Treadmill vs. Elliptical

Which is the better workout? An expert opinion on this heated debate

Ever try running when the heat index is 110 degrees? Some people love spending the dog days of August sweating profusely in the great outdoors. Me? Forget it. I’ll take a little air conditioning with my workouts, thank you very much.

As I decided to take my exercise indoors until the fall, I came across a dilemma. For my aerobic exercise, should I use the treadmill or the elliptical machine? Which one is better for weight loss (I’m tired of these love handles)? Which is better for building strength or endurance? Which one will give me the most bang for my buck? I decided to reach out to a sports medicine expert.

“Both treadmills and ellipticals have pros and cons,” said Robin G. Curry, M.D., nonsurgical orthopaedic and sports medicine specialist with Norton Orthopaedic Specialists. “Elliptical machines provide a much lower impact and a full body workout, but they are not great at building bone density. Treadmills, on the other hand, are great for bone density but are much higher impact, which can lead to joint pain.”

If you’re trying to drop a few pounds, Dr. Curry said you can’t go wrong with either machine.

“Treadmills and elliptical machines are nearly equal for calories burned, so either is a great weight loss option,” she said. “I recommend alternating between both machines, starting slow and gradually building your speed and distance. Varying your cardio is very important to providing a good workout.”

Getting back into exercising or trying it for the first time? “For someone just starting out, the treadmill may be less complicated and more user-friendly,” Dr. Curry said. “However, if the person is looking for a smooth and low-impact activity, then the elliptical would we better.”

Regardless of which option you choose, Dr. Curry offers this advice:

“It’s important to incorporate some sort of cardiovascular exercise into your weekly routine. The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least five days per week,” she said.


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