You've made the commitment to get serious about your home workout routine. Now all you have to do is invest in the right equipment to make your workouts successful.
When planning your home workout, you know that it's important to focus on your cardiovascular health, but plans for neighborhood walks or runs can be easily derailed by rain or snow. That's why it's important to have the right equipment—so you can work out indoors regardless of the weather.
Treadmills and ellipticals are some of the most popular choices for indoor cardiovascular workouts. If you're trying to decide how to choose between a treadmill and an elliptical, this is the guide for you.
Key Differences Between Treadmills and Ellipticals
Before making the decision between a treadmill and an elliptical, it's first necessary to understand the key differences between the two pieces of equipment. While both treadmills and ellipticals can help you improve and maintain your cardiovascular health, they are very different pieces of equipment.
Treadmills are devices with continuous belts that are specifically used to help you walk or run in place. Some treadmills may offer different levels of elevation or resistance, but every treadmill ultimately focuses on training your body for walking and running. Using a treadmill will provide a very similar experience to walking or running outdoors, providing a similar impact on your body and giving you a similar cardiovascular workout to running elsewhere.
Elliptical trainers, also known as cross trainers, are low-impact machines that simulate walking, running, or climbing stairs without putting significant pressure on your joints. Because the machine moves in tandem with your body, you stimulate your muscles and joints without slamming your feet against the surface of your machine. Elliptical trainers also have the ability to work out your arms at the same time that they work out your legs. The goal of elliptical trainers is to help your body achieve cardiovascular fitness without suffering from impact damage.
Though both equipment types can offer an effective workout, there are a number of factors to consider when deciding which is best for you. Here, we’ve detailed six ways to choose the best workout equipment for your needs.
1. Choosing Equipment Based on Your Workout Goals
One of the first things to consider when choosing between a treadmill and an elliptical is the reason you're working out. If your only goal is to get in shape, both a treadmill and an elliptical can help you achieve that goal. However, if you are training for a specific event, one piece of equipment may be better for the task than another.
If you're training for a 5K or a marathon, running on a treadmill will give your body the most true-to-life experience. You can even choose a treadmill that will change elevation as you run to simulate running up and down hills the way that you would in an outdoor race.
On the other hand, elliptical trainers offer full-body workouts without a painful impact. This may be important if you're trying to keep your body in shape for full-body exercises like swimming, rowing, or climbing. If you aren't training for a specific event, but are simply trying to keep your whole body in shape so that you can enjoy physical activities with your family, an elliptical may be the way to go. Working out daily on an elliptical will prepare your body for a variety of activities, including hiking in the woods, climbing stairs on a vacation, or playing tennis at the club.
2. Choosing Equipment Based on Your Body's Physique
One of the major differences between a treadmill and an elliptical is the amount of pressure the equipment puts on your joints.
A treadmill leans into your body's typical walking and running motions. For most young, healthy individuals, running on a treadmill is a comfortable experience. Running on a treadmill is similar to running outside on a sidewalk in terms of the impact it has on your body. People struggling with arthritis or obesity may find that treadmills cause pain in their knees, ankles, or feet. For these individuals, elliptical trainers may provide a more comfortable workout experience.
3. Choosing Equipment Based on the Length and Pace of Your Workout
Some people enjoy working out hard and fast. For these individuals, the goal of a cardiovascular workout is to break a sweat, achieve shortness of breath, and really feel the workout before they hop in the shower and continue on with their day. For other individuals, a good workout is a long workout. These people may or may not care about breaking a sweat, but instead care about building up stamina and increasing the length of their workouts over time.
Treadmills are a great option for people who want to work out hard and fast. They're designed with speed levels built in, so you can increase the speed of your workout and concentrate on getting the same amount of work done in smaller increments of time. Today's treadmills are also incredibly high-tech, allowing users to attain great data on how far and fast they've run. If you appreciate tracking data, such as your speed, your distance, and your heart rate, you may prefer the personalized options that come with many treadmills.
Elliptical trainers, on the other hand, are designed to help people achieve full, long workouts without feeling as much strain as they would with a treadmill. If you're planning a Disney vacation and are trying to get your body used to being on the go for long periods of time, an elliptical trainer will be a valuable choice. Though ellipticals rarely offer as much high-tech data as treadmills, many of them will still track distance, allowing you to get a good idea of how much further you're going each day.
4. Choosing Equipment Based on Your Attitude Toward Exercise
For some people, working out is fun. Putting on their workout equipment is enough to get them in the workout zone. They anticipate the “runner's high” they'll get from a good workout, and that anticipation helps them power through and get an amazing workout every time they hit the gym. These individuals are self-motivated to succeed in their workouts. They enjoy striving to go a little further or a little faster than the day before.
For other people, just stepping up to their workout equipment takes strength and fortitude. These individuals struggle to stay motivated from the moment they tug on their running shoes until the moment they step into the shower after the workout. Understanding your attitude toward working out can help you make a smart decision about whether to buy a treadmill or an elliptical.
Treadmills are great for people who want to set the pace of their workout at the beginning of the day and then just power through until the workout is over. Because treadmills run on a motor, rather than on the physical force you exert on them, most treadmills allow you to set your speed, elevation, and time at the beginning of your workout. If you like to set up your workout and then zone out to a podcast or movie until the workout is over, a treadmill may be the best option for you.
If, on the other hand, you're the type of person who likes to feel their body pushing a little faster throughout the course of the workout, you may prefer an elliptical. Elliptical trainers may have different resistance levels, but typically they're powered by your motion rather than a motor. This gives you minute control over your speed throughout your workout, but also requires you to be more in tune with your pace throughout the length of your workout in order to gain the maximum effect.
5. Choosing Equipment Based on Your Space
Any time you purchase something new for your home, you have to consider the space you're moving the furniture into, both physically and practically. Treadmills and ellipticals are both large purchases, so it's especially important to consider where you're placing them and how you're using them before you make a purchase.
Physical Space Considerations
Treadmills and elliptical trainers take up slightly different amounts of space. Treadmills never extend past their physical footprint. You can place a treadmill directly against a wall without worrying about bumping or scraping your paint while you work out. This may be important if you don't have space for a full home gym and are simply squeezing workout equipment into a relatively small space.
Ellipticals, on the other hand, do extend. When you work out on your elliptical, your hands and feet extend forward. However, as long as you're not trying to place your elliptical directly against a wall, this may not be a concern.
When considering your space holistically, it's also important to consider where you live, who lives around you, and when you'll be working out. Between the whirring of the motor and the bang of your sneakers against the base, treadmills tend to be louder than ellipticals. If you live in an upstairs apartment, your downstairs neighbors may not appreciate your treadmill keeping them up at all hours of the night. Similarly, if you prefer to work out late at night after your kids are in bed, you may prefer the quiet of an elliptical trainer so that it doesn't disturb your family.
If, on the other hand, you're planning to place your workout equipment in a garage or basement, relatively far away from anyone you may disturb, the amount of sound your equipment makes may not bother you. Some people may even enjoy the whirring of a treadmill motor, since it can provide some ambient noise and may block out the sounds your family is making upstairs during the day, allowing you to focus on getting the most out of your workout.
6. Choosing Equipment Based on Your Workout Gear
Treadmills and elliptical trainers cause a different amount of wear and tear to your workout gear. This may be important if you have a specific outfit you like to wear while working out.
Treadmills necessitate sneakers. Running on a treadmill barefoot is incredibly hard on your feet and can be dangerous. To keep your treadmill in peak condition, you'll also want dedicated sneakers that you just use while working out. This prevents pebbles and debris from getting caught in the belt of your treadmill and causing damage. However, it is an extra expense worth considering when purchasing your workout equipment.
Unlike treadmills, ellipticals work just fine if you use your street sneakers on them. And if you prefer working out barefoot versus in sneakers, an elliptical is the clear choice to make since your feet won't be hitting against the equipment. Ellipticals are also less damaging to any shoes you choose to wear on them, allowing your sneakers to last longer on your workout equipment.
Choosing the Right Treadmill or Elliptical for You
Once you've chosen between a treadmill and an elliptical, the next step is to determine which treadmill or elliptical is the right option for you. There are a number of things to consider when selecting your specific workout equipment, including:
- The cost of the equipment
- The amount of space the equipment takes up
- The durability of the equipment
- Ratings and reviews from other people who have used the equipment
For a comprehensive overview of treadmills and elliptical trainers on the market, check out our buyers guides.
Treadmill or Elliptical: Which One Should You Buy?
Ultimately, the decision of buying an elliptical or a treadmill is largely personal. Choosing the right workout gear for you depends on your body and your workout preferences. Most people who are specifically looking to work out their legs and train for races will prefer the treadmill, while those engaged in full-body sports like tennis or swimming may prefer the low-impact, full-body workout that comes with the elliptical. Other considerations include cost, space, and your body.
We recommend these buyers guides for home fitness equipment:
If, after considering all the factors, you're still not sure whether you'd prefer a treadmill or an elliptical, visit a G&G home exercise equipment store so that you can try both pieces of equipment out. The way your body feels performing a workout may be the determining factor for the right piece of workout equipment for you.