Treadmill vs Cross Trainer vs Exercise Bike – Which is Right for Me?

June 6, 2015

Facing your fitness goals comes complete with a huge variety of exercise options. From different workout plans for different needs and a piece of exercise equipment for almost everything imaginable, it can definitely be a challenge to find what’s right for you. Whilst some training methods work wonders for shredding those extra kilos, they may be harsh on other parts of the body or simply not be working the right muscles for your fitness needs.

When you’re in the market for a new piece of equipment or you’re looking to change your workout up at the gym, it’s important you do your research first. What may work for the person next to you may not be right for you. To help you kick those fitness goals – regardless of what they may be – we’ve put together this comprehensive guide to find out what will work best for you; a treadmill, cross trainer or an exercise bike?

1. I want to burn calories

If you’re maintaining the same heart rate across all three machines, there’s not going to be a lot of difference in the number of calories you burn. The intensity required to maintain this heart rate however, can vary between each piece of equipment and this is why you’ll get better results from some over others.

Cardio workouts are one of the best ways for burning unwanted calories but it’s still important to find the right workout and equipment for your fitness needs. If your goal is to burn calories, stick to cardiovascular exercises over weight training activities and workouts that are of a high intensity.

Both treadmills and cross trainers (also known as an elliptical trainer) can help you shred calories and fat but they do so at different rates. To burn calories using a treadmill you’ll want to be running (20-40 min workout is good) as this is a faster calorie burner. Alternatively, you can do a 30 minute elliptical machine workout which will generally burn about 400 calories in a 85kg person.

Burning calories effectively though isn’t just about the machine you’re on. How many calories you burn depends also on your body weight and workout intensity and consistency – so keep these factors in mind too. Whilst both pieces of equipment are great for burning calories, an elliptical trainer requires more coordination leaving the treadmill to be the easiest option for many.

2. I want to gain muscle and increase bone density

Cross trainers offer all the benefits of a treadmill but with an extra kick to it. Because they work every muscle of your body instead of just the legs, they’re an ideal piece of equipment for overall muscle strengthening and building. If you’re looking to only target the legs and buttocks area, both treadmills and exercise bikes can give a good workout without a whole body muscle gain.

The advantage a cross trainer or elliptical trainer has over these two though is it trains both your legs and arms at the same time. As your legs power away, your arms are moving back and forth targeting all the major upper body muscles including your chest, shoulders, biceps and triceps. If you want to target different leg muscles to that of a treadmill or bike, you can change the direction of your feet on the cross trainer by pedalling backwards and this will work other leg muscles and buttocks. If muscle gain is your fitness goal, the elliptical trainer will offer a full weight-bearing workout that’s super effective in building bone density.

3. I want something that’s easy on my body and joints

Despite the benefits of exercising, your body can take a huge beating – especially in your joints. If you suffer from pre-existing injuries or knee and joint issues, it’s vital you take a close look into what equipment you’re using and how this is impacting on your body.

As far as low impact goes, cross trainers are renowned for offering a full body workout without the stress and strain on your joints. Exercise bikes too provide a calorie burn workout that’s low on impact and can be a better option if you’re just after something basic. For knee pain sufferers, it’s best to steer clear of treadmills and opt for an exercise bike as the impact of body weight and stress on joints is not a concern. But, like with any piece of equipment if it’s not adjusted to your body properly, it can do more harm than good so get a professional to demonstrate the best way to use it first if joint stress is an issue for you. Here’s a great read on how to set up your exercise bike for a better workout to start you off.

4. I want to use my upper and lower body

Whilst treadmills are fantastic for burning calories and customising a workout to suit your own needs and fitness level, it doesn’t give you a full body workout. For fitness goals consisting of a workout that utilises both the upper and body workout, it’s hard to go past a cross trainer or elliptical machine.

These units are a treadmill, stair master and exercise bike combined and thus, offers maximum potential with a unique combination of fitness benefits. Helping to not only burn calories and boost bone and muscle density, many people steer towards them because it does give you the full body workout. If you are a beginner though, it’s definitely best to speak to a professional before using one to get the full benefits.

5. I want to reduce stress and boost endurance

Exercising isn’t just about calorie counting and muscle gain, sometimes your goal is to simply reduce stress and feel better. Exercising to gain energy is a fitness goal you don’t read too much about anymore with all the calorie and weight loss talk around – but it’s just as important.

The best part about this goal is all three machines are great for a daily stress reduction and healthy boost of endurance. Combined with other factors – like the space in your home, budget and whether there’s any other goals to tick off too, it’s super easy to find a machine that works great for you.

Exercise bikes will boost stamina and endurance naturally and are fantastic for those after a basic workout or if you’re just starting out on the fitness bandwagon. If you’re after more of a challenge or a variety of workout options, treadmills and cross trainers will definitely tick these boxes too.

What fitness goals will you be tackling this week?

By Jayde Ferguson, who writes for Orbit Fitness – the largest supplier of fitness equipment in Perth. You can catch Jayde on Google+ to discuss this piece.

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