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Is the Treadmill or Elliptical Better for Losing Weight?

author image Vita Ruvolo-Wilkes
Vita Ruvolo-Wilkes was first published in 1977. She worked as a certified aerobics and exercise instructor. Upon graduating from the Wake Forest University School of Medicine, she worked for the VA Medical Center. As a physician assistant, Ruvolo-Wilkes designed specialized diets for her patients' conditions and has written a monthly health column in the "Montford Newsletter."
Is the Treadmill or Elliptical Better for Losing Weight?
The gloves are on. Which machine wins? Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

The treadmill and elliptical, popular workout machines, stand at the ready in great numbers in gyms and health clubs across the country. Both give a cardiovascular workout and attract fitness enthusiasts of all ages. The manufacturers claim theirs helps you lose more weight. Which one is better depends on the user.

The Treadmill

The trusty treadmill, born many years ago, provides a moving surface to do what people do naturally–walk. Some people use it to run as well. With varying speeds, the treadmill accommodates the beginner up to the expert. The most advanced units can track your heart rate, provide interval training and tell you how far you’ve gone, in how much time and how many calories you burned. You also have the option of holding on or walking hands-free and walking on an incline.

The Elliptical

The new kid on the block, the elliptical, gained popularity quickly. It provides you with a gliding foot motion that provides constant contact with the pedal. It can come with the same electronic equipment as the treadmill. In contrast to the treadmill, the elliptical has two moving bars that involve the upper body in the workout.


Treadmills make a lot of noise, because of their motors, while ellipticals work mechanically, with the exception of its computer system. The involvement of the arms on the elliptical provides a tad more aerobics. Both take up the same amount of space. The elliptical takes the stress off the joints by giving a fluid movement without any leg lifting. In contrast, the treadmill involves walking, which is a low-impact activity but still a little more jarring to the joints. It does, however, provide a natural stride whereas the elliptical takes some coordinating of new movements.


People who use one or the other of these machines swear by their effectiveness. Those who use both like the change of pace. According to HiltonHeadHealth.com, the treadmill burns more calories. An exerciser weighing 180 lbs. who completes 45 minutes of work on each piece of equipment burns 441.8 calories on the elliptical and 675 calories on the treadmill.


While a person might burn more calories on the treadmill than the elliptical, other factors enter into personal preference. MSNBC.com reports that people with joint problems prefer the elliptical for its no-impact design. The upper and lower body workout appeals to some more than the number of calories burned. According to MSNBC.com, elliptical sales jumped 27 percent in 2007. Personal preference will ultimately dictate which machine a person chooses. Number of calories burned doesn’t tell the whole story. Both machines will remain popular for a long time. Some folks like to cross-train and will switch between the two to keep their bodies guessing.

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