Treadmill vs elliptical: which is the best full body workout machine?

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

treadmill vs elliptical
(Image credit: NordicTrack / Bowflex)

The question ‘treadmill vs elliptical: which is the best full body workout machine?’ is as old as the Queen of England herself. Well, the question might not be that old but it is still an important one, especially in this day and age when the best home gym equipment stocks are low and prices are high, so most people can’t afford to buy both to get fit and lose belly fat at home.

Even worse, the best treadmills and best ellipticals – sometimes also called cross trainers – are rather massive: not many people have large enough homes to house a treadmill and an elliptical machine at the same time. Which one should you pick if you are after a good full body cardio pump? Most people would probably choose treadmills over ellipticals but the story is not this simple and in some cases, cross trainers are a better choice, as discussed below.

JTX Fitness

(Image credit: JTX Fitness)

Treadmill vs elliptical: ergonomics and storage

Both treadmills and ellipticals are colossal in size and dominate the rooms they are housed in. Truth to be told, smaller treadmills are available to buy but usually they are such poor quality they don’t even worth the floor space-savings one might gain by getting one. 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.

On the upside, some high-end treadmills can be folded up when not in use to save some space. This 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. You might want to get one with a screen, though, otherwise you will have stare at the wall while you run and that can get boring pretty quickly.

Ellipticals are not foldable, unfortunately, although when it comes to size, not all elliptical trainers were created equal. 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 completely vertical machines such as the Bowflex Max Total, that take up the least amount of floor space but has the smallest stride length.

treadmill vs cross trainer

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Treadmill vs elliptical: workouts

Running on treadmills is the best exercise for weight loss and as well as losing weight, treadmill joggers can also improve lung capacity, heart health, boost metabolism and the list goes on. It can be a bit noisy to workout on a treadmill, though, especially if you live in a flat.

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

Talking about joint-friendliness: from all the cardio machines, elliptical trainers are probably the most jointly friendly. Elliptical training is ideal for older people and overweight or obese persons who might 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 on a high-enough resistance setting.

Treadmill vs elliptical

(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, 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) 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 Kollat
Matt Kollat

Matt is T3's very own fitness and nutrition writer. In his free time, he swims, runs, cycles and tries various resistance training workouts so he can ramble about them to people who aren't really interested in fitness.