By Dar Forsythe, HSSCS, PTS.
Coaching Director, Baseball Presqu’ile.
When trying to decide between elliptical and treadmill fitness equipment, the only conclusion you can draw from your research is that they are largely doing the same job, building up cardiovascular conditioning.
But there is a significant difference that makes the decision much easier, the amount of impact on a user’s back, hips, knees and feet. Both treadmills and ellipticals are the darlings of the exercise world. Treadmills have been around for quite a while and are the largest selling type of fitness equipment.
Ellipticals were introduced only a few years ago, but sales have more than tripled in the years since. Elliptical v treadmill–which is best for you?
Ellipticals greatly reduce the amount of impact on your back, knees and other joints because your feet ride on pedals following an elliptical reciprocating path, much the same as they would naturally. Much like running on air!
Ellipticals incorporate reciprocating handlebars for a combined upper body workout. Elliptical manufacturing companies claim that the resulting effort involved has been found to burn more calories over a shorter period. Although I remain skeptical of this claim.
Treadmills, on the other hand, do not support the runner or walker meaning with every step the body strikes the deck with the entire force of its own weight resulting in compressive impact on the back and joints. Treadmills do incorporate some sort of shock absorption or dampening system/cushioning that will eliminate some of the impact which reduces overall stress on the joints and the back.
They are, however, more versatile, depending on the size, power and training features available on the model, and running or walking follow a more natural path for those with a wider stance or unique stride.
Prices of the two machines are pretty much in line until you get to the high-end and club-quality level of treadmills where costs can be as high as several thousand dollars.
* Ellipticals do not have drive motors and that should mean fewer needs for repair and lower costs of maintenance down the road.