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Does a Treadmill or Elliptical Machine Burn More Calories?

written by: Misto1481 • edited by: Cheryl Gabbert • updated: 5/24/2011

Ever wondered what burns more calories between an elliptical and a treadmill? Or is a better question which of the cardiovascular staples is better for you based on your goals & needs? Read this if you are even the slightest bit curious about the differences & similarities between these 2 machines.

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    Treadmill vs. Elliptical

    http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/fd/US_Navy_041110-N-0413R-001_Machinist_Mate_3rd_Class_Lorne_Semrau_of_Harrisburg,_Pa.,_keeps_in_shape_while_underway_by_working_out_one_of_the_many_treadmills_aboard_USS_Nimitz_(CVN_68).jpg&imgrefurl=http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:US_Navy_041110-N-0413R-001_Machinist_Mate_3rd_Class_Lorne_Semrau_of_Harrisburg,_Pa.,_keeps_in_shape_while_underway_by_working_out_one_of_the_many_treadmills_aboard_USS_Nimitz_(CVN_68).jpg&usg=__KsoB9PFx-O8QKKbWJVCNK_A71Mg=&h=3008&w=1960&sz=580&hl=en&start=0&zoom=1&tbnid=KEKdPQtQckjNZM:&tbnh=126&tbnw=82&ei=jwxWTcybHoP58Aa0o-2rBw&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dtreadmills%26hl%3Den%26biw%3D1596%26bih%3D664%26tbs%3Disch:1,iur:fmc&itbs=1&iact=hc&vpx=473&vpy=291&dur=47&hovh=278&hovw=181&tx=105&ty=258&oei=jwxWTcybHoP58Aa0o-2rBw&page=1&ndsp=25&ved=1t:429,r:18,s:0 When comparing the ability to burn calories between treadmills and the elliptical, there really isn’t a whole lot of difference between the two. In fact, they are pretty comparable overall. When running on a treadmill, you basically burn about the same amount of calories as doing a program on an elliptical given the same amount of time used for each. If a 150 lb person uses an elliptical at a moderate intensity for 30 minutes, they will typically burn somewhere between 250 – 300 calories. If they were to use a treadmill at a ten-minute mile pace, they would burn about 300 calories. The differences come when walking or jogging on a treadmill versus doing a regular routine on an elliptical. The elliptical tends to burn more calories than a treadmill being used at a lower intensity.

    However, there are several other factors that need to be considered when comparing the two cardio machines. Treadmills offer the option of raising the incline or the speed which can increase the amount of calories burned. The elliptical has various settings that can be changed as well such as the ramp height, resistance level, and the stride speed (the speed at which a person’s legs move). All of these various factors need to be taken into account when judging between the two machines' potential to burn calories.

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    Calorie Comparisons

    If you go to HealthStatus.com, you can find a nifty little calorie burn calculator there that is very useful in determining the amount of calories burned based on numerous activities. Results obtained from Buzzle.com using the same calculator found these differences in the number of calories burned when using a treadmill or an elliptical. Note that it is based on a 150 lbs. person and also shows the differences between walking, jogging, and running for 60 minutes compared to using an elliptical.

    Calories burned in 60 minutes by a 150 lbs. user:Walking, 2 mph – 189

    Walking, 3 mph – 297

    Jogging – 477

    Running, 7 mph - 783

    Elliptical Trainer - 774

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    Other Factors to Consider

    http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6d/US_Navy_070512-N-1525H-018_Hospital_Corpsman_2nd_Class_Rachel_Tisdale_works_out_on_the_Elliptical_Machines_in_the_hangar_bay_of_the_nuclear-powered_aircraft_carrier_USS_Nimitz_(CVN_68).jpg&imgrefurl=http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:US_Navy_070512-N-1525H-018_Hospital_Corpsman_2nd_Class_Rachel_Tisdale_works_out_on_the_Elliptical_Machines_in_the_hangar_bay_of_the_nuclear-powered_aircraft_carrier_USS_Nimitz_(CVN_68).jpg&usg=__udi0_tUmXYY7YBoBhanCPYsWYiA=&h=2000&w=3008&sz=919&hl=en&start=25&zoom=1&tbnid=OX5SR8wxITWHPM:&tbnh=147&tbnw=232&ei=7wxWTa3iJZCltwflq7TuDA&prev=/images%3Fq%3Delliptical%26hl%3Den%26biw%3D1596%26bih%3D664%26tbs%3Disch:1,iur:fmc0%2C386&itbs=1&biw=1596&bih=664&iact=rc&dur=156&oei=6gxWTefpD4O88gagh62vBw&page=2&ndsp=22&ved=1t:429,r:0,s:25&tx=181&ty=28 When comparing treadmills and an elliptical a person’s goals, needs and physical limitations need to be taken into consideration as well. A person’s weight can significantly alter the amount of calories burned as heavier people will always burn more calories due to the increased amount of weight they have to move in order to do the same amount of work as someone who is thinner. A beginner will also burn more calories than someone who is more experienced due to the increased challenge on the body. How hard a person works (their intensity level) should also be taken into consideration as the more a person exerts themselves the more calories they will burn.

    Looking at the variations in the machines themselves, treadmills primarily work the legs when walking but get the arms involved when jogging and running. They can be detrimental for people with knees, hips and ankle problems so calorie burn is a small factor to consider when looking at something that could potentially exacerbate problem areas.

    The elliptical gets both the arms and the legs involved at all intensities. Because a person’s feet never leave the peddles, using an elliptical is less impactful and stressful on the knees, hips and ankles. It is also more friendly on the spine. However, some beginners can find that getting accustomed to the elliptical’s unique movement can be quite challenging and might not be able to do the activity for extended periods of time thus limiting calorie burn.

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    Bottom Line

    There isn’t a huge amount of difference between the two cardio machines in the amount of calories burned by each. However factors such as incline, resistance, time, speed and exertion should be taken into consideration when looking at how much calories one will burn versus the other. Better factors in determining which machine to use would be a person’s goals, needs, physical limitations, experience level and overall preference. If a person is looking to do marathons or prefers walking, the treadmill is the obvious choice. If a person has bad joints, wants to get their whole body into the movement, or just doesn’t like to walk/run, the elliptical is a much better option. As far as calories go, both machines are fairly equal so choose accordingly.