Trainer: Which one is right for you?
So you’re on the fence about whether to purchase a treadmill or an elliptical. You’ve probably heard good things about both, and you just can’t make that final decision. Whether you’re looking to stay fit, lose weight, or tone muscles, both treadmills and ellipticals have their unique advantages that you should consider.
When deciding whether to buy a treadmill or elliptical, it is important to consider:
- Which muscle groups are worked?
- What are the safety features of the device?
- How easy is it to use?
- How much does it cost to maintain? Time, money, and effort required.
Let’s look at both devices separately and see what each offers.
Benefits and Muscle Groups Worked
Adding a treadmill to your home gym can help you mimic the the conditions of running outdoors, without actually being outside. This means that training for a race [even with Colorado’s fickle weather] can be performed on treadmill because it simulates real-world road conditions.
Since you are either walking, jogging or running on a treadmill, it mostly works lower body muscles. For the most part, this includes the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and glute muscles. The abdominal and core muscles are also worked moderately, especially if you run. While upper body muscles are worked with much lower intensity.
Treadmills are one of the best ways to train your cardiovascular system. By sticking to a routine, you will strengthen your heart and lungs, and improve your body’s ability to use oxygen. Simply put, aerobic training on a treadmill is great for your heart. Over time, aerobic exercise can help decrease your heart rate and blood pressure, and improve your breathing.
Running outside can put a lot of strain on your joints, as cement and paved surfaces do not provide much cushion. Over time, the impact can wear down your knees and cause back problems. While treadmills can’t get rid of joint strain entirely, they help reduce it.
Quality treadmills are designed with shock-absorbing decks (some are even adjustable, see TRUE’s Performance 800 Treadmill) to reduce strain on your bones and joints. In most cases, treadmills produce far less impact than road running. However, even with a great treadmill, your body weight is still largely put on your ankles and legs with each stride. For this reason, if reducing impact on weight-bearing joints (ankles, knees, hips) is your goal, you may want to consider an elliptical.
Treadmills are also designed with large decks that are long enough to comfortably and safely run on. The best treadmills are wide and spacious, giving the you the freedom to move without worrying about stepping off the belt.
Ease of Use
Treadmills are incredibly simple to use. With easy to understand user-interfaces and simple controls, starting the machine and using it is as easy as pressing one button — which it usually is. Also, the actions involved are natural actions such as walking and jogging so exercise is easy.
Quality treadmills typically last, on average, 10 years or more. TRUE Fitness is unique in that most of their residential treadmills are backed by 3o year motor warranties. They can last even longer with proper care and use. Proper care includes cleaning the machine, lubricating and tightening the belt, and vacuuming debris from the motor cover. Depending on the frequency, amount of use and the type of lubricant used it may need to be lubed more often. However, typically a single annual service is sufficient to keep your treadmill functioning at high level for many years.
Disadvantages of Treadmills
Like we stated earlier, the cushioned pad of the treadmill reduces stress on the ankles, but it may still stress the hip, knee, and ankle joints or inflict too much of a jarring impact on the lower back.
In addition, although the long pad is convenient for running, in terms of spatial management, it could take up a lot of space in the home.
While treadmills have long lifespans, maintenance isn’t as simple as it seems. There is also the concern of the belts, motors, rollers, and the bearings burning out.
Benefits and Muscle Groups Worked
Ellipticals are a great form of cardiovascular exercise (cardio) while focusing on the lower body muscle groups. While treadmills solely focus on the lower body, ellipticals may offer dual-action, upper and lower body movements. With independent hand grips and side steps, elliptical users may choose perform upper body only exercises. For this reason, ellipticals can provide a total-body workout, targeting the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, chest, back, tricep and bicep muscles.
Ellipticals follow the natural motion of your legs and help reduce the stress placed on your lower body joints and back. Most ellipticals are also equipped with pedals that tilt and angle to conform to your natural stride, further reducing the stress on your ankle joints. Some ellipticals further decrease the stress of impact with orthopedic footpads. For example, TRUE’s ES700 Elliptical includes Soft Step orthopedic footpads, which decrease the stress of impact on joints and can eliminate foot numbness associated with many traditional ellipticals.
Ease of Use
Most elliptical trainers are designed to be easy to use. Many will automatically start as you make your first stride. This means that no buttons have to be pressed at all! The design interfaces also offer customization to better help understand your workout goals and level.
An elliptical has fewer moving parts and an elliptical motion that makes it less likely to need service than a treadmill. It doesn’t have belts, motors, or rollers.
Disadvantage of Ellipticals
The elliptical’s low-impact exercise does not provide an effective way to gain muscle strength, it is only great for cardio.
Also, while ellipticals were designed to mimic the natural motion of humans, there is still a risk of a knee injury. In addition, the simulation is not as effective for training for an actual race as running on a treadmill. Treadmills can help to strength bones and ligaments to more appropriately handle the impact of road running.
Ellipticals are designed with the “average user” in mind. This means that the built-in stride length may not fit you particularly well. If you choose an elliptical with a fixed stride, be sure it feels natural and comfortable given your leg length. If you are purchasing an elliptical to be used by multiple people, you may want to consider a machine with an adjustable stride length.
What Should You Choose?
The decision to purchase a treadmill or elliptical should be based on your current fitness goals and current health. If you are looking for a low-impact cardio solution to stay in shape, an elliptical trainer is most likely the better choice for you. Also if you experienced a prior leg injury, the elliptical will reduce the stress on your injured body part. However, if you are training for a race, the treadmill is most likely the better option. By more closely simulating a road running experience, a treadmill will better prepare you. Shop the highest quality treadmills and elliptical trainers from top brands like TRUE Fitness. Contact us at Fitness Gallery and we’ll help you find the right equipment for your home gym or commercial facility.