Is the Elliptical Trainer or Treadmill More Joint-Friendly?
You can get an effective aerobic and strength workout with either an elliptical trainer or treadmill.
But which one is less stressful on your ankle joints, knees, hips and back?
These are two of the most common cardio machines in gyms. Whilst the treadmill is typically a better calorie burner, an elliptical trainer causes less strain on your knees and joints.
If you’re looking for a low-impact, high-result workout, consider investing in an elliptical trainer. Here’s how to determine which is right for you.
Walking vs Running
If you’re used to running for fitness, working out on a treadmill a few times a week will boost strength, leanness and stamina. Unfortunately it’ll also be tough on joints.
Naturally, walking on a treadmill reduces impact on your body.
But treadmills meet running and pacing goals with the same feel and versatility that comes with running uphill or sprinting on flat pathways, regardless of the weather.
If joint pain or posture problems affect you, consider swapping the treadmill for an elliptical.
Runners who need a break from regular running routines can also benefit by using elliptical trainers on rest days. Alternatively, if you’re recovering from knee injury elliptical training can prevent overload injuries such as stress factors.
Tip: If you use the treadmill and have joint pain, keep the speed low. When speed increases, there’s a higher risk of adding pressure to your knees.
Elliptical Trainers Offer Low-Impact Workouts
Elliptical trainers are more beneficial for low-impact workouts.
Since your feet are constantly connected to the pedals, there’s less strain on knees and joints.
They serve as a sport-specific alternative because you use the same muscles as running. According to arthritis studies, the energy from running on a treadmill with no incline is about the same amount of energy needed to use an elliptical.
Yet for many people, the elliptical feels easier.
Even if you’re looking for a more challenging exercise consider sticking to elliptical workouts. Unlike the treadmill, you can manipulate the machine’s resistance to put more power behind your movements if you want a harder workout.
Tip: Some elliptical trainers have an adjustable incline ramp, if you want to mimic an uphill run or hike without using a treadmill. These machines also provide workout variety and can work a different set of muscles when you pedal in reverse.
Treadmills are Tough on Joints and Posture
As effective as treadmills are for cardio, strength, weight loss and stamina building, they’re notoriously tough on your body.
To avoid posture problems, make sure the size of the belt is right for you. If belt width is too wide it can create unnatural walking/running postures which puts unnecessary strain on muscles and tendons.
Treadmills are high-impact exercises. But with an understanding of how they affect knees, you can practice better treadmill running habits.
Using an elliptical trainer instead can keep knee joints healthy. Low-impact cardio workouts increase blood flow to your knee cartilage, which helps strengthen the surrounding muscles. This is important for arthritic knees or joint pain sufferers.
Tip: Always adjust the machine to fit your body type. Set your desired knee range motion and resistance levels for pain free use. The higher the knee bend increase, the more pressure on your joints.
Consider Workout Variety
Elliptical trainers are designed to be used in multiple ways. Versatility is important for workouts to eliminate boredom. Moving the body a little differently also helps create some balance.
If you want a full body workout, elliptical machines target more areas than a treadmill. To work the lower body and increase stability, use the stationary handle bars. The moving handlebars will give you full body stimulation, or use neither set of handlebars to simulate and improve running.
Joint and posture health is about finding balance.
Although elliptical trainers are considered low-impact time, intensity and frequency of exercise must be monitored so you don’t make your joints worse.