You might have heard this, but the best home gym equipment is in short supply still. The best treadmills and the best exercise bikes are in high demand, and getting both might be a bit of a stretch for a family budget, so a decision must be made: treadmill vs exercise bike? Which one should you get if you want to get fit and lose weight at home?
Truth to be told, either of these cardio machines is an excellent choice for improving your general wellbeing, making the decision of which one to choose even harder. For people who don’t mind which sport will get them fit, we recommend just getting a branded cardio machine on offer from somewhere cycling and running has very similar long-term health effects.
The rest should read on to find out which cardio machines are best suited for their needs.
Treadmill vs exercise bike: Ergonomics
Despite the health benefits of cycling and running being similar, the way they are achieved is different.
Admittedly, we tend to ‘sit down’ when riding a bike, mainly using our legs and glutes to keep the circulation (and bike) going. Professional cyclists have a slim upper body as most of the muscles above the waistline are only used for stabilisation. Regardless, the heart still needs to work hard to keep the lower body muscles oxygenated, especially the glutes, the largest muscle in the body.
On the other hand, running is more of a full-body workout. To move forward, the whole body needs to work in unison, not just the legs, although this doesn’t mean the arms and the pecs are under a lot of pressure, though they move more freely compared to cycling. Running can be considered better for the upper body joints as they don’t have to maintain a fixed position like during cycling. Running can be taxing on the joints, especially the knee.
This effect is mitigated using a treadmill: higher-end machines have cushioned running surfaces that reduce noise and soften the impact force of landings.
Treadmill vs exercise bike: Ergonomics
Exercise bikes generally have a smaller footprint than treadmills, making them ideal for smaller living spaces and shared living areas (e.g. living room). Indoor cycles are also more neighbour-friendly: thumping on a treadmill will not sit well with any neighbours, especially the ones downstairs. Exercise bikes can be moved around the house more efficiently than treadmills, especially those with transport wheels.
Treadmills come in many different sizes, but even the smaller ones are larger than most exercise bikes. There are foldable treadmills, but these tend to be more expensive than standard running machines. You can always opt-in for cheap treadmills to save money.
This frees up some floor space, but it only works if the treadmill faces a wall. Otherwise, you’ll end up with an erect treadmill in the middle of the room. Smart treadmills, such as the new Bowflex Treadmill 22 or the NordicTrack Incline Trainers, come with HD screens, so even if they need to face the walls, runners can still be entertained.
Treadmill vs exercise bike: Workout performance
Talking about screens: nowadays, the best treadmills and exercise bikes come equipped with large screens and thousands of live and on-demand workout libraries to entertain home athletes. Probably the most well-known brands are the likes of Peloton and iFit (by NordicTrack), although many other brands are trying to get in on the home smart workout space, including Bowflex with its new JNRY App.
Most of these apps are seamlessly connected to their respective brand's machines and provide real-time feedback and performance stats on the screens. Even if you can't afford a Peloton bike, Peloton workouts can still be viewed in the app and followed using a different exercise bike. The same applies to the other apps too.
Both types of machines are great for HIIT workouts, although running on a treadmill has shown to burn the most calories. You can still get fit at home with indoor cycling, to be fair. For more inspiration on treadmill workouts, look at an Olympic champion's guide to treadmill training during winter and these winter running tips.
Treadmill vs exercise bike: Price and availability
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, and top-tier treadmills, such as the Technogym Artis Run, can cost as much as £20k.
Exercise bikes have a similar price range. Some disposable upright models come as cheap as £100 / $100, but these will most likely break after one use. Decent models can be bought for around £500/$500 when they are on offer, while mid-range bikes, such as the Echelon Smart Connect EX3, are around £1,000/$1,000. The sweet spot is around the £2,000/$2,000 mark: the Watbike Atom can be bought for a little bit less than that, and it’s pretty much as good as it gets when it comes to indoor cycling.