Should You Choose a Running Machine or an Elliptical Trainer?

Whether you’re stepping into the gym or setting up your basement for a daily home workout, you may find yourself bewildered by the choice of machines on offer. Should you choose the straightforward action of a running machine or treadmill, or the whole-body workout offered by an elliptical trainer? Either machine will give you a great workout and they both help you to burn off roughly the same amount of calories per hour. In this article, we’ll look at the pros and cons of both machines so you can make an informed choice.

Running machines

A running machine or treadmill simply provides a way to walk or run in place at a steady speed. They don’t offer additional exercise for your arms (although of course you can choose to run with small weights if you wish). You can set different speeds and, on most treadmills, you can change the incline of the machine to simulate walking or running up a hill.

Elliptical trainers

Elliptical trainers, also known as cross trainers, come in two varieties. The usual variety is used upright; it has foot pedals that you step on to create a simulation of stair-climbing. These also have two poles that you can push back and forth while you climb, exercising your arms, shoulders and back while reducing the impact on your joints. You can also find elliptical trainers that you use seated; these are shaped more like an excercise bike, with a saddle and handlebars.

Advantages of running machines

The chief advantage of a running machine is that it simulates running or hiking more closely. This makes a treadmill the ideal machine for people who are serious about running or who want to be able to walk longer distances. As well as supporting a training regimen tailored for those activities, a treadmill will give you a better idea of how far and how fast you can walk or run, letting you gauge whether you’re ready for a particular event.

If you’re purchasing an exercise machine for home use, treadmills have another advantage: some models are collapsible, so that you can fold them away when they’re not in use.

Advantages of elliptical trainers

If you’re looking for a lower-impact workout that engages your whole body, an elliptical trainer is an excellent option. They allow you to build strength in your arms and upper body as well as your legs. If joint issues are a concern (for example, if you have arthritis), an elliptical trainer is a good option — it takes some of the pressure off your hips, knees, ankles and feet. An elliptical trainer is a great cardio solution for older people or those who need to avoid too much impact on their lower body. They usually take up less space than a non-folding treadmill and the price tends to be lower.

Another advantage of the elliptical trainer is that it “feels” easier to use than a running machine. You’re still putting in the same amount of effort overall but it’s distributed across more of your muscles.

Choosing a trainer or treadmill

Most trainers and treadmills have an upper weight limit; check that you will be able to use yours before you buy. Look for a model that comes with a lifetime warranty, or at least a long-term warranty. It’s a good idea to find a model that comes with a home repair warranty so you can get it mended easily if something goes wrong.

Some running machines to consider

ProForm Pro 2000 Treadmill

If you’re looking for a quality product at a reasonable price, ProForm is a good brand to look for. The Pro 2000 is more expensive than many other ProForm machines but comes with several attractive features. The motor is quiet and reliable, with a lifetime warranty (which also extends to the frame). There are 50 pre-programmed routines, a built-in fan and cooling system and onboard speakers. Apple device owners get an added bonus: the Pro 2000 is iFit enabled so you can use the iFit app to improve your training. The weight bearing capacity goes up to 300 pounds.

Sunny Health & Fitness Treadmill

For those on a lower budget, the Sunny Health & Fitness Treadmill is a reasonable option. It’s a lightweight model and not as sturdy as a more expensive device (the upper weight limit is 100kg or 220lbs). The top speed is only 10 MPH, making this a better option for walking and jogging than for running.

Some elliptical trainers to consider

Schwinn 430 Elliptical Trainer

The Schwinn 430 Elliptical Trainer is priced a little lower than some of Schwinn’s products but has everything you want from an elliptical trainer. It comes with 20 resistance levels and 22 pre-programmed workouts. It’s a good option if you want something with a more natural running motion.

JTX Tri-Fit: Extendable Long Stride and Incline Cross Trainer

The JTX Tri-Fit is less expensive than the Schwinn but still offers a good range of features. It has 16 levels of resistance and 19 pre-programmed workouts. This model also has the advantage of a small footprint.

Whichever machine you choose, be sure to check in with your doctor before you begin any exercise regimen. A medical professional will be able to help you determine a safe and effective programme.