Cross Trainer vs Treadmill

cross trainer vs treadmill

The main difference between a cross trainer and a treadmill is that ellipticals help you build your overall muscle strength, whereas treadmills increase your lower body strength.

However, did you know that choosing the wrong equipment is one of the top reasons for injuries and weight loss plateaus? When it comes to cross trainer vs treadmill there’s no right or wrong answer. You have to choose a machine that will suit your fitness needs, space, and pre-existing conditions.

An elliptical trainer can be better than a treadmill in some regards and vice-versa. If you want to ensure effective workouts that fit your needs perfectly, read the article below.

Weight and Fat Loss

A 2010 study discusses various indicators to decide the matter of cross trainer vs treadmill for weight loss. The researchers took into account the levels of oxygen, the heart rate, and the calories burnt by the subjects.

The results show that men burn more calories than women and have higher peak oxygen uptakes. However, there’s a negligible difference in calories burnt and oxygen uptake when using the elliptical machine vs using the treadmill.

The result: you can burn an average of 800 calories per hour on the treadmill and about 770 calories per hour on an elliptical. Besides, another interesting study shows that treadmills and ellipticals help you burn a similar amount of fat. 

Tl;dr: You can lose a lot of weight, including fat weight, whether you’re using a cross trainer or treadmill. That’s because both machines help you burn about 800 calories/ hour.

Heart and Lung Health

which is healthier: treadmills or cross trainers?

A lot of studies analyse the participants’ oxygen levels, CO2 levels, and heart rate when they’re using the treadmill vs the cross-trainer.

All these studies show that men fare better than women when it comes to oxygen levels. So, if you’re a man, you’re going to improve your heart and lung health faster.

The second result of many studies is that it doesn’t matter whether you’re using an elliptical machine or a treadmill. Both the cross trainer and the treadmill give your heart and lungs a good workout if you’re challenging yourself.

As such, you can avoid the risk of various chronic illness related to your heart and lungs. You can also alleviate symptoms of pre-existing conditions, as long as your doctor approves you using these machines.

But keep in mind that according to some studies, your heart rate can become more elevated on an elliptical trainer than on a treadmill. If you already have a high heart rate or arrhythmia, a treadmill might be better. Remember to double-check with your doctor first, though!

Tl;dr: You can choose either a good treadmill or an elliptical for your heart and lung health. Although both machines can similarly reduce your risk of chronic illness, some sources indicate your heart rate can be higher on the elliptical. 

Joint Health

Running on a treadmill shows various pressure points on your back, hip area, ankles, and knees. Even if you do a lengthy warm-up, you will still notice these pressure points. 

However, running and walking are two of the most natural activities in the world. That means that, from an evolutionary standpoint, your body was made to walk/ run. If your doctor approves, you can still get a treadmill with good shock absorption capacity and start with slow-paced walks, depending on your joint health. Remember to get a good pair of training shoes too so that you can get better ankle support and more cushioning.

That said, elliptical trainers are less dynamic and they help you prevent injury. Besides, they help you make the same movements as if you were walking or running, but without the impact on your joints.

Tl;dr: Elliptical trainers are safer for your joint health if you have pre-existing injuries. If your joints and bones are in top shape, a treadmill is as safe as an elliptical trainer if it’s shock-absorbing and you wear the right shoes.

Muscle Strength

Running on the treadmill will strengthen your lower body muscles, particularly your calves and quads, although your glutes and hamstrings will get a good workout too. Running on the treadmill also helps stabilise your core so that you can get stronger back and abs muscles.

However, an elliptical can help you gain more muscle strength. 

Firstly, most cross trainers have moveable handles for upper body strength. You’ll work out your biceps and lats when pulling the handles, as well as your triceps and chest when you’re pushing them.

Secondly, cross-trainers have an option called reverse pedalling, which helps you target more muscles. As such, you can activate your quads well when you’re front-pedalling, but choose reverse pedalling to work your glutes and hamstrings.

Besides, cross trainers can work your core even more than treadmills because it’s more difficult to keep your balance on an elliptical when you’re not using the handles.

Tl;dr: As previously said, ellipticals help you build your overall muscle strength, whereas treadmills increase your lower body strength.

Bone Strength

which is better for bone strength treadmill or cross trainer?

Treadmills have what’s called a weight-bearing effect. That means walking/ running on the treadmill uses your entire body weight so that it’s similar to walking/ running outdoors. This weight-bearing effect sends slight shocks to your muscles and bones as you’re stepping. However, these “shocks” are what make your bones stronger. In the long-term, you can avoid osteoporosis and maintain a correct posture.

On the other hand, elliptical machines have a less weight-bearing effect. That’s good news if you already have weak joints or you’re recovering from injury. However, it’s not that good news when it comes to strengthening your bones. 

If you don’t like using a treadmill or you can’t do it, talk to your doctor about strength training. This type of exercise will also increase your bone density and decrease your risk of injury.

Tl;dr: Remember that your bones become less dense as you age, which increases your risk of injury and pain. As such, if you have your doctor’s approval, a treadmill is better for long-term bone health. Otherwise, consider walking or strength training along with your elliptical training.

Mental Health and Motivation

All types of exercises are shown to reduce stress and produce a positive mental outlook on life. Whether you choose a treadmill or a cross trainer, your brain will secrete more endorphins aka happiness hormones.  The result is you’ll feel happier, more energised, and more productive. You’ll also likely improve any existing sleep disorders.

Besides, as you complete challenging workouts and see improvements in your body composition, your brain will also secrete more dopamine aka the reward hormone. Therefore, you will be more motivated to complete your workouts.

However, motivation is a very personal and unique thing. Some people are more motivated by tough workouts, in which case treadmills are better because they’re more challenging. 

Studies show that, although ellipticals can provide strenuous workouts, your perceived intensity is lower. But, if you’re the kind of person who’s discouraged by tough exercise and excessive sweating, choosing an elliptical machine might be best for your motivation.

Tl;dr: There’s no difference in mental health and motivation for cross-trainers vs treadmills. The only thing that matters is choosing challenging workouts that make you feel comfortable.

Wrap Up. Should You Choose a Treadmill or a Cross Trainer?

Treadmills and cross-trainers burn the same amount of calories and they’re similar when it comes to your aerobic capacity. However, cross-trainers protect your joints better and they help you build more lean muscles. Conversely, treadmills help build stronger bones and they offer more intense, challenging workouts.

The first thing you should do is to discuss things with your doctor. The rule of thumb is to choose a cross-trainer if you want low-impact workouts for total body toning. If you prefer high-impact exercise, choose a treadmill but remember to pair it with some strength training to exercise your whole body.

You should also choose a top-quality fitness machine and good training equipment. You don’t have to break the bank either because many affordable products are safe and reliable. 


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