elliptical vs running

If you love working out, you may doubt the effectiveness of the elliptical machine versus a good old-fashioned run around the block. Both help burn calories, but a run opens up the mind and the senses, so it’s the obviously better choice, right?

The mechanics of a run vs. an elliptical workout are different. And both come with their lists of pros and cons here we discuss and compare elliptical vs running, after reading you can better decide in favor of one.

Let’s discuss which workout is best between the two. 

The mechanics of both workouts do impact their outcome. But not by too much. Here is a comparison table to help things along:

Elliptical Machine Running
Activity Level Low-Impact High-impact
Impact Areas Lungs, muscles, and heart Lungs, muscles, heart, weight training, mood stimulation
Calorie Burning Balanced Balanced
Impact on Bones and Joints Gentle on the joints and bones Strengthens bones and joints
Timing for Calorie Burning Requires more time Requires slightly less time
Cost Expensive for home use Free

An elliptical workout is low-impact, but it does result in better calorie burn than you may think. If used correctly, the type of machine works all your muscles, just as a run or even a brisk walk would.

An elliptical workout offers more benefits for different muscle groups. It also works well if you consistently pair this machine workout with a walk or a run on a treadmill. A study comparing elliptical training, treadmill walking, overground walking, and stationary cycling concluded that the elliptical machine demonstrated far better activity for the quadriceps and hamstrings.

Although the results for treadmill training also presented better results, it was elliptical training that ticked all the right boxes in terms of overall effects, i.e., physical exertion, O2 rates, speed, threshold levels, and more.

Nevertheless, if you’re looking to improve your cardiovascular health, an elliptical workout doesn’t do the job as a running workout does. For example, those who train for a race typically use treadmill training to keep track of their VO2 Max. They also use a treadmill workout to prepare their bones and connective tissues for the exerted force.

So, in many cases, you will find professional athletes using both options for a well-rounded workout.

We recently reviewed the best elliptical in the market to find out which elliptical is worth investing in. In this effort, we compare different machines. Please visit this resource to know more about our recommendations.

Benefits for Cardiovascular Health

recumbent bike vs walking

Running is the ideal exercise if you want a cardio workout. But it comes with its small share of issues. For example, some people report ankle swelling and knee problems from pounding the pavement too much. If you don’t have any joint problems, though, running works well.

But, if your ankles and knees are an issue, an elliptical workout is good in a punch. While it doesn’t have the same impact as an elliptical workout does, the motion of an elliptical works out your arms, giving you an upper body workout that is just enough. During the comparison of elliptical vs running, we find that both work differently for different people.

Benefits for Calorie Burning

You can burn more calories while running in comparison to the elliptical. But there’s only a slight edge. Some people burn even more calories on the elliptical with tweaks and changes if they get their timing right.

Keep in mind; you control your running path. Some paths may be more comfortable than others, thus causing minor calorie burn. However, if you propel yourself more while running uphill, that requires more calories and leads to a faster burn.

An elliptical workout allows you to set your incline and resistance, giving you an approximate amount of calorie burn. If you work out on a machine for 30 minutes with the same speed uphill, that may give you a similar amount of calorie burn as you would from a 30-minute run.

Let’s not forget that how many calories you burn depends on your basic details like age, weight, resting heart rate, running distance, and more.

So, for example, if you weigh 150 pounds and go for a 3-mile run at 73 beats/20 seconds for your resting heart rate and complete that run in an hour, you burn 338 kcal during that hour. Use the exact details to work out on an elliptical machine for 60 minutes; you burn 350 calories in the same time frame. When it comes to calories during it’s tough to decide between the elliptical vs running because both offer the same benefits in this category.

Benefits for Overall Health

best way to burn fat on elliptical

Unlike your average running path, which isn’t always as smooth as you’d want, the elliptical offers better consistent movement, which helps your workout overall.

There’s no fear of ankle twists, back pains, and joint twinges. It’s also far easier for those who cannot work out because they carry extra pounds. Elliptical workouts also come in handy for those who want to lose weight and burn calories, all without dealing with the lack of training that comes with running.

The elliptical also works your body just enough without letting you overdo it. While running on endorphins and adrenaline does push you overboard, working on a machine keeps you in check.

However, running improves your chances of losing weight faster. Not to mention that running has a better mental impact than a machine workout because it fulfills the desire of wanting to go somewhere. Running trumps elliptical for those who want to feel active and require a change of scenery.

Running also improves your mood since running activates a release of endorphins. And while an elliptical workout offers the same result, running free offers a completely different vibe than being in one place and cycling.

Elliptical vs Running — Which One is Cheaper?

Running wins in this case.

Running is far cheaper, easier, and accessible for everyone because all you have to do is wear your favorite running shoes and head out for a brisk walk and evolve that into a run.

If you prefer to work out privately and live near a gym, the average cost is $58, which is the average annual cost of a gym membership. But, if you have money to spare, investing in gym equipment is the next best thing. An elliptical machine is an ideal option for smaller apartments because it takes up less space and comes with foldable features.

However, a treadmill is a good choice if you want to maintain your weight and keep those limbs light and lubricated.


In the fight of elliptical vs. running, both options come with their benefits. It truly depends on which option you want to go with.

Running strengthens the bones and muscles, leads to better weight loss, and even improves your mood. An elliptical workout does all that as well, but it does so while keeping you in one place. So, if a change of pace is something you require with your workouts, a run is the best choice for you. Otherwise, an elliptical workout will never lead you wrong.

Either way, you’ll have a great exercise option that’ll keep you fit and happy for a good while. Hopefully, a complete reading of elliptical vs running makes you able to consider the options wisely.

Elliptical vs walking and elliptical vs spin bike are two recent comparisons where our experts discuss the pros and cons of each machine in detail. While reading these two comparisons, you can better decide which machine to bring home first.

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