Stationary Bike vs Treadmill: Which Will Give You a Better Workout and Improve Your Cardio Fitness? Whether you have one of the best stationary bikes (opens in a new tab) or the best treadmills (opens in a new tab) at home, the truth is that both machines offer an effective way to raise your heart rate, speed up your metabolism, and burn calories and body fat.
“These two machines are generally the most popular and common in commercial gyms, home gyms and classes,” says licensed physical therapist Helen O’Leary. “Both work the cardiovascular system and can be used for HIIT training or steady-state cardio that maintains the same pace for a long time.”
Helen O’Leary is a qualified Physiotherapist and Complete Pilates Pilates Instructor/Director (opens in a new tab) in London, England. Helen graduated from the University of Birmingham in the UK in 2008 and completed a Polestar Pilates rehabilitation course in 2010. Helen began her career as a physiotherapist in professional men’s rugby and with Cirque du Soleil before launching Complete Pilates After 13 years treating acute trauma injuries as a physical therapist, Helen works with clients before and immediately after surgery to optimize their recovery.
But how do they compare? Well, there are certainly benefits to each. “Exercise bikes are great because they don’t take up much space, can be used by anyone, help improve balance and are low-impact,” says O’Leary. “They are also ideal for beginners and help strengthen the legs. They have also been shown to improve balance when walking.”
Likewise, treadmills are great to have around. “They’re also great for cardiovascular work,” O’Leary continues. “We spend a lot of our time walking, so it’s a movement pattern we’re familiar with, which makes it easier to get into. Treadmills have a predictable surface, so you don’t have to worry about tripping, you can control the speed and steepness of the incline and there are often pre-designed workouts to challenge you. If you want to build strength, they’ll help with that too.”
However, which one does Physio O’Leary consider to be the best cardio machine? Let’s find out.
First we need to understand what energy expenditure means. Simply put, it’s the total number of calories you burn in a day through physical activity and bodily functions. If weight (or fat) loss is your goal, you need to be in a calorie deficit (opens in a new tab) – that is, burning more calories than your body needs.
One of the effective ways to increase energy expenditure is through exercise, but what is the best weight loss machine? (opens in a new tab)
A comparative study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (opens in a new tab) found that running on a treadmill burned between 490 and 646 calories per hour, while a stationary bike burned between 478 and 628 calories over the same time period.
But O’Leary says that energy expenditure depends largely on your personal exertion level: A gentle stroll on a treadmill won’t burn as many calories as an intense fitness class.
“In general, [both machines] both are relatively equal for burning calories,” says O’Leary. “If that’s your exercise goal and there’s no specific need for sport, try doing both to mix it up.”
Both exercise machines are good for building muscle, but the speed and progress of muscle growth will depend on the intensity and frequency of your training.
“For an exercise bike, you primarily work your calves, hamstrings, glutes, and quadriceps to push and pull the pedal. Using the handles will also work your upper body muscles, including your arms, biceps and triceps and shoulders,” says O’Leary.
“On a treadmill, the main muscles that work are the quadriceps, hamstrings, adductors, calves and glutes. You also work your abs and back muscles to stay upright, and your arms, shoulders and pecs to swing forward and back, albeit to a lesser degree.
“If you use an incline and lean forward, your glutes, hamstrings and calves, in particular, will work a little harder. Slow it down and get your incline up properly and your calves will work a lot harder. If you’re running, the abdominal and oblique muscles are activated.
“However, it is very difficult to say which is best as it depends on the individual. If you are fit and well, with no injuries or medical conditions, the treadmill is likely to be more difficult.
“But if you’re deconditioned, recovering from an injury, struggle with balance, or have a medical problem that could hinder your exercise progression, a bike is likely to be better because you’ll be able to get the support you need with less effort. to the joints”.
Cost and space
Exercise bikes generally have a smaller footprint than treadmills and are also relatively affordable. Of course, if you want a Peloton-style bike (opens in a new tab) with a large screen TV, you want to pay about $1445, plus a monthly subscription for content and online classes. However, you can find exercise bikes that fold up to save space. They are relatively cheap and you can find a basic one for around $200.
As for treadmills, well, you can go for an under-desk version that doesn’t have arms or handles, as these, along with thin treadmills, tend to be cheaper. However, if you want a treadmill with an incline/decline option, lots of features, and the accompanying app, expect to pay more, especially if the brand has a cult following like Peloton.
“You also have to make sure your floor is stable enough to hold a treadmill because of the impact,” O’Leary tells Live Science. “Ideally it would be on a ground floor or a reinforced floor if upstairs. In general, I would say if you’re buying a treadmill, the average person isn’t going to move it a lot, so buy what you think they’ll use the most.”
Exercise bikes are easier on the joints. They often take up less space and have a low impact. But they’re less effective at improving bone density than treadmills, O’Leary says, and it’s harder to see significant muscle growth with bike workouts compared to running.
Treadmills, on the other hand, can be used for walking or running in a controlled indoor environment (no more wet sneakers when it rains!). They can also help with rehabilitation and also improve balance and gait.
“Remember, you don’t have to run on a treadmill, but you can still get a good workout by walking at a slower, higher incline,” says O’Leary. “Another positive is that impact is great for building stronger bones, a huge plus if you have osteopenia or osteoporosis.
Still, you won’t go far wrong either. “Both machines are a great way to train at home and the most important thing is to exercise regularly and do something you enjoy to keep it consistent,” says O’Leary.
So Stationary Bike vs Treadmill: Which is the Best Cardio Machine? “That’s really hard to answer,” O’Leary admits. “For me, if you’re fit and well, I’d say a treadmill as it gives you a full body workout and also helps build bone density, which is especially important for women over forty who have a higher risk of osteoporosis (weak bones).) The speed and incline training option means you get a really good cardio workout on a treadmill.
“However, if you’ve got an injury, arthritis or pain, I’d always go for a bike as your first choice. It means you can get around without worrying about putting too much stress on your body .
“The most important thing is that regular exercise, of any kind, is important. Any exercise is better than none, so find something you enjoy and you’ll be more likely to stick with it.”