Elliptical vs Treadmill vs Bike – Which one is the best?

Keeping fit and staying in shape has been an innate desire for humans for as long as human history can remember. Early humans may not have probably set out to engage in cardio and fitness exercises, but the nature of their lives always kept them on the move.

With the birth of civilization and modernization, humans began to have, intentionally or otherwise, sedentary lifestyles. And with the need to keep fit and stay healthy, fitness exercises became mainstream. 

With the rise in technological advancements, exercise equipment like the elliptical machine, exercise bike, and treadmill became common gym and home fitness equipment.

This article examines the difference and associated benefits of each fitness equipment. It also seeks to make comparisons to see which of them makes for better exercise equipment.

Elliptical vs Treadmill vs Bike

SUMMARY – Treadmill Vs Elliptical Vs Bike

Fitness enthusiasts and equipment fanatics continue to argue about which fitness equipment is a better option to get desired results. Unfortunately, there’s no definitive answer because several usage parameters and preferences would have to be met.

For a better understanding of these parameters, here’s a summary of how each fitness equipment ranks.

MUSCLES WORKEDFull bodyLower bodyLower body
WORKOUTSFull bodyLower bodyLower body

Treadmill Vs Elliptical Vs Bike

Depending on individual preference, there are lots of reasons why one fitness enthusiast would prefer to work out with particular fitness equipment. Hopefully, to settle this argument once and for all, an in-depth examination of how this fitness equipment performs will be examined below:

Muscles Worked

Keeping the body’s muscles toned and fit is an excellent way to stay healthy and increase muscle lifespan. Each fitness equipment has areas of the body for which they target.


By the build and design of the elliptical trainer, users are expected to simultaneously move their legs and arms to achieve a full-body workout. Workouts on an elliptical trainer mimic running, walking, and stair climbing exercises but are done with low impact.

It is a piece of good cardio equipment for improving cardio capacity and blood flow. Using a good cardio machine can help improve the overall health of a person.

When done correctly, ellipticals can help fitness fanatics work on these body muscles. 

Elliptical - Muscles Worked

The top body muscles worked include the heart (cardio workout), biceps, triceps, small pectorals, abs, deltoid, and back. The lower body muscles include the lower back, glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, rear calf, and front calf.


Workouts on treadmills are usually walking, running, and jogging exercises. This is occasioned by the design and operation of the treadmill.

Modern treadmills have adjustable incline and decline modes to allow high and low-intensity workouts. As a result, more body muscles are worked during training exercises. 

Muscles worked on a treadmill are categorized into primary, secondary, and light muscle-worked areas.

These muscles include the heart, quadriceps, calves, hamstrings, glutes, Iliotibial (IT) band, back, hips, legs, and ankles.

Treadmill - Muscles Worked


The build and design of a stationary bike for workout exercises allows it to target specific body muscles.

In addition, a recumbent exercise bike will enable users to have moderate, low-intensity exercise.

The muscles worked on an exercise bike include the heart, glute, hip flexor, hamstrings, quadriceps, calf, and ankles.

It also lightly affects the biceps and triceps.

Bike - Muscles Worked

Calorie Burning

Weight loss is one of the primary reasons many people engage in fitness exercises. However, the number of unwanted calories consumed daily can build up in the body and cause health-related dangers. 

Depending on the number of calories to be burned, here are the calorie-burning capabilities of each of these fitness equipments.


Since body weight differs, there’s no standard amount of calorie burn that will apply to every person. However, fitness enthusiasts are estimated to burn about 270 to 378 calories after a 30-minute elliptical workout. Many of these variations occur because of additional factors like the body mass index (BMI), gender, age, workout intensity, weight loss goals, etc. 

According to the health experts at Healthline, a 125 pounds user is estimated to be able to burn about 270 calories in a 30- minute elliptical workout. Under the same exercise period, a 155 pounds fitness fanatic should be able to burn off about 324 calories. In the same way, a 185 pounds fitness fanatic will burn off 378 calories within a 30-minute elliptical exercise session.


As with other fitness equipment, the intensity of the workout plays a vital role in the total number of calories burned. On a treadmill, the duration and inclination/declination also affects the number of calories burned, alongside the biological parameters.

To give an average figure for calories burned on a treadmill, the user’s weight is put at 125 pounds. According to Harvard Health Publishing, if this person walked on a treadmill at 3.5 mph for about 30 minutes, he/she should be able to burn roughly 120 calories.

If the person opts to run at 5 mph for the same 30 minutes on the treadmill, they could burn 240 calories. However, increasing the run intensity to 7.5 mph on the treadmill can see them burn an astonishing 375 calories within a 30-minute treadmill workout.


Stationary bikes are an excellent way to lose weight. The exercise bike mimics outdoor cycling exercises by having fitness fanatics enjoy the thrills and workouts right in the comfort of their homes. 

Several factors also determine the number of calories burned on a bike. Going to the medical statistics of Harvard Health Publishing, a 125-pound person can lose about 210 calories in a 30-minute stationary bike workout.

A person weighing 155 pounds engaged in 30-minute bike cycling exercises is estimated to lose 252 calories. The same is true for a 185 pounds fitness fanatic on the same bike. They are estimated to lose about 294 calories within the same 30 minutes period.

Joint Impact

The joints aid movement in the human body. Performing exercises can make these joints susceptible to injuries. In addition, some fitness equipment can have a low to high impact on the joints and core muscles.

Joint Impact


Fitness fanatics on elliptical machines are bound to experience full-body massage. The flywheel and adjusted resistance control most of the back and forward movement on an elliptical.

Users counteract this movement by applying pressure on the footplate. Ellipticals are generally known to be low-impact workout machines. This means they have little to no effect on the body’s joints.


Workout exercises on treadmills are either runs, walks, or jogs. Like these outdoor exercises, treadmills are high-impact exercises because they involve heavy contact with the ankles and knees.

As high-impact workout equipment, treadmills often leave users easily susceptible to injuries. However, newer treadmill designs incorporate technologies that make joint impact low. 

Generally, treadmills still fall under high-impact exercises since they primarily focus on building leg muscles and strength.


Bike cycling puts less pressure on the joints. It operates the same way as an elliptical, with the flywheel and resistance helping to take the pressure off the user’s joints. Stationary bikes provide low-impact workout benefits to the user.


The price of fitness equipment plays a crucial part during its purchase. Although each of these pieces of equipment works and targets different muscles, the price of the equipment can often influence the buying decision of fitness enthusiasts.


Among fitness equipment, ellipticals have a wide range of prices to cater to different user budgets. The cheapest ellipticals start at a price of about $200. 

Features available on these cheap ellipticals may not equate to those on the more expensive one, but it has the basic features. The most expensive ellipticals can cost as high as $10,000 and come with additional features.


Treadmill manufacturers offer different price ranges for fitness equipment. Prices start from low or discount, mid-range, to high-end prices. Discount prices can begin from $500 and cost close to $3,000 for the most expensive treadmills.


Like other fitness equipment, bikes come in different price ranges. Affordable bike options can start from below $400. In the same way, an expensive stationary bike can cost more than $2500.


The workout performance of fitness equipment makes fitness fanatics prefer one over the other. Depending on the desired fitness results, different fitness equipment offers different workout performances.


The Elliptical trainer machine provides a total body workout to users. It achieves this by combining the motions of the hand on the handlebars and the leg motions on the foot pedals. 

Elliptical - Workout

Most ellipticals operate with a magnetic resistance system that helps set resistance levels of the flywheel. As users exert pressure or force on the foot pedal, it creates a back and forward movement that works on the lower body.

Ellipticals often come with fixed and movable handlebars. While the fixed handlebars help support users’ weight as they exercise, the moveable handlebars help them achieve better upper body workout performance.


Most of the exercises done on a treadmill involves the use of the legs. This is why it primarily helps build leg strength. As a result, treadmill workouts do not offer full-body exercise performance.

As users walk, run, or jog on the moving treadmill, emphasis is placed on the muscles of the calves, legs, quadriceps, and glutes. The location of the muscles is enough proof that a treadmill workout primarily targets the muscles of the lower body.

Some treadmills have features that allow them to be inclined to increase the workout intensity and decline to reduce intensity.


Workout bikes deliver an almost full-body workout experience. Most of its operation is similar to ellipticals but without movable handlebars. With the arms positioned on its fixed handlebars, the biceps and triceps receive a light workout as the cyclist moves and turns the foot pedals.

Flywheel and resistance levels are adjusted to match the user’s weight and intensity of the workout. Most of the workout focuses on the lower body part.

User Friendly

There’s no denying that fitness equipment has tremendous benefits for the body. However, as manufacturers design and build more technologically advanced equipment, their ease of use is often compromised.


Although the design and operation look easy, it requires a level of understanding to work the handlebars and the foot pedals simultaneously. It takes a bit of time to grasp how to operate it fully. 


Treadmills are simple and easy to use. Its operation is similar to outdoor running, walking, and jogging. However, instead of covering a long physical distance, it allows users to workout almost in the same spot. Operation is pretty easy once the equipment is put on and the speed set.


Just like treadmills, exercise bikes are easy to operate. It mimics a regular outdoor cycling experience. Once the equipment is turned on, users can get on it and start cycling.



Ellipticals are often reliable. It has many working parts that make it vulnerable to mechanical faults and damage. Generally, it has moderate reliability, although manufacturers offer a fair warranty on their models. Ellipticals have an average lifespan of 7 to 10 years.


Treadmills have high reliability. The working operation is not as complicated and complex as an elliptical. This means there are fewer components and a longer lifespan of the equipment. Treadmills are known to have a lifespan of 10 years.


Bikes are also reliable. They operate the same way as ellipticals but without movable handlebars. Plus, they also have an average lifespan of 10 years and can last for as long as 20 years.


There have been varied opinions on workout performance and preferences about fitness equipment. However, the elliptical, treadmill, and bike have distinguishing features that make them better suited to specific workout routines.

While the elliptical delivers a full-body workout, both the treadmill and bike focus more on strengthening the lower body. To help show their strengths and usefulness, a detailed comparison between the elliptical, treadmill, and bike was carried out.

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