When you head to the gym with the plan of doing cardio for the very first time, did you feel the dilemma of choosing between a treadmill and an elliptical machine? Some say treadmills are better for warming up while others say elliptical machines are more convenient to use. But this debate has never really ceased and we believe this mystery has to be solved once and for all.
You should remember that every individual has a unique physique and so are their diet needs and exercise routines. There are people who are not suited to use treadmills or elliptical trainers, and there are those who don’t prefer using either. So the real question is, in this ongoing discussion of treadmill vs elliptical machines, which is better for your body?
Treadmill vs Elliptical Trainers: Differences
The major difference between treadmill and elliptical machines is how they operate. On a treadmill, you can walk, run and jog with extra settings available to change the difficulty mode and speed. On the other hand, with elliptical machines, you push and pull the arm handles and simultaneously move your feet up and down on the paddles. You can also change the difficulty mode as well as motion settings to allow reverse movements that treadmills cannot offer. With both machines you can easily listen to music or watch TV while exercising. So both machines are perfect candidates for home gym. However, there are other differences that make treadmills and elliptical trainers both unique and distinct.
- Muscles in use: Elliptical machines affect all the major muscle groups of the upper and lower body, while treadmills focus more on the lower body muscles, including leg muscles, calves, glutes, quadriceps and core muscles. Elliptical trainers work less on facial muscles when compared to the high-impact treadmills. Treadmill exercise can cause collagen in the facial region to break down and so women with aging concerns should avoid using treadmills.
- Calories: The amount of calories burnt actually depends on the individual’s basal metabolic rate and calorie intake. It has been found that one hour of jogging on the treadmill can burn around 700 to 866 calories while one hour of elliptical machine use can burn around 780 calories. The amount of calories burnt is similar in comparison though treadmills are slightly better. However, remember that this can vary from individual to individual.
- Impact: Here we have a clear distinction because elliptical trainers are known for their low-impact workouts for endurance and stamina. These machines are easier on the joints, which makes them perfect for beginners, seniors and overweight people. Elliptical workouts are also recommended for those with joint and back pain. On the other hand, treadmills provide more high-impact workouts and are much less forgiving. These are mostly used by people who are normally joggers and runners.
- Safety and ease of use: One of the major benefits of elliptical machines is that they are much safer to use. Once you start, your feet wouldn’t leave the paddles; so the chances of losing grip or feet slipping are lower. However, on the treadmill, you could get injured if you lose balance and your feet slip. Treadmills are actually easier to use because all you have to do is run, whereas elliptical machines can get a little bit confusing in the beginning and getting the upper body to coordinate with the lower body movement will take some practice.
- Maintenance requirements: Elliptical machines in general do not require maintenance, but treadmill machines may require from time to time. In fact, there are no maintenance-free treadmill models available.
Other Problems with Treadmills
Treadmills have been around for a long time and over time they won the heart of those who prefer running and walking for a healthy lifestyle. Modern treadmills are equipped with training programs designed to deliver intense cardio workouts. A common misconception is that treadmills can ruin one’s body posture, but if you run maintaining the correct form, your bones and muscles can be strengthened; so posture will not be affected.
However, treadmills have a number of problems some of which have already been mentioned. The stress can be too much to handle for some people. There can be high impacts on the spine, knees, hips and joints. The pain intensity can be higher, especially if you don’t do some form of warm-up or stretching beforehand. Some training programs can get dangerous, for example, incline sprints. Treadmills also have handles but many people don’t like using them. Without gripping on the handles, the machine cannot determine your heart rate and cardio activity. Some treadmills have longer belts than others, which can make the user feel uncomfortable while running.
Problems with Elliptical Machines
With an elliptical machine, you get to simulate running without having too much stress on some body parts. Their cross-training handles allow reverse striding, which affects the quadriceps. So, elliptical machines can provide adjustable workouts. The most important feature is that you would do the same level of hard work as you would on a treadmill but with much lesser effort.
Elliptical trainers also come with their fair share of problems. They do offer a wide range of movements but less range in terms of intensity and training programs, unlike treadmills. Weight-bearing exercises cannot be done with elliptical machines, which is needed for bone and muscle strengthening.
What to Eat Before and After Your Cardio Session?
Just burning calories with cardio sessions isn’t enough. You have to eat healthy to remain healthy. You should have a pre-workout meal involving proteins, carbs and fiber; but remember to not eat directly before any workout session. If you are hours away from hitting the gym, you should eat a regular meal, such as salads with grilled chicken. Grilled salmon with brown rice or whole grain pasta is also great pre-workout meals. If you have an hour left before your workout session you should opt for a high protein or high carb snack, such as granola bars or pretzels.
Post-workout meals are needed to allow your body to gain energy and for your muscles to recover. If your last meal was a few hours ago, you can eat snacks such as chocolate milk or protein bars. Whole grain bread and turkey sandwiches are also two great options. Just remember to eat what you are most comfortable with.
The debate of treadmill vs elliptical machines for cardio workouts will not cease anytime soon but by now you probably know which machine is ideal for you. If you are a senior, or someone who is yet to get used to exercising, elliptical machines would be much better for you. But if you are a sportsperson, generally fit but want to test your limits, you can opt for a treadmill. Some people combine the workouts of treadmills and elliptical machines and reap the benefits off from both machines. Most celebrities and fitness trainers have toned upper and lower bodies with great posture, thanks to the combination of these workouts, along with proper diet and sleep patterns.
If you want a killer physique, then you could also do the same. You can bring home both treadmills and ellipticals and work out in your own home gym. Both are cost effective and will deliver you amazing results as long as you are determined and dedicated. Eat healthy, drink plenty of water and take adequate time for rest so that your body can recover from stress.