You might have heard this but the best home gym equipment is on 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 are an excellent choice when it comes to improving your general wellbeing, making the decision 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 of these 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, mostly using our legs and glutes theto 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.
Running is more of a full body movement. 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, but 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, on the other hand, it can put more pressure on the knees and ankles.
This effect is mitigated using a treadmill, though: higher-end machines have cushioned running surfaces that reduces noise and softens the impact force of landings. As for the lack of use of upper body muscles during cycling, air bikes are a good compromise. These elliptical trainer/exercise bike hybrids can be used as exercise bikes or as full body workout machines using the moveable handles. However, they can be a bit noisy.
Treadmill vs exercise bike: storage
Exercise bikes generally have a smaller footprint than treadmills. This makes them ideal for smaller living spaces, like flats shared living spaces (e.g. living room). Bikes are also more neighbour-friendly: thumping on a treadmill will not sit well with any of the neighbours, especially the ones downstairs. Exercise bikes can be moved around the house more easily than treadmills, especially the ones that have transport wheels.
Treadmills come in a lot of different sizes but even the smaller ones are larger than most exercise bikes. Also, people usually like to get their money’s worth and would buy a slightly larger treadmill because ‘it’s only a little bit more expensive’. That said, some treadmills, especially the more expensive ones, are foldable, meaning the deck can be raised when not in use. This frees up some floor space but it only really works if the treadmill is facing 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: workouts
Talking about screens: in 2021, the best treadmills and exercise bikes all 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 when it comes to weight loss, 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, have a 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. 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.