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Elliptical vs treadmill

Updated June 29, 2014


Is the tyre around your waist bothering you more than ever before because no matter how much you suck it in when you are standing or walking, it sits nice and cosy and very visible when you do! If the answer is yes; (no, don’t panic) there are ways to deal with it.

Instead of resigning yourself to a life of loose and baggy clothes, it is high time to shape up before your health ships out. Belly fat is responsible for diabetes and heart conditions as this is where you are storing your fat and all needs a lot of blood supply.

Before you embark on an exercise programme, you have to dispel a couple of myths.

1.) You cannot lose belly fat by doing 100 or more crunches a day.

2.) Spot reduction does not happen.

Only once the fat has gone, lean muscle can become visible as a six-pack. To lose belly fat, you have to lose overall weight and the best and perhaps the only way to do that is to do a cardio session at least three times a week. If you are debating on whether a tried-and-true treadmill is better than the newer-kid-on-the-block elliptical, here is how it goes.

What machine should you choose for cardio workouts?

The treadmill burns a bit more calories than running on an elliptical because when you use the latter, your feet never leave the pedals. It is low-impact and easier on the joints, but you’ll also burn less calories per hour as compared to a treadmill. Since the difference isn’t huge, choose whichever machine you find most comfortable and the one you’ll stick to using.

As you increase your intensity level on either machine, you’ll burn more. When you can’t go all out on the treadmill to burn calories, you can on the elliptical because it is a gliding motion that has a low impact. Whichever machine you choose, you’ll burn roughly the same number of calories provided you put in a similar effort.

Running on a treadmill can put stress on your spine, hips, knee and ankle joints, especially if you do not warm up, stretch or run on it all the time with excessive volume. While some treadmills have more shock absorption than others, the impact is still significant. Also with high intensity training, incline sprints can be dangerous if your skill level is not adequate for performing these exercises.

Trying to hold on to the treadmill handles while you are running can be challenging and awkward. Studies show that the size of the belt on a treadmill can cause people to change the way they walk or run, leading to muscle and joint imbalances, postural problems and orthopaedic issues.

The elliptical on the other hand allows your body to emulate a running motion without causing the strenuous impact on your joints that occurs on a treadmill. Since most elliptical trainers are now equipped with moveable handles, these allow you to exercise your upper body and lower body simultaneously thereby facilitating cross training options.

Some elliptical trainers allow you to stride in reverse which can activate different muscle groups and put more emphasis on your quads and offer an adjustable variety mid-workout. On the elliptical, people are actually working harder than they think even though they are burning close to the same amount of calories with lesser effort.

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, June 29th, 2014