Running vs. Elliptical Benefits

Large, bright gym with workout equipment.
You can run anywhere, but you may have to join a gym to use elliptical machines. (Image: XiXinXing/XiXinXing/Getty Images)

Elliptical machines are standard equipment at gyms across the country, and running is a classic cardiovascular exercise for those looking to build endurance and burn calories. You may wonder which one provides more benefits. The answer lies in your goals for your workout, your personal issues with injuries and your personal preferences. For some individuals, elliptical machines are a better choice, while for others, running makes more sense.

Elliptical Machine Benefits

Both standing elliptical machines and recumbent elliptical bikes provide a low-impact workout for those who have chronic issues with their ankle or knee joints and for those who are recovering from injury. By using the arm levels, you can even work your arms on elliptical machines. In some cases, it is even possible to use only your arms to move the machines -- rather than the standing, floating platforms.

Running Advantages

Whether you opt to run on a treadmill or outside, running is a high impact exercise that boosts your metabolism and burns calories. Regular practice can build stamina and increase your ability to run longer distances at a faster pace. Muscle stability and bone strength also improve when you run regularly: the impact of your legs on the running surface stimulates the bone cells to regenerate and the tendons and muscles to adjust by getting stronger.

Elliptical and Running Similarities

Both running and elliptical machines offer cardiovascular benefits, working your heart and increasing blood flow and the delivery of oxygen to organs throughout your body. Both also focus on the development and use of large muscles such as your quads, hamstrings, glutes, hips, and calves, which warm you up quickly and help you burn more calories. Both of these exercises also help improve your balance and stability, and they promote weight loss when you combine them with a healthy diet.

Elliptical and Running Differences

If you are interested in running in marathons, decreasing your time to run the mile, or prefer to be outdoors, then running is definitely the best choice for your cardio workout. However, even with proper shoes and a flat running surface, injuries to ankle joints and knees are common when running due to the repeated motion of the weight-bearing activity. If you have leg, ankle, or knee injuries, or if you prefer to workout inside away from the elements, then using elliptical recumbent bikes or elliptical machines can help you get a solid cardiovascular workout with minimal impact. If you are free of injuries, you can choose one of the exercise types, or you can add variety to your exercise regimen by alternating them throughout the week.

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