Treadmill vs Elliptical trainer: Which is better for weight loss?

The treadmill and elliptical trainer are two of the most ubiquitous cardiovascular machines that are present in today’s gyms, which brings us to the question – which is better for you? The answer isn’t really simple and depends on your physical fitness levels. So we present the ultimate cardiovascular machine showdown – treadmill vs elliptical trainer


The treadmill has been around for longer (since the 1800s) and has been honed to perfection by years of research while the treadmill only entered the market in 1995. Here are some of the points where treadmills score over the elliptical trainer:

  • The entire motion of propelling the body forward is more strenuous than simply moving at the same spot in an elliptical path which makes it easier to burn more calories on the treadmill.
  • Most modern treadmills come with a variety of different options which can be used to create customised workouts for weight loss, running, steep climbing, interval training and much more.
  • The treadmill simulates walking or running two forms of movement that are extremely natural to our species as opposed to the elliptical motion of the cross trainer.
  • Since the treadmill controls the speed (unless you press the buttons) of the machine, you’re less likely to slow down or get lazy while on the elliptical your feet and hands control the motion and you’re likelier to get slack.
  • One of the major drawbacks of elliptical machines is that the machine at times severely underestimates the number of calories you’ve burnt which can give you a false sense of achievement!


Pros of an elliptical over the treadmill

Precor launched the Elliptical Fitness Cross Trainer (EFX) in 1995 which was the first piece of equipment that would allow the foot to roll from heel to toe. This was unlike any other cardio machine of those times. Here are some of its advantages:

  • The device’s major USP was that it was low impact and would not affect a person’s joints as the heels are always in contact with the pedals which in turn reduced muscle stress. The motion was more fluid which caused lower Relative Perceived Exertion (RPE). In simpler words, a person would think they are exerting themselves less than they actually are!
  • It allows you to cross-train i.e. you can work out both your upper body and lower body at the same time. Most machines also have the option to choose whether you want to work your back and biceps (pulling motion) or chest and triceps (pushing motion).
  • There are a variety of inclinations and resistances which can help you choose which body part you want to target – total lower body, calves, thighs and so on. Most of them also have the option to move backwards, which targets a variety of other muscles.
  • It’s better for people who need to avoid putting too much pressure on their joints and you’re also less likely to get injured on the elliptical than the treadmill.

All in all both machines can help your weight loss regime but it depends on how you use them. The treadmill is definitely better off for losing weight faster, the elliptical trainer can help you do the same in a little more time without affecting your joints much. For those of you who don’t have any joint problems, try and use both machines to avoid the monotony of cardiovascular exercise, target various muscle groups and get the best results!