Elliptical vs. treadmill: which is better?

Fitness Equipment

Treadmills and ellipticals are beneficial to your health and fitness routine. A 30-minute workout a day can improve your overall health, including your mental happiness and well-being.

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Should I buy an elliptical or treadmill?

Looking to add a cardio machine to your home, but not sure where to start? Ellipticals and treadmills are both great investments. They burn fat, improve cardio health and provide convenience — no hassle with gym memberships, adverse weather or time restrictions. With so many options available, they accommodate any fitness level. 

Of course, health goals and current health status are factors to consider when deciding which piece of equipment to buy. Ellipticals are a better choice if you cannot tolerate high impact due to current health, medical conditions or injuries. If you are a runner or walker who wants to increase your endurance or leg strength, the treadmill would be better. And with the many models on the market, there’s more to consider in deciding which will accommodate your needs.   

Once you’ve chosen, the Schwinn 411 Compact Elliptical and the NordicTrack Commercial X32i are the best products in their categories.   


Ellipticals are training machines that use a pulley-and-rail system to simulate a climbing, forward motion. The foot pedals move back and forth in an oval rotation. Ellipticals improve balance and target the lower muscle groups: quadriceps, calves and glutes. They can be used to perform a standard cardio workout or high-intensity interval training. 

Elliptical pros 

  • Low impact: One of the biggest advantages of an elliptical machine is that you can complete an intense cardio workout without strenuous impact on your body. Considered low-impact, they are a  good option for people who find it difficult to walk or run on hard surfaces. In addition, if you have chronic lower back, hip, joint or foot problems, the elliptical is a good alternative to running outside or using a treadmill. 
  • Upper-body workout: In addition to a cardio workout, ellipticals provide upper body engagement with the use of arm handles that move back and forth in a natural motion.  Depending on the model, some let you increase the resistance, a benefit for upper body training. 

Elliptical cons 

  • Not for everyone: Users with existing knee or hip injuries could find the motion of the elliptical challenging to use. People who are training for running events, such as a marathon, may find the treadmill a better option. The elliptical has a slightly different movement compared to the treadmill, and there can be a slight learning curve associated with its use.   
  • Lack of strength training: Ellipticals provide a great cardio workout and a small amount of training to certain muscle groups, but they do not provide extensive strength training. Users looking to improve muscle tone and build should incorporate weight training into their weekly fitness plan for maximum results. Treadmills provide a better option for lower body strengthening.  

How much you can expect to pay for an elliptical

Basic models begin around $300 and those at the higher end can cost anywhere up to $5,000. More expensive models typically offer livestreamed fitness training and side-to-side movement options.   

Best elliptical

Schwinn 411 Compact Elliptical

Schwinn 411 Compact Elliptical

This elliptical offers the quality of a larger, more expensive elliptical but with a smaller price tag. It features 16 levels of variable resistance and delivers a low-impact cardio workout at a fraction of the size, and the size is the reason why it is highly recommended for use in smaller areas, like home and office. Its streamlined console displays time, speed, distance, calories and heart rate.

Available at Amazon


Treadmills are a great addition to any home or office. They provide convenience, able to be used anytime without having to adjust to time restrictions or weather conditions. 

Featuring a conveyor belt, treadmills let you run or walk in place. Manual machines require the user to activate the belt with foot movement, while motorized ones use a motor to move the belt. Manual treadmills tend to be smaller, lighter and are convenient for limited space areas.  Furthermore, unlike motorized treadmills, they require no electricity.

Treadmill pros

  • Versatility: Treadmills come in a wide range of options. Most let you adjust their incline levels, speeds and intervals. Some come with workout programs and interval routines. One of the biggest advantages of a treadmill over an elliptical is the ability to engage the glute muscles by increasing the incline while running. In addition, the ability to adjust the speed while running or walking also allows for a more effective high-intensity interval workout, which is proven to burn calories faster.    
  • Optimal benefits: Walking or running on a treadmill regularly has tremendous health benefits. If you are looking for an alternative to running outside, a treadmill provides more realistic training than other cardio machines. So whether you are training for a marathon or just trying to burn fat, a treadmill would be a good option.   

Treadmill cons

  • Stress on your joints: The biggest disadvantage to running on a treadmill is the negative impact on the joints, hips, ankles and knees. Perhaps easier than running outside, the treadmill still tends to be rough on these areas. People with existing injuries may find the elliptical a better option, as a treadmill’s impact can further aggravate injuries.    
  • Limited options: Although there is a lot of versatility to an exercise regimen on a treadmill, the user is limited. Unlike the elliptical, a treadmill does not incorporate the upper body. In order to accomplish upper-body training, you need to include other training as part of your routine. 
  • Boredom: Stationary equipment can become monotonous, so many companies have begun to offer livestreamed classes for use with their treadmills. This option can be found on the more expensive treadmills.  

How much you can expect to pay for a treadmill

Treadmills come in manual and motorized options and cost from $200-$5,000 for more advanced models. 

Best treadmill

NordicTrack Commercial X32i

NordicTrack Commercial X32i 

This treadmill is referred to as the “gym-quality treadmill in a home-treadmill design.” Purchase includes a 30-day family membership to the iFIT online fitness studio, and on-demand workouts feature AutoAdjust technology that allows your iFIT trainer to adjust your speed and incline in real time. It is also rated most durable and best suited for users of all fitness levels.

Available at NordicTrack


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Michelle Highter writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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