Elliptical machines and bikes are two of the most popular cardio machine options for home gyms. And it’s easy enough to see why – both types of machines can provide great workouts, can be affordable, and make your joints relatively easy.
But when it comes down to it, which one is really better?
Knowing the pros and cons of an elliptical vs. exercise bike is vital when looking for the best gym machine for your needs.
An elliptical works both arms and legs, while the stationary bike works the legs and core without stressing the joints. Both machines are ideal for cardiovascular workouts.
This will be a difficult question to answer because let’s face it, it is really a matter of personal preference.
But don’t worry, that isn’t going to stop you from trying to answer it anyway.
In this article, I compare the elliptical machine and the stationary bike in a comparison of the fitness benefits they provide, including weight loss and muscle toning potential.
I also compare other factors such as cost, space requirements, maintenance, and ease of use.
Having this knowledge in hand makes it easier to decide what type of exercise equipment is best for each of us.
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Elliptical vs Exercise Bike
When you add exercise to your life, no matter what form you choose, you are doing your body good.
However, not all forms of exercise or fitness machines will be optimal for everyone. The best elliptical trainers and various exercise bikes are popular in both home and commercial gyms because they offer excellent health benefits.
A little boring at first with all the humans doing their thing, but the action is legitimate once it starts.
Anyway, I thought it would be fun to write a battle-inspired post, so here you go. Hope you enjoy it.
I think it is a good idea to start this discussion with a discussion about the price. After all, price is one of the most important aspects that most of us have to consider when buying any fitness machine.
Both ellipticals and bikes come in all price ranges, but overall, bikes are a bit more affordable.
Both ellipticals and exercise bikes come in various shapes and sizes, especially bikes.
I’m being very general for the sake of this article, but there are a lot more bike styles than ellipticals, and I basically throw them all into one generalized category.
There are spinning, reclining, vertical, air bikes …
Ok, let’s go back to the price.
Most of the best elliptical machines cost between $1000 to $2000. Not to say that you can’t find ellipticals that cost less than $200 either, but the buyer should be careful.
Many of the best exercise bikes also cost between $1000 to $2000. Upright and pneumatic bikes tend to be a bit cheaper, falling towards the lower end of that scale, while spin cycles are usually more expensive.
Although the higher end of each machine costs roughly the same, I’d say there are a lot more quality affordable bikes out there than ellipticals.
To put it another way, I would feel better buying a $500 bike than a $500 elliptical.
Many of us home gymnasts are dealing with limited training space, so the size of the machine is an important consideration for most of us.
We have to make sure that the fitness machines we put in really fit our home.
When you compare the size of elliptical bikes and bikes, generally speaking, bikes are more compact.
Your average home elliptical will take up space approximately 6 to 7′ long x 2 to 3′ wide.
The largest type of home exercise bike is the recumbent bike, and your average recumbent bike only takes up about 2.5′ x 5′ of space.
And then there are the spin cycles, which only take up 2′ x 3′ of floor space.
So generally speaking, ellipticals are a bit bigger than stationary bikes. So when it comes to size, exercise bikes win with their more compact frames.
Well, this category is going to be a bit more difficult because different types of exercise bikes will vary in the number of calories you can burn.
Generally speaking, most people will burn a lot more calories on an air bike or spin bike because these bikes are designed for more intense HIIT-style workouts.
Also consider that the more you weigh, the more calories you will burn on either machine. And of course, your speed, time, and intensity level will influence how many calories you burn.
I also want to point out that the calorie expenditure on cycling mentioned above does not take into account higher intensity spinning workouts or air bike workouts.
Ease of Use
Both stationary bikes and ellipticals are considered lower-impact forms of exercise, especially compared to treadmills, so both are good options for people with arthritis or joint pain.
With ellipticals, your feet never lose contact with the pedals, so there aren’t many tight forces going through your joints.
And since you can control how much resistance you’re working on, you can make your workout as light or intense as you like.
But, with an elliptical, you are still standing, so you still have to support weight through your legs.
Stationary bikes are also low impact because your feet never leave the pedals. But unlike ellipticals, you can sit up, which means you don’t bear weight.
This results in even less stress on the lower extremity joints.
And in the case of recumbent bikes, it sits in a more horizontal sitting position with a large backrest, further reducing stress or strain.
How can Elliptical Trainers and Exercise Bikes Help Health and Fitness Goals?
The most important step is to define what motivates you.
When it comes to improving overall health and reducing a sedentary lifestyle, you can’t go wrong with incorporating them into your daily routine. Other goals that can be achieved include:
Increasing Cardio Capacity
When you do intense cardio workouts, your body needs more oxygen to maintain them.
As your body increases its intake of oxygen, it will also work quickly to use it as efficiently as possible. The more muscles you can use in your session, the better your cardiovascular capacity will be.
There are many versions of bicycles, from stationary bikes to those used for cycling. Whether you use an elliptical or a bike, you can adjust the speed at which you exercise on them and the load you take on while exercising to further engage your body in your training session.
The difference is that stationary bikes limit you as you are primarily exercising your lower body and a bit of your core.
Elliptical trainers engage the upper and lower body as well as the core, giving you the most comprehensive workout to increase cardiovascular capacity.
So do a little research on the best elliptical if you are on the market to buy one or any that have the gym will work just fine.
When working at a higher intensity pace, you will need to access your energy stores, or fat cells, much more than slower-paced exercise sessions.
You can adjust the load it takes, as well as the speeds, on both ellipticals and stationary bikes, so that you have the ability to effectively burn fat with each.
The exercise machine that allows you the most challenging workout in terms of load and duration will be the best option for losing fat.
Muscle size increases and strength gains occur when muscles are forced to push and pull weights.
It is not necessary to use a weighted object to gain strength, as body weight can be used effectively to improve.
The simple act of standing activates the muscles to keep our bodies balanced and upright, compared to when we are sitting and our chair takes some of the load off our bodies.
Therefore, working out on an elliptical trainer that requires you to stand up and use your body more in your exercise session makes this machine the best option.
Benefits of Elliptical Machines
Elliptical machines are a popular option for exercise, as they are a cross between a climber and a ski machine.
They allow you to work your legs in an up and down circular motion while also working your arms thanks to the movable handles.
Plus, since it’s low-impact, it’s gentle on the joints, Almonte says.
And if you hold on to those moving handles and really move your arms and activate your core while sliding your feet, the elliptical can really be a full-body workout, he adds.
The muscles that burn the most are the glutes, hamstrings, quads, triceps, and delts.
Using the elliptical is a great way to burn calories. The result of that whole-body effort? According to Harvard Health Publishing estimates, a 155-pound person will burn 335 calories in 30 minutes. If you can keep it up for an hour, you will burn 670 calories.
The Cons Of The Elliptical
As fun as the elliptical is, it’s not exactly functional, which means that the movement pattern of the exercise machine doesn’t replicate anything you do in real life.
So if you’re training for 5k or want to improve your running skills, you’re probably better off on the treadmill. Treadmill running shoes are an essential accessory when running on a treadmill.
However, the main reason Almonte doesn’t personally use the elliptical for cardio is exactly the reason many athletes love it – it’s SO easy to tune out.
Totally fine if you just need a break from the world, but not ideal if you want to noticeably improve your fitness or heart and lung health. Here to know why your heart rate increases during exercise.
Benefits of an Exercise Bike
An exercise bike is another great machine for cardiovascular exercise. It requires little coordination and the resistance can be adjusted to make it more difficult and force the muscles to work harder. Recumbent exercise bikes can benefit your health in a number of ways.
If you increase it at a vigorous rate, you will burn 391 calories in half an hour. Pedal at a vigorous speed for an hour and you’ll burn 782 calories, much more compared to the elliptical.
The Cons Of The Stationary Bike
Some people also find the bike, particularly the seat, very difficult to get used to.
A solution? You can opt for padded bike shorts for a bit more cushion. But Almonte says he found that time and fitness definitely improved the comfort factor.
Differences Between Cross Trainer and Stationary Bike
|Muscle Strength/ toning||Lower body||Upper body|
|Fat burning potential||More weight loss||Less weight loss|
|Space||Not portable||Portable, space-intensive|
First things first, both machines are cardio machines, which means they will help tone muscles but not duplicate muscle mass.
Elliptical and stationary bikes target different muscle groups.
An exercise bike, for example, targets the lower section of the body; while an elliptical helps you gain strength in both your upper and lower body.
What this means is that the stationary bike will allow you to effectively target your thighs, quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves.
The elliptical cross trainer, on the other hand, will target your glutes, back muscles, arms, chest, and stomach. As for the lower muscles, the elliptical will target the glutes, thigh muscles, and hamstrings.
In short, if your goal is to tone your stuff and glutes, these two sets are ideal.
The elliptical is generally designed to be gentle on the joints. The elliptical offers zero impact as you won’t even have to step on it as your feet are always on the pads.
The stationary bike, on the other hand, offers moderate joint impact. Although they are not impact-resistant, your knees will move from a highly bent position to a straight position several times each workout, which means it can be taxing on your joints to some degree.
Fat Burning Potential
This is the age-old question that everyone wants to know the answer to which machine will produce the fastest weight loss.
Well, this is a tough question and like anything else in life it depends.
See, the overall results will depend on how comfortable you are on a machine and how much effort you put into it.
Most likely, the machine you are most comfortable on will allow you to exert the most effort and burn the most calories.
If you are uncomfortable with a machine and it actually hurts in some way, it will be challenging to achieve your desired weight loss.
However, understand that both machines will allow you to lose weight effectively.
It’s just that the elliptical wins over the stationary one in the number of calories burned. However, the difference is minimal.
Variability is critical as it determines the probability that you will hit a plateau or the probability that you will drop out of a program.
The elliptical wins here because it allows you to perform a variety of movements, including moving forward, backward, as well as steep or shallow slopes.
Plus, it allows you to vary the resistance, giving you plenty of options to work with.
Bottom Line: Elliptical vs. Bike
When used at high intensity, a stationary bike burns more calories than the elliptical, making it a slightly better option for those trying to lose weight.
However, the elliptical helps strengthen your upper and lower body by engaging more muscle groups.
Both machines are considered low impact, making them ideal for people with osteoarthritis and for cross-training.
The elliptical machine supports more weight than the stationary bike, so it can help improve bone health.
But if you have knee, hip, or ankle pain, the stationary bike might be a better option for cardio without stressing your joints.
Again, your goals and your medical considerations play an important role in determining the best option for you. Both are beneficial for improving health and fitness.
They also offer people an alternative to high-impact activities like running, as they can give you a cardio workout while being gentler on your joints.