Treadmill vs elliptical: Which is best for full-body workouts?

Treadmill vs elliptical: which will win the title for ultimate home full-body workout machine?

treadmill vs elliptical: pictured here a treadmill on blue background (left) and an elliptical on grey background (right)
(Image credit: NordicTrack / Bowflex)

Treadmill vs elliptical: which is the best full-body workout machine? The answer to that may not be as easy as it looks.

The best treadmills and best ellipticals – sometimes also called cross trainers – tend to be rather large, and a significant investment, so few people will simultaneously own a treadmill and an elliptical machine. Which one should you pick if you are after the best workout then?

Most people would probably choose treadmills over ellipticals, but in some cases, cross trainers are a better choice, as discussed below.

JTX Fitness Elliptical in a living room

(Image credit: JTX Fitness)

Treadmill vs elliptical: Ergonomics and storage

Both treadmills and ellipticals usually dominate the rooms they are housed in. Case in point, full-size treadmills, such as the new Bowflex Treadmill 22, can have a running surface as big as 22” x 60” (approx. 56 x 152 cm), plus the frame. Smaller treadmills are available to buy, but they are generally such poor quality that they aren’t even worth the floor space savings one might gain by getting one.

On the upside, some high-end treadmills can be folded up when not used to save some space. This feature doesn’t make them too mobile – folding a treadmill in half doesn’t make it half as heavy – but at least when stored next to a wall, the machine will be less in the way.

Unfortunately, ellipticals are not foldable, although not all elliptical trainers were created equal when it comes to size. Rear-drive ellipticals, such as the JTX Strider-X7, are the largest and most stable variety with the longest stride length. There are front-drive cross trainers, like the NordicTrack C 7.5, which is a good compromise between stability, size and stride length. Finally, there are entirely vertical machines, such as the Bowflex Max Total, that take up the least amount of floor space but have the smallest stride length.

Person running on a treadmill in a gym

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Treadmill vs elliptical: Workout performance

Running on treadmills is the best exercise for weight loss. Jogging on treadmills can also improve lung capacity, heart health, boost metabolism, and more. Working out on a treadmill can be a bit noisy, though, especially if you live in a flat.

The thumping of the feet might not sit well with anyone’s significant other and family, let alone the downstairs neighbours. Higher-end running machines tend to have cushioned running decks that reduce noise and make treadmill running more joint-friendly.

Speaking of joint-friendliness: elliptical trainers are probably the most jointly friendly of all the cardio machines. Elliptical training is ideal for older and overweight persons who find running too challenging. This doesn’t mean elliptical trainers can’t be hardcore: they are often used for HIIT training and can effectively elevate heart rate when used in a high-enough resistance setting.

Woman using an elliptical in front of large mirrors

(Image credit: Technogym)

Treadmill vs elliptical: Price and availability

Due to high demand, finding a treadmill below £500/$550 can be tricky right now. Under normal circumstances, treadmill prices range from around £160 / $200 for the really basic, self-propelled models, but these tend to offer a very unrealistic running experience and might fall apart after a couple of uses. The sweet spot between performance and price starts at around £600 / $700. Top-tier treadmills, such as the Technogym Artis Run (opens in new tab), can cost as much as £20k.

Ellipticals are even more expensive than treadmills. Decathlon’s own brand, Domyos, has a cross-trainer (Domyos Cross Trainer EL 900 Connected (opens in new tab)) for £699.99, that’s probably as cheap as it gets without compromising on quality. NordicTrack models start around £1,000 / £1,300 and Bowflex Max Trainer prices start from approx. £1,800 / $2,000. 

Matt is T3's Fitness Editor and covers everything from smart fitness tech to running and workout shoes, home gym equipment, exercise how-tos, nutrition, cycling, and more. His byline appears in several publications, including Techradar and Fit&Well, and he collaborated with other fitness content creators such as Garage Gym reviews.