Cross Trainer vs Treadmill for Weight Loss

Elliptical and Treadmill

In the world of weight loss, there are two very popular pieces of gym equipment to help you burn those calories. Any quality gym or fitness centre you visit will have both treadmills and cross trainers (aka ellipticals) occupying a significant portion of gym space. And in most cases, you’ll see people happily (or not so happily) burning away calories on each machine.

Most people who have spent some time in a gym or working out have probably given both of these machines a try. After all, they both seem like great tools with great benefits to help burn fat and achieve a weight loss goal. However, there are a pretty good amount of people who want you to believe one is better than the other for your workouts.

In many cases, there are staunch supporters of either side. The ‘Team Treadmill’ supporters say that since a treadmill is essentially a running trainer, it’s a more effective weight loss tool. On the other hand, the ‘Team Elliptical’ people note the features of that equipment’s design make it more optimal for weight loss help – without sacrificing your knees due to lower impact.

So what’s the real answer here? Is a cross trainer good for weight loss? Is an elliptical better than a treadmill? The benefits of these workouts show how different they are in comparison. However, the overall results of both types of machines will likely surprise you.

Woman using elliptical

Getting to Know the Elliptical Cross Trainer

Elliptical training remains one of the most popular workouts in gyms across the world. Its versatility, range of options and ease of use make it a great tool for beginners up to advanced users.

Understanding your calorie-burning results on a cross trainer will vary depending on a few factors:

  • Your current weight
  • Your level of cardiovascular fitness
  • The intensity level/resistance selected on the machine
  • Whether or not you use the arm handles
  • The amount of time for your workout

Obviously the higher the resistance, the more calories you’ll burn within your workout window.

The primary benefit of elliptical training is precisely that it’s not running. Many people experience joint pain or other issues that prevent them from running. This machine offers a solution with great cardio potential and less impact on your joints.

Man running on treadmill in home

How the Treadmill Keeps You Fit

As most of us know, a treadmill is an effective tool for walking, running, incline training and a variety of other activities. As you adjust the speed and incline, you can increase the overall challenge on a treadmill. This can quickly boost up your potential to burn fat as well.

Related: See our latest 25-minute HIIT incline treadmill workout.

Much like the cross trainer, your calorie burn on a treadmill will also vary due to a few factors:

  • Your weight & cardiovascular fitness
  • The treadmill speed setting
  • The incline height adjustment
  • Amount of time for your workout

As you improve in your overall running shape, you can increase the speed or challenge yourself with inclines to keep your body effectively burning fat.

Proper running form is obviously essential on these machines – and maintaining it will actually prevent knee and other joint issues. For people strong enough to use it, the treadmill offers some of the best indoor-based training available in fitness.

Close up feet with red shoes running on treadmill

Crunching the Data: Treadmill vs. Elliptical Calories Burned

As most research shows, there are a few striking points that distinguish these two machines based on their calorie-burning potential. According to one study from the Medical College of Wisconsin, treadmills have elliptical training beat in overall calories burned – but just barely. In their study they used a controlled setting to determine their subjects’ average calorie consumption per hour on each machine. Here are the results:

  • Treadmills: average of 705 to 866 calories burned per hour
  • Ellipticals: average of 773 calories burned per hour

While the data shows a bit of a potential advantage to the treadmill, the elliptical is not far behind at all in overall results. This shows a pretty close comparison between the two.

Another study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness conducted a 12-week study with a closer spotlight on burning fat. Researchers took a look at the two machines as well as stair climbers and measured all their fat-burning potential.

What these researchers found over their 12-week study was similar to the above-mentioned study. All the machines had a similar physiological effect on the body. All the exercises helped participants burn fat with just about identical cardiovascular results.

Click the following link to see our list of the best Australian treadmills for home users.

woman on elliptical in family room

Making a Choice That’s Best for You

The research may not give a true answer to the question “is an elliptical better than a treadmill?” But the answers make one conclusion abundantly clear: there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the best choice for weight loss.

The truth is that both machines have their advantages when it comes to weight loss. Treadmills always seem like the logical choice for sustained weight loss. After all, a platform that allows continual running can easily contribute to a major weight loss goal.

Despite the typical presumption surrounding a treadmill, however, elliptical machines can pack just as much punch for weight loss as their treadmill counterparts. Many people love using them because they deliver a great workout with less strain on the body – particularly the joints.

In most cases, fitness trainers and exercise physiologists recommend incorporating both of these machines into your fitness routine. Ellipticals can be great when you’re first starting out because they’re simpler and bring less risk for injury. Treadmills are also just as easy to use for beginners, too. Walking is a natural movement and low to moderate intensity while walking on a treadmill is low impact. However, your potential for injury does increase a little faster on a treadmill compared to other cardio equipment.

By using both types of machines, you’ll keep your workouts fresh and keep your body guessing. This type of changeup helps ensure your body won’t overtrain specific muscle areas.

Woman leaning on elliptical after workout

The Final Verdict

Both an elliptical and treadmill are similar in comparison for potential calories burned and weight/fat loss. Both offer great benefits and will yield great workouts. And when paired with a sound nutrition plan, both types of equipment can help you burn fat.

Identify your specific needs, wants and ability to determine which machine is right for you. But change your routine from time to time by using both. In the end, this will only improve your overall results – both to burn fat and to improve your cardiovascular health.

Published on 26/08/2015

Last updated on 12/11/2021

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