Exercise bike vs. elliptical

Fitness Equipment

The elliptical is a better exercise machine if you are looking for a full-body workout.

BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission. Details.

Which exercise bike or elliptical is best?

The exercise bike and elliptical are the two most commonly used equipment for cardio exercise.  If you are in the market looking to buy one of these for your home, there are few important factors to consider when making your decision. They might look similar but they offer different training paths. The elliptical is full-body equipment providing upper body workout, whereas the exercise bike is designed for the workout of the lower body. Both these products allow you to burn calories, but the full-body workout on the elliptical gives it an edge over the exercise bike.

What to know before you buy an elliptical

The elliptical is stationary exercise equipment designed to offer non-impact cardio workouts. Users have the option to either use only their legs or to work out their upper body by grabbing onto the handle levers, which are mechanically linked to the pedals.

Most ellipticals allow users to adjust the difficulty level according to their workout requirements. The higher difficulty settings should be enough for even the most advanced fitness enthusiasts. Some elliptical machines have a large display screen that plays media content. Users can plug in different types of media devices, such as smartphones, USBs, tablets, etc.

The elliptical does require some lower body strength if you plan on using it for any extended period for it to be effective as cardio equipment. If weight loss is your fitness goal, you don’t want your leg muscles to get exhausted before you have reached your calories-burned goal. The movement of the pedal has a fixed path, which might not feel natural to some users.

The price for an elliptical can vary from $300 to more than $2,000 depending on quality and features.

Elliptical pros

  • The no-impact movement of the elliptical makes it easy on the joints.
  • The full-body workout allows the muscles in the arms, shoulders, chest, and back to be used.

Elliptical cons

  • The unnatural movement might not suit everyone, especially users who are not of average height and weight.
  • The low impact can be a disadvantage as it does not let the soft tissue around the joints develop the strength and endurance required for natural movement such as running or playing sports.

What are the best ellipticals to buy?

Schwinn 411 Elliptical Machine

Schwinn 411 Elliptical Machine

The Schwinn 411 elliptical offers a smooth ride with several features, including Bluetooth connectivity, dual-track LCD, built-in speakers, and several fitness tracking programs.

Sold by Amazon

Nautilus E618 Elliptical

Nautilus E618 Elliptical

As a gym-quality elliptical, the Nautilus is built to last. It offers 350-pound load capacity, free app-based tracking, Bluetooth connectivity, multi-position handlebars, Nautilus training programs, and several other features.

Sold by Amazon and Dick’s Sporting Goods

What to know before you buy an exercise bike?

The exercise bike also is low-impact cardio equipment, but with a greater emphasis on lower-body workouts. They are safe for use for people of all ages and fitness levels. The emphasis is to work out the hamstrings, quads, glutes, and calves. The joint-friendly exercise bike is a great option to crank out a cardio session at home. Most high-quality exercise bikes have comfortable seating and a large display screen for entertainment and workout tracking.

There are two main types of exercise bikes: upright and recumbent.

There is a wide price range for exercise bikes depending on several factors, such as build quality and features. Expect to pay $100-$700 for a regular exercise bike. Some high-end models can be significantly more expensive.

Exercise bike pros

  • Exercise bikes are easy on the joints and bones, making them ideal for users who are recovering from an injury or suffer from any health condition that doesn’t permit them to perform other types of cardio exercises.
  • The seated position allows users to comfortably view the display screen or use their smartphone or tablet for entertainment.

Exercise bike cons

  • The exercise bike does not provide a workout for the upper body.
  • Depending on the type and quality of the bike, being seated for an extended time can be uncomfortable for some users.
  • The exercise bike does not burn as many calories as using the elliptical or treadmill.

What are the best exercise bikes to buy?

NordicTrack S22i Studio Cycle

NordicTrack S22i Studio Cycle

The NordicTrack S22i might not be cheap, but it offers outstanding functionality. It features a bright 10-inch smart touch-screen display. The CoolAire fan will keep you comfortable during your workout. There is an automatic control system that adjusts resistance based on your selected workout.

Sold by Amazon and Dick’s Sporting Goods

Schwinn 270 Recumbent

Schwinn 270 Recumbent

With a twin LCD and 29 advanced workout settings, the Schwinn 270 Recumbent is one of the best exercise bikes on the market. You get a gym-quality experience using this exercise bike at home.

Sold by Amazon and Dick’s Sporting Goods

Should you get an elliptical or exercise bike?

Whether you use them at home or the gym, the exercise bike and elliptical are both excellent cardio equipment. The elliptical can be slightly more expensive than an exercise bike of similar quality and features.

There is no seat in an elliptical, so users have to maintain a standing posture. Users who have back issues or find it difficult to exercise while standing up might find the exercise bike a better option.

Overall, the elliptical offers more flexibility as cardio equipment. It offers a full-body workout, which not only allows users to work out the upper body, but also allows them to burn more calories at moderate intensity. The elliptical should be the preferred choice for cardio equipment unless having a seat is an important requirement.


Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

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

Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.