Is a Treadmill Better Than an Elliptical For Weight Loss?

A lot of people trying to lose weight want to know if they should be running on the treadmill, or exercising on an elliptical machine. Both are popular, effective cardiovascular workouts and can be found in any gym. Let’s take a look at some of the factors that could affect your decision to workout with either a treadmill or an elliptical.

Calories Burned
The elliptical machine and the treadmill are pretty similar in terms of calories burned per hour, but here the slight edge goes to the treadmill. Because the treadmill requires that the runner propel themselves through the air, the intensity is usually slightly higher. However, it’s also important to remember that for those who are obese or who have joint issues, they may be able to get a more intense workout using the lower impact elliptical machine.

At the end of the day, the intensity of your workout is controlled by your own effort. The amount of effort you put into your cardio workout and the resulting intensity is much more important than whether you choose the elliptical machine or the treadmill. While there is a slightly higher calorie burning potential with a treadmill workout, the difference is fairly negligible, and the advantage may even go to the elliptical for those who have difficulty running with full intensity, either due to their size or their joint problems.

Joint Impact
Working out can have an impact on your body. Most of the time this impact is good, but sometimes it can be bad, like when you get injured. You may be tempted to “push through the pain” in your quest for weight loss, but remember that your attempts to lose weight will be negatively affected if you get injured.

When you run on a treadmill, your shins, knees and even your hips and spine can take quite a pounding due to the impact of each step. While the negative effects of this may not be noticeable in the short run, it’s certainly possible to get long term injuries due to the effects of running on a treadmill – especially if you’re overweight or obese.

The elliptical trainer on the other hand was designed to be low impact. Because your feet stay in contact with the machine – which channels your efforts into a gentle, continuous motion – there is little chance of injury to your joints. For those who are obese, the elliptical machine will allow you to work out more intensely if you were on a treadmill, where you might be forced to walk.

Muscle Groups Worked
Because the elliptical involves simultaneous lower body and upper body movement, it provides a better overall workout of the muscles throughout the body. This isn’t necessarily an important factor, since the net cardiovascular benefit is the same, but some individuals may prefer to involve their arms and upper body in their cardiovascular workout as well.

Personal Preference
The most important factor in losing weight is the amount of calories you burn versus the amount of calories you take in. This means that the amount of calories you burn through working out is crucial to determining how much of a weight loss benefit you attain. But when you compare a treadmill workout with an elliptical workout, the amount of calories you burn per hour is extremely similar, albeit with a slight edge to the treadmill.

The truth is that at the end of the day, a good hard workout on either the treadmill or the elliptical will be a great benefit to your weight loss efforts. If you’re worried about joint problems, stick with the elliptical. If you enjoy running and you don’t have any injuries, then stick with the treadmill. If you prefer one to the other, than stick with it – you’re most likely to workout consistently if you enjoy your workouts, and consistency is the key to losing weight and living a healthy lifestyle.

About The Author
Nathalie Sanderson is a passionate blogger on the topics of weight loss, health, and fitness. You can find her latest fitness articles and workouts for women at