Elliptical Machine VS Running: Which Is a Better Workout?

You may have noticed how the elliptical machine looks and functions differently from the treadmill. So, how can you know which one is a better workout for you? We have prepared an elliptical machine vs. running debate to answer this question.

You’ll learn all about the elliptical machine and how it differs from running (on a treadmill or outside). Hopefully, with our help, you’ll be able to make an informed decision.

A Definition of Elliptical Machine and Running

An elliptical machine, or elliptical trainer, is a stationary machine for an exercise similar to running and stair climbing combined. It was first produced in the 1990s by one of the most famous gym equipment manufacturers – Precor.

When exercising on an elliptical machine, you use both your upper and lower body muscles (although there are some models without the upper body function). By placing your feet in the two footholds, holding the handlebars, and pushing them back and forth, you move by producing a gliding motion. This creates no impact since your legs aren’t hitting the ground. It is a very popular part of cardio gym equipment and can sometimes be found in homes.

Running is an exercise that doesn’t require equipment but can also be done on a treadmill. Depending on the pace and tempo of running, it can be classified as jogging or sprinting. There is also long-distance or endurance running, which is more demanding than casual running.

Both are great exercises to get your blood pumping, but which one is more beneficial and suitable for your fitness goals? We’ve compiled a list of pros and cons to find the answer.

The Pros and Cons of Elliptical Machine

Pros of Elliptical Machine

  • Most elliptical machines include handles. If pushed back and forth, they provide a great upper body workout.
  • It is a low-impact exercise, which means it doesn’t put as much tension on your joints as high-impact exercises do. It is perfect if you suffer from lower back, hip, or knee pain.
  • As it is low-impact, it is excellent for beginners and safe for those recovering from an injury.
  • By checking the screen on the machine, you can easily keep track of your heart rate and the number of calories you burn.

Cons of Elliptical Machine

  • As the equipment is costly, it will probably necessitate a gym membership. However, besides being expensive, it also takes up a lot of space and might be impractical.
  • The movement done on an elliptical machine feels quite unnatural, and it might take some time to get used to. It doesn’t resemble other natural movements, like running or jumping, which would be impossible without the machine.
  • While it is a great cardio workout, it is ineffective in gaining muscle strength.

The Pros and Cons of Running

The Pros of Running

  • It is the most accessible exercise since it requires no special gear, and you can do it whenever you like.
  • Unlike the elliptical machine, running can be done outside, allowing you to enjoy the fresh air, away from stuffy gyms.
  • It is a great way to lose weight, as it burns more calories than most exercises.
  • Running is excellent for both your physical and mental health, as it provides better quality sleep and reduces stress.

The Cons of Running

  • You can suffer various injuries, like knee, shin, and hip pain. In particular, running on hard surfaces, like concrete or asphalt, can be dangerous for your joints and cause blisters.
  • Sometimes the weather conditions aren’t appropriate or safe for running. Running on a treadmill could be a good substitute in these cases, but it is not as effective as running outside.
  • Running can be addictive due to the “runner’s high,” which is a euphoric feeling that runners get after their run.

To Sum Up the Pros and Cons

Still can’t decide between the elliptical machine and running? Check out this infographic below to better understand all the similarities and differences.

elliptical vs running reddit | elliptical vs treadmill vs bike | elliptical vs running muscles

How to Decide Between the Elliptical Machine and Running

First, consider your fitness goals, preferences, and overall possibilities. Next, think about where you want to exercise, the time you are ready to devote, how much money you are willing to spend, how fit you are, and what you want to achieve.

If you are a beginner and want to slowly work your way up to more demanding exercises, either the elliptical machine or the treadmill would be a solid start, depending on how accustomed you are to the elliptical’s unnatural movement. It would be a good idea to join a gym in this case. There are many strength training machines in the gym that you can use to make up for the elliptical’s lack of muscle utilization.

 If your goal is to lose weight as soon as possible, and you don’t suffer from weak joints, then running would be a great exercise, along with a proper diet, of course.

Use an elliptical machine if:   

  • You can’t exercise outside, or you simply don’t like to
  • You are recovering from an injury
  • You want to carefully track the calories that you burn

Go running if:

  • You prefer to exercise outside
  • You want to maximize the calories that you burn
  • You can’t afford a gym membership, or you don’t have time to go to a gym

Final Thoughts on Elliptical Machine vs. Running

Both exercises are great ways to maintain your health and lose weight.

While running is readily accessible and effective in burning calories, poor weather conditions can prevent you from doing so. On the other hand, exercising on the elliptical machine may be safe and beneficial for beginners, but it is costly and requires you to join a gym.

If you don’t want to join a gym but still want to improve your health through cardio exercises, be sure to check out our running guide for beginners.

elliptical vs running | elliptical vs running calories | elliptical vs running for weight loss