Elliptical Vs. Treadmill: Which Will Help You Lose Weight Faster?

Describing the world of fitness as complicated would be a hefty understatement. Getting in shape and staying healthy and toned requires paying attention to nutrition, the exercises you do, how often you do them, etc. Fitness is also not one-size-fits-all, as exercise and dietary needs differ greatly among individuals (via CDC). The CDC recommends exercising up to 150 minutes per week for maintaining your current weight, while suggesting more activity as well as a calorie deficit for weight loss.

There are many exercises that can help you reach those 150 minutes, both in and out of the gym, and if you're new to a fitness journey, you may opt to start with cardio instead of going right for the heavy weights. Cardio is defined as "any type of exercise that gets your heart rate up and keeps it up for a prolonged period of time" (via Healthline). Some typical cardio exercises are swimming, cycling, running, and walking. Keep reading for a breakdown of two of the most popular cardiovascular machines and how they can help you lose weight.

Ellipticals vs. treadmills: the basics

Ellipticals and treadmills are two of the most commonly found cardiovascular machines in gyms. Treadmills utilize a moving strip that allows you to walk or run without actually moving forward, while ellipticals have the user stand on two small platforms and imitate a running motion (via Built Lean). Both machines have their own unique set of pros and cons that are important to consider before using them.

For example, the flat surface of a treadmill can be difficult on the knees and ankles as there is often little shock absorption. Where ellipticals can take this strain off of your joints, they are often less impactful workouts since your feet never leave a flat surface and your weight is suspended throughout the whole workout. Most ellipticals allow the user to reverse their stride, activating new muscle groups while exercising, but treadmills allow for easier adjustment of speed and incline, allowing for a more diverse array of workout conditions.

But which machine will help you lose weight faster?

Treadmills pull ahead for faster weight loss -- but not by much

According to Holly Perkins, a certified strength and conditioning coach based in Los Angeles who spoke to Women's Health, in the battle of the treadmill vs. the elliptical for faster weight loss, the treadmill emerges victorious — but not by much. Perkins said that if comparing "apples to apples," which she explains means comparing the same heart rate on both machines, then the treadmill would burn a few more calories than the elliptical. Perkins explains that this is because "any time your body leaves the ground, as with running, that requires more energy." Since your feet stay planted on an elliptical, you don't get quite the same intensity of workout as you would on a treadmill.

According to Livestrong, the elliptical is often a good choice of cardio machine for beginners. When used at a high intensity and especially including the arm handles, it make up for the calorie-burning difference compared to a treadmill workout.