It's vital to know the pros and cons of an elliptical versus bike when looking for the best gym machine for your needs. An elliptical works both arms and legs, while the stationary bike works your legs and core without stressing your joints. Both machines are ideal for cardiovascular workouts.
Benefits of Elliptical Machines
Elliptical machines are a popular choice for exercise as they are a cross between a stair stepper and a ski machine. They allow you to work your legs in a circular up-and-down motion while also working your arms thanks to the moveable handles. You can add resistance or increase the incline to make the exercise more difficult and challenge your muscles.
Using the elliptical machine is a great way to burn calories. According to Harvard Health Publishing, a 155-pound person will burn 335 calories in 30 minutes. If you can keep it up for one hour, you will burn 670 calories.
This piece of equipment works your entire body. The movable poles or handles work your arms and shoulders, while your lower body (hamstrings, quadriceps and glutes) gets an intense workout too. You can also cycle your legs backward instead of forward, which will challenge your hamstrings and calves to a greater extent, says the Mayo Clinic. The elliptical engages your core muscles as well.
Furthermore, this machine puts less stress on your joints than running, says the Mayo Clinic, making it ideal for those who have knee or hip injuries or arthritis. This kind of low-impact workout is great for cross-training for long-distance runners as it may help prevent stress fractures.
The downside is that if you have balance issues, the circular motion of the legs may be difficult to perform.
Read more: Elliptical Machine Benefits
Benefits of an Exercise Bike
An exercise bike, or stationary bike, is another great machine for getting a cardiovascular workout. It requires little coordination and the resistance can be adjusted to make it more difficult and force your muscles to work harder.
The number of calories you burn can vary depending on how fast you are cycling. In general, a 155-pound person can burn 260 calories when pedaling at a moderate speed for 30 minutes, says Harvard Medical School.
If you bump it up to a vigorous speed, you will burn 391 calories in half an hour. Pedal at a vigorous speed for an hour and you will burn 782 calories — that's a lot more compared to the elliptical.
A stationary bike is a great way to strengthen your legs and core without stressing your joints, points out the Mayo Clinic. Cycling, in general, is beneficial for those with osteoarthritis. Plus, you can either cycle at home, go to the gym or attend spinning classes if you enjoy group exercise. The bike seat can be uncomfortable, but adding a padded model will often fix this issue.
Read more: 8 Benefits of Indoor Cycling Workouts
Bottom Line: Elliptical vs. Bike
When used at high-intensity, a stationary bike burns more calories than the elliptical, making it a slightly better choice for those trying to lose weight. The elliptical, however, helps strengthen both your upper and lower body by engaging more muscle groups.
Both machines are considered low-impact, making them ideal for those with osteoarthritis as well as for cross-training. The elliptical machine provides more weight-bearing than the stationary bike, so it may help improve bone health. But if you have knee, hip or ankle pain, the stationary bike might be a better choice for getting a cardiovascular workout without stressing the joints.
Whichever machine you choose, it's important you work to get your heart rate in the target zone, says the American Heart Association. To find your maximum heart rate, take 220 minus your age. Try to get your heart rate at 50 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate, depending on workout intensity.
For example, if you're 40 years old, then your maximum heart rate is 180 beats per minute (bpm). While working out, your heart rate should be between 90 and 153 bpm. If it's lower than that, you need to push yourself more. If it's too high, you can back off the intensity.
If you can't decide between elliptical versus bike, you may use both machines to get a fantastic full-body workout. Plus, this is a great way to keep your routine varied.
- Harvard Medical School: "Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights"
- Mayo Clinic: "Are Elliptical Machines Better Than Treadmills for Basic Aerobic Workouts?"
- Mayo Clinic: "Cycle Your Way to Better Health"
- American Heart Association: "Know Your Target Heart Rates for Exercise, Losing Weight and Health"