Elliptical or Treadmill? – How to Choose

Smooth Fitness Treadmill and EllipticalWhether purchasing a piece of home fitness equipment or working out at a gym, chances are the question of “elliptical or treadmill?” has crossed your mind at one point or another. Both elliptical trainers and treadmills can be used to burn calories and get into shape, but they are two very different machines. Each offers a unique set of workout functions. Making an informed decision when it comes time to start your routine or purchase a piece of home fitness equipment is very important; therefore, we have outlined some key differences and similarities between elliptical trainers and treadmills.

Treadmills date as far back as 1817, but they became the mainstream fitness equipment we know today following scientific research published in 1968 that supported their use in the medical industry. Eventually treadmills began appearing in hospitals, gyms, and homes. Treadmills are an extremely popular piece of exercise equipment because they enable any user to run or walk, which are the two most popular forms of exercise today. The lack of real-world obstacles significantly reduces the risks normally associated with running outdoors and the uninterrupted pace enables more efficient results over shorter periods of time. Also, treadmills offer a “lower” impact form of running as many units utilize some form of cushioning technology to reduce joint stress. Treadmills offer a great cardiovascular workout and maintain a very organic feeling by allowing users to actively adjust incline options and belt speed. Treadmills closely simulate outdoor running or walking in a safe and convenient environment making them a great option for any user looking for the intensity of a traditional run or walk without the hassle.

Elliptical trainers were first introduced in the early 1990’s, but really took off around 2004. Elliptical trainers offer a wide-range of fitness benefits making them a very versatile machine. The initial motivation for designing elliptical trainers was to reduce impact during workouts. When running or walking outdoors, users can feel impact of up to 2 1/2 times their body weight. This can be very hard on joints and can lead to long-term health problems. Elliptical machines almost completely eliminate workout impact by effectively simulating the human knee, ankle, and hip rotation that naturally occurs while running or walking. However, elliptical trainers are not just a way to get a lower impact workout. Most elliptical trainers offer an upper body workout in addition to the lower body workout. This upper body motion is similar to what a cross-country skier may experience and is achieved by the handle grips being synced into the motion of the legs. This creates a unique workout experience where the perceived rate of exertion is lower than the actual rate of exertion allowing users to burn more calories before fatigue. The elliptical trainer also offers the option to pedal in both the forward and reverse directions, enabling the user to work a wider range of muscle groups. Also, choosing to use the static handle bars found on most elliptical trainers can improve balance and motor skills, but should not be attempted by those new to elliptical trainers.

The main difference between elliptical trainers and treadmills is the way in which the same workout is achieved. Both machines attempt to simulate the cardiovascular workout associated with running or walking. The treadmill provides users with the best simulation of running outdoors and can be a great tool for runners/walkers who want a convenient alternative to outdoor workouts. Elliptical trainers provide a lower impact workout while simultaneously working out both the lower and upper body, making them a very versatile machine.

Treadmills and elliptical’s both aim to provide users with a great cardiovascular workout that is both convenient and safe. Ether machine can be purchased for home use or found at any major gym club. Making a choice between these two machines really depends on what your needs are. If joint pain is a major issue for you, chances are elliptical machines will suit your needs the best. If you are a competitive runner looking for a way to train during the winter months, then a treadmill is probably the way to go. If you love walking outdoors but want to work out your lower body as well as your upper body, then a healthy combination of treadmill and elliptical exercise may be just the ticket. When it comes time to choose between an elliptical and a treadmill, consider what you want out of the workout and what your body needs. Always consult a physician before beginning any new workout routine.

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