elliptical vs walking

The elliptical machine effectively simulates walking, running, and jogging motions. The choice between using the elliptical at the gym, owning a personal machine, and walking often comes up. But, how does one make this choice? The answer lies in a better understanding of the similarities, differences, and health impacts of working out on the elliptical or walking.

Fortunately, you do not have to go beyond this webpage to know all there is to know about walking and the elliptical. Read further for a comprehensive comparison between the two, and find the research you require to choose smartly between the elliptical and walking.

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.

Elliptical Vs. Walking: 9 Points Comparison!

It’s perfectly reasonable to ask yourself the question, ‘why not just walk?’ when considering the merits of the elliptical in comparison with walking. This is a good question and needs to be answered. Fortunately, the answers to this question are the primary focus going forward.

Read further to know more:

i) Accessibility

Walking is as simple as getting up on your feet and moving your legs to facilitate movement and as such, walking as a form of working out is truly accessible. Whenever the conditions are right, you can put on your best walking shoes and simply set out for a long brisk walk.

On the other hand, your access to an elliptical is limited to you owning an elliptical of your own or having an active gym membership. Access to an elliptical does not come free, like the ‘pickup and go’ convenience afforded by a walk.

ii) Workout Type

Walking and the elliptical are both low-impact cardio workouts. The elliptical does simulate a brisk walk, and as such, it is only obvious that it isn’t very different in terms of the workout category both fall into. Both walking and the elliptical have very similar impacts.

A significant difference between the two is that while walking is predominantly a lower body workout, the elliptical works on the upper and lower body muscles. Worth noting is the fact that both the elliptical and walking are weight-bearing exercises.

When on the elliptical, your lower body is significantly impacted by upper body weight even as you ‘work it’ on the pedals. With walking, your joints are simultaneously absorbing and producing force to keep you in motion, and your lower body is proactively taking on the weight-bearing impact of your upper body.

iii) Calorie Burn

If you are looking at working out as an organic means to lose weight, it does help to closely compare the weight loss of impacts of both walking and the elliptical. Both of these are cardio workouts, and as such, both have significant weight loss results over time.

According to Harvard Health Publishing, an individual weighing 155-pounds can burn up to 335 calories while working out for 30 minutes on the elliptical. A 30-minute walk will result in approximately 149 calories burnt for the same individual.

It’s worth noting the different settings on the elliptical that allow you to adjust levels of resistance to increase calorie burn. However, you can pretty much emulate resistance adjustment as you do on the elliptical while out on a walk.

If you are not breaking a sweat while walking, it’s time to analyze the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) that you are experiencing while out on a walk. If you are not sweating or breathing heavy, push yourself a little harder. Walk uphill, or accelerate your walking speed, and you are instinctively adjusting and enhancing resistance offered up by your all-natural walking workout.

iv) Muscles Worked On

As mentioned prior, walking is a low-impact, cardiovascular workout that mainly works the lower body muscles. When you are out on a walk, you are engaging your quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, glutes, and ankles.

Like walking, the elliptical is also a low-impact cardio workout. However, the elliptical work out both upper and lower body muscles. Your time spent on the elliptical is a significant workout for the muscles in your biceps, triceps, chest, back, quads, glutes, hamstrings, and core muscles.

v) Muscle Strength Increase

You must look closely at the muscle strength increase brought on by both walking and the elliptical, especially when you are choosing between the two for a lower body workout that significantly strengthens the muscles in your legs.

While making this comparison to analyze muscle strength build-up by walking or on the elliptical, do note that resistance facilitates muscle building, and as such, the elliptical offers adjustments to levels of resistance right at your fingertips.

This is not to say that the resistance offered up by walking cannot be tweaked. As mentioned prior, accelerating pace or walking on an incline while outdoors or on the treadmill can significantly alter resistance levels. This, in turn, can lead to greater muscle strength build-up.

Worth also noting is that, whether you are walking or on the elliptical, you can do more to accelerate and enhance muscle strength build-up. Using strength training equipment like dumbbells, kettlebells, and resistance bands is advised. Simply walking or working out on the elliptical does not promote muscle strength build-up at the rate that you are likely to desire.

vi) Consider Joint Health

If you are of a certain age, it is worth considering the adverse impacts of any kind of strenuous workout on your joints. Especially so if you have been diagnosed with joint health impairments, it is worth noting that walking may not be ideal for those with joint issues.

When walking on inclines or uneven surfaces, there is significant pressure on the joints over time. Similarly, your joints absorb a degree of impact when you lift your legs and put them back down. This results in a significant percentile of your upper body weight being absorbed by your joints with each step. This is apparently hazardous for those with weakened joints.

Conversely, the elliptical does not require you to put your feet down on the ground, and as such, your joints do not absorb any impact of landing on your feet. Significantly lower impact when compared to walking, the elliptical minimizes pressure on the joints with minimal ground contact.

vii) Weight Loss Benefits

While the elliptical burns significantly more calories compared to walking, it’s highly unlikely that you can spend many hours slumming it on the elliptical. Comparatively, you’re walking a lot more. As such, the frequency of your workout must be taken into consideration when comparing the weight-loss impacts of walking with the elliptical.

However, it is worth noting that an hour on the elliptical burns a ton of calories. But even then, walking is significantly more accessible and can be done with or without a machine. When it comes to weight loss, the convenience of walking and the same frequency have significant impacts. As such, there’s a tie to contend with when picking a winner here.

viii) Cardiovascular Health Benefits

Both walking and the elliptical are aerobic cardio workouts. According to experts, both promote healthy blood pressure levels and have significant cholesterol reduction impacts. As such, both the elliptical and walking promote cardiovascular health.

Now, the question you should be asking is – ‘which works better – and the answer is walking, mostly for its interval training benefits. The act of alternating between high-intensity and low-intensity workouts is better facilitated by walking. This allows your heart to absorb stress and, in turn, recover, which is a cardio workout.

Interval training is better facilitated while walking because the intensity of your walk can be easily altered. You can alternate between walking, jogging, and running and creating a short-term interval training regimen with significant cardiovascular benefits. Yes, interval training can be done on the elliptical, but the transition from a lower to higher intensity workout is so much easier with walking.

ix) Cost

Walking is free! You can count the cost of your best pair of walking shoes, but technically walking is free and does not cost you a dime. Furthermore, walking can save you money. If the conditions are just right, you can choose to walk over a short drive and save on fuel costs.

On the other hand, a standard quality elliptical comes at a pocket pinch of $1000 and above. So, when you are considering the cost implications of both workout types, walking is free for all.

Walking Vs. Elliptical – Pros and Cons

To conclude and to summarize any comparison between walking and the elliptical, the ‘Pros and Cons’infographic below is of significant assistance. However, one must still consider personal fitness goals while considering all comparison factors.

Pros Cons
Elliptical ⦁ Full Body Workout ⦁ Takes up space indoors
⦁ Varying Resistance Levels ⦁ Steeply Priced at $1000 and above
⦁ Significant Calorie Burn ⦁ Not readily accessible
⦁ Low Impact Workout
⦁ Promotes Cardiovascular Health
⦁ Joint Supportive
Walking ⦁ Great Lower Body Workout ⦁ May Create Stress on Weak Joints
⦁ Significant Calorie Burn
⦁ Great High-Intensity Interval Training Workout
⦁ Greater Ease of Transitioning from Low to High-Intensity Workout
⦁ Anytime is Good for a Walk
⦁ Walking does not Cost a Dime

With all the facts on the table, it’s worth considering the convenience of daily walks over owning an elliptical. Consider costs, space needed to accommodate the elliptical or even easy access to a gym.

And, it quickly becomes apparent that the convenience of simply setting off on a walk often makes this form of exercise so much more popular than any other single workout equipment.

Moreover, a walk, combined with high-intensity variations such as jogging and running, is as impactful, and often more so, than an elliptical.

Our comparisons elliptical vs rowing machine and elliptical vs running can better guide you that why to recommend the elliptical as the first exercise machine for home gym. 

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