Treadmill vs. Exercise Bikes - the Pros and Cons
by our Medical Director

You already know that eating healthy and exercising regularly are important for losing weight, looking and feeling better and most importantly for your long-term health. In your quest to get in better shape, you may have decided to purchase a piece of home cardio equipment. The most popular are treadmills and stationary bikes, but how do you decide which one to buy? What you need to focus on are safety, workout effectiveness and whether or not you will avoid boredom and continue using the equipment.

Safety

Safety is of utmost important when you are purchasing anything for your home, so it is listed first in the items of things to consider when making your decision.

  • Treadmill Pros
    • If used correctly, most new models feature automatic shut-off safety devices.
  • Treadmill Cons
    • You can misstep and fall off a treadmill.
    • Treadmills put more stress on joints, especially knees and ankles. People with arthritis may find a treadmill painful at times due to this stress.
  • Stationary Bike Pros
    • An exercise bike is the safest if joint stress is a major concern due to age or injury.
    • It's very difficult to fall off an exercise bike.
    • A properly positioned exercise bike supports your weight so your knees and ankles are not as stressed as they are on a treadmill.
    • If you have an upper body injury, the support of a recumbent bike may allow you to continue exercising.
  • Stationary Bike Cons
      Reaching for the handle bars on an upright exercise bike may stress your back.

Workout Effectiveness

The most important benefit of any exercise regime is that it provides a good exercise workout; otherwise, what's the point? A good exercise workout is one that provides aerobic benefits, works the major muscles and helps to maintain or reduce weight.

  • Treadmill Pros
    • At the same intensity, a treadmill or ski machine will burn more calories per hour (750) than a stationary bike (550).
    • Walking on a treadmill uses core muscles in the back and abs to stabilize your body throughout your workout and allows you to get a more all-over workout by swinging your arms as you walk.
    • The vigorous activity from a treadmill can be key to quicker weight loss.
  • Treadmill Cons
    • If you have joint or certain other health problems, a treadmill could prove too jarring for your workout, and could cause you undue pain.
    • Although treadmills burn more calories, if you bore easily you might want to consider burning less calories per hour but for a longer term, more easily sustainable routine on a bike.
  • Stationary Bike Pros
    • If you find it difficult to walk 10 minutes on a treadmill but can easily ride for 20 minutes on an exercise bike, you will burn more calories per session on an exercise bike.
  • Stationary Bike Cons
    • Focuses only on the major muscles of the legs. The leg muscles good "burn", but riding doesn't really do much for the rest of the body.

Boredom

The hardest part of working out at home is actually sticking with it. When you drive to a gym, there is one purpose for you being there, and only one thing to do - workout. When you are home, it is often difficult to get motivated or to stay interested, as it's too easy to focus on all the other things that you could or should be doing instead. You need to make the workout fun and interesting enough that you look forward to it every day.

  • Treadmill Pros
    • If you are really into TV or movies and are able to put your treadmill in front of a television, and exercise while you are watching your favorite program.
    • If you get a treadmill that offers an incline or variable speeds, it can present a challenge and make your workout more interesting.
    • Listening to music is also a way to zone out during your workout, so that your time is up before you even realize it.
  • Treadmill Cons
    • The treadmill noise will often compete with the television.
    • Reading on a treadmill is next to impossible. With all of the bouncing, it's difficult to keep your eyes on the same sentence and you often will end up with a headache.
  • Stationary Bike Pros
    • Like a treadmill, the Bike can be placed in front of a TV, but they also make it easier to hold a book or a magazine a video game controller, or even a phone. Multi-tasking during the workout keeps it from becoming boring.
    • Some bikes can be plugged into television and video game programs allowing you to interactively pedal through visual courses that require you to perform at different levels.
  • Stationary Bike Cons
    • On upright exercise bikes, you may still have some trouble reading because you usually have to hold the handlebars to keep your balance.
    • Some people get bored with exercise bikes because they are not using their arms or any other part of their body than their legs.

Remember, for all aerobic exercises, you need a minimum of 20 minutes on any machine to get real benefit. If you don't have a heart monitor, a good rule of thumb is to sustain your activity at a point where you can carry on a conversation with some difficulty.

Either piece of equipment will help you in your quest for weight loss or improved health, but sticking with your option is the most important so choose the piece of equipment you are most likely to continue using. The best option is to purchase and use both, provided you have the space in your home and your budget.

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