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Elliptical or TreadmillPeople often ask which is better, the elliptical or treadmill? But the answer isn’t so definitive. The truth is that both machines can deliver great workouts, albeit different ones. Neither is necessarily superior, but the they each offer advantages and benefits to exercisers. If you can access multiple machines at the club or in your home gym, we recommend using both if that works for your body and goals.

If you’re trying to decide which one to purchase for home use, as Octane Fitness, we’re going to recommend ellipticals, of course. But treadmills are certainly a valuable addition to any home gym as well, and if all you ever want to do is walk or run, then a treadmill makes the most sense. Read on to consider to compare and contrast: elliptical or treadmill?

Elliptical or Treadmill

Both of these cardio machines let you work at your own pace to challenge your cardio fitness level and burn calories, and both come in several different models, with varying features and price points. Whether you plan to use them at home or at a fitness facility, here’s an assessment of the elliptical versus treadmill. Ultimately, either is a smart choice.


  • Low-impact – One of the biggest advantages of the elliptical over the treadmill is that it’s low-impact, so it’s easier on the joints, without pounding the body. This is particularly helpful if you have an injury or aches and pains, or simply need to take a break from punishing HIIT sessions.
  • Total-body – Using the arm handles engages the upper-body more than a treadmill, and with sufficient resistance, exercisers can really target the chest, upper back, shoulders, biceps and triceps for muscular endurance training. Plus, the core is engaged by having to balance, or especially when moving in reverse on the elliptical.
  • Lower perceived exertion – Studies show that exercisers on ellipticals don’t feel that they are working as hard as they actually are because the workload is low-impact and dispersed between the lower and upper body.
  • Variety – On an elliptical, you can move forward and in reverse, use the legs only, squat down and more. Furthermore, modalities now include lateral ellipticals, recumbent ellipticals and cross trainers with adjustable incline and stride length.


  • Specificity – Specificity is the principle that you must train specifically in the way in which you want to improve performance. Therefore, if you participate in races, the treadmill is an ideal training tool for walking and running. The cushioned deck on the treadmill also provides shock absorption that you don’t get on the pavement; and, as a bonus, you aren’t subject to inclement weather.
  • Calorie burn – If you are working at the same intensity and duration on a treadmill as an elliptical, experts say that the treadmill has an advantage over the elliptical because you actually have to exert more effort by lifting up your feet against gravity. That said, you can burn greater calories on an elliptical by increasing the resistance and pace – which likely will get you working harder than a leisurely jog on the treadmill.
  • Lower-body strength – Treadmill sessions are great leg strengtheners, particularly if you add an incline. By choosing a speed on the console, your body must continually keep up with the moving belt, which boosts stamina in the legs as well.
  • Metrics – It’s easy to precisely program your workouts and track your progress with a treadmill, which typically measures your pace, distance, incline and more. And some treadmills now replicate runs in specific locations, with automatic incline adjustments and video screens that show great visuals, which helps relieve some of the boredom of treadmill sessions.