If you’re looking for a cardio machine to transform your fitness, you've come to the right place. Below, we have compared the features and benefits of treadmills to cross trainers, rowing machines, and exercise bikes. Read on to find the perfect fit for you and your fitness goals.
Working out on a cross trainer is an impact-free way to get a full body workout and improve your cardio fitness. It can also help you lose weight and tone your muscles.
Treadmill workouts can be more vigorous than cross trainer workouts, helping to increase stamina and burn calories rapidly. But running on a treadmill is a high impact activity, which doesn’t suit everyone.
So, treadmill vs cross trainer: which should you choose? Let’s explore the key differences and what they mean for your needs:
The main difference between a treadmill vs elliptical workout is the impact level.
Cross trainer workouts are a no impact activity. Your feet never leave the foot supports and the striding motion is completely smooth.
In contrast, treadmill training is high impact. Your feet leave the ground and strike the belt in turn as you run, propelling yourself forwards.
If you have any conditions that affect your joints, such as arthritis, it is best to choose a cross trainer over a treadmill. A low impact exercise is likely to suit you better and will avoid aggravating your joint pain.
Impact level is also an important consideration if you are overweight or obese. As your joints have more weight to bear as you work out, you may find a low impact activity more comfortable. In this case, a cross trainer would be a good option.
Treadmill running requires more exertion than most cross trainer workouts. For this reason, it helps you burn more calories in a shorter space of time. So a treadmill is a smart choice if you want to lose weight.
You may burn fewer calories on a cross trainer vs treadmill in the same space of time. But because cross trainer workouts tend to require less exertion, you can workout for longer.
Longer workouts mean you may burn more calories on a cross trainer over a week than a treadmill. In this way, a cross trainer can help you lose weight just as effectively as a treadmill. It is just less time efficient.
High impact exercise like treadmill running sometimes gets a bad reputation. But it is a super effective way to get fit.
As a high impact activity, treadmill running requires more exertion. Your heart has to pump faster and your breathing rate increases.
This means treadmill running boosts your cardiovascular fitness and endurance more rapidly than other activities. It strengthens your heart, increases your lung capacity and lowers cholesterol.
Cross trainer workouts will still improve your cardiovascular fitness. But not as rapidly as intense running sessions on a treadmill.
If you want a full body workout that works multiple muscle groups, choose a cross trainer. But if it’s your lower body and core you want to target, a treadmill is a better choice.
During a cross trainer workout, you push and pull your arms, stride with your legs and stabilise with your core. This gives you an effective full body workout.
You will work your core, quads, hamstrings, calves, bottom and arms, all at the same time. A great way to bring strength and tone to your whole body.
Running on a treadmill will strengthen the muscles and bones in your legs. Subjecting your muscles and bones to stress through a high impact activity adds mass.
Keeping yourself upright and stable as you run will boost your core strength. You’ll also improve your sense of balance and coordination.
You may pump your arms as you run, so they are active too. But your arms don’t get a resistance workout on a treadmill in the way they do on a cross trainer.
So, treadmill or cross trainer: which is right for you?
Choose a treadmill over a cross trainer if you want an intense workout that will boost your fitness, strength, stability and balance. Plus, help you manage your weight efficiently.
If you are a beginner, looking for a way to get fit, have joint problems or a lot of weight to lose, a cross trainer may be a better option. You will get a full body workout and increase your stamina over time. And you won’t put too much strain on your joints in the process.
Learn more about the benefits of cross trainers and treadmills in our buying guides.
Treadmill workouts are high impact. They have the potential to be more intense and burn more calories than rowing workouts. Treadmill running focuses on strengthening your legs and increasing core stability.
Rowing Machines work your whole body, without putting strain on your joints. If you’re looking for a low impact cardio and strength workout, a rowing machine is a smart choice.
Here’s how a treadmill vs rowing machine compares in impact, endurance, calorie burn and target areas:
Running on a treadmill is a high impact activity. Your bones are jolted as your feet strike the treadmill belt between strides.
The high impact nature of treadmill running can help strengthen your bones over time. But if you have a condition that affects your joints, like arthritis, high impact activities can cause you pain.
High impact activities can also cause joint pain for people who are overweight or obese. Low impact activities may be more comfortable.
Rowing is a smooth motion that puts little pressure on your joints. As a result you can get a vigorous workout with low risk of injury.
If you want to target your lower body and core, treadmill running is the obvious choice. But if it’s a full body workout you’re after, opt for a rowing machine.
Your leg muscles and bones will be subjected to stress when you run on a treadmill. Stress adds mass and increases strength. You’ll also improve your core strength. As you run, you will have to engage your core to stay stable.
To perform a rowing stroke, your upper and lower body have to work in unison. This gives you a full body workout that targets your shoulders, arms and back muscles. Your glutes and hamstrings are also put to work.
Because rowing involves resistance and targets multiple muscle groups it is an effective form of strength training. Rowing is a smart choice if you are looking to tone and build muscle all over.
Rowing and treadmill running are fairly well matched when it comes to intensity and endurance. Both are excellent cardio activities that can improve your cardiovascular fitness effectively.
Because running on a treadmill is a high impact aerobic workout, it will get your heart pumping quickly. Your cardiovascular system will have to work harder. This boosts your lung capacity, heart health and stamina.
Rowing requires your whole body to move, which also gets your blood pumping and increases your breathing rate. Jumping on a rowing machine is a great way to boost your cardio fitness and increase your lung capacity.
Treadmill workouts may have a slight advantage in terms of workout intensity. Even a jog requires your feet to leave the ground as propel your body forward. But row hard and fast, and you can quickly match the exertion level you’d reach on a treadmill.
The high impact, high exertion nature of treadmill running means it burns more calories than rowing and other activities.
You could burn 368 calories in 30 minutes on a treadmill when running 10 minute miles, if you weigh 70kg. The high calorie burn rate makes treadmill running a great choice if you want to lose weight.
Although not as efficient as running, rowing does burn calories effectively and supports weight loss. Rowing at a moderate pace can burn 257 calories in 30 minutes for a 70kg person. You’ll burn more if you’re heavier, as your body has to work harder.
So, treadmill vs rowing machine: which is right for you? If it’s a full body workout you’re looking for, choose a rowing machine. But if it’s your legs and core you want to strengthen, a treadmill makes more sense.
If you have any problems with your joints or if they have to bear a lot of weight, choose a rowing machine over a treadmill. The low impact nature of rowing may suit you better.
Both machines offer an effective cardio workout and will help you build stamina. Treadmill workouts may be slightly more intense because they’re higher impact. But rowing hard and fast will give you a vigorous workout.
If you want to lose weight, you can burn calories slightly faster on a treadmill than a rower. But you may find you can work out for longer and more frequently on a rower. So, in this way, you may create a routine that helps you lose weight more effectively on a rower.
Rowing and running are quite different exercises, so go with the motion you enjoy the most. Ultimately, consistency will bring you the best results.
Running on a treadmill is great for burning calories, increasing stamina and building strength in your legs and core. But it’s not so kind on your joints.
Cycling is a low impact workout. Push yourself hard on a spin bike or air bike and you’ll get a super intense workout. This can help you burn an impressive amount of calories too.
Meanwhile upright bikes offer a more gentle workout. They are more suited beginners looking to slowly increase their stamina.
This post compares a treadmill vs spin bike (indoor cycling bike), as opposed to an upright bike or air bike. Read our exercise bike buying guide to learn about the benefits of other bike types.
Let’s explore exactly how a treadmill and an indoor cycling bike differ:
Over time, the impact of running can strengthen your bones. But if you have a condition that affects your joints, running can cause you pain, especially in your knees.
Cycling on an indoor cycling bike is a super low impact activity. Your feet stay on the pedals as you push them down in turn, pumping your legs in a smooth motion.
There are no jolts from cycling, making it ideal for those with joint conditions like arthritis. Cycling also suits people who are overweight that might find high impact activities uncomfortable.
Both treadmills and indoor cycling bikes offer an effective way to burn calories. But you’ll have to push yourself harder on a spin bike to burn the same amount of calories as a treadmill.
A 70kg person burns around 368 calories in 30 minutes on a treadmill when running moderate 10 minute miles. A person of the same weight could burn 257 calories if they cycle moderately for 30 minutes. But if cycling vigorously, they can increase that to 386 calories in 30 minutes.
Treadmill running offers a more efficient way to burn calories, due to its high impact nature.
Running may hurt your knees but cycling can cause physical problems too.
When you workout on an indoor cycling bike, you have to lean forward. Some people end up hunching which can cause back pain. Cycling can also cause tight hip flexors, so stretching out after is crucial.
In contrast, running can improve your posture. You have to engage your core to stabilise yourself as you run which can help you stand up straighter.
Because working out on a treadmill is high impact, it is also intense. Propelling yourself forward while your feet leave the ground requires a lot of exertion. This gets your blood pumping, increasing your cardiovascular fitness and your lung capacity.
Low impact activities tend to offer a less intense workout, which is why treadmill workouts often have the edge. But when it comes to indoor bikes, treadmills are fairly well matched. It is possible to push yourself hard on a spin bike and get a super vigorous workout.
Following a spinning video on your indoor cycling bike will help you work out harder than you might otherwise. This is a smart way to boost your cardiovascular endurance and stamina.
Treadmill vs cycle: which builds more muscle? Both machines target your lower body: quads, hamstrings, calves. Both also engage your core, as you stabilise yourself when you run and on a bike.
But indoor training bike workouts have an advantage over treadmill workouts when it comes to muscle building. This is for one key reason: resistance.
You can increase your incline on some treadmills, which will increase your resistance and make your muscles work harder. But you can’t ramp up resistance to the same degree on a treadmill as you can on an indoor training bike.
Indoor training bikes offer a greater range of resistance than treadmills. This means you can push your muscles harder when you cycle than when you run. A win for muscle building.
Cycling trumps running if you’re looking for a low impact activity that’s easy on your joints. But leaning forward as you cycle can lead to a rounded back and tight hip flexors.
Treadmills have the edge when it comes to calorie burn. But push yourself hard on an indoor training bike and you will burn plenty. Both activities can boost your cardiovascular health.
Muscle building wise, bikes are the winners. This is due to their resistance range. Ramp up resistance high and you can put your muscles through their paces.
That said, what the decision really comes down to is which activity you’ll enjoy the most. You can get great results on a bike when you cycle hard and fast, with the resistance up high. Will you push yourself in this way?
If not, a treadmill may be a smarter option. Even if you jog rather than run, the high impact nature of the workout will ensure you increase your stamina.
As with most forms of fitness, it is consistency that brings results. So reflect on which activity you’ll enjoy the most as, ultimately, that’s the one that will get you fitter.