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The Show-Down: Treadmill Versus Bike

Thinking about getting into some home cardio equipment? If so, that likely leaves you deciding which piece of equipment you want to buy. Treadmill vs. bike is a big debate that many people have with themselves as they aren’t fully sure where to invest their money. Both are definitely classified as great pieces of equipment to utilize, but which stands out above the other? Which piece of equipment will help you see the most optimal results?

With the treadmill, you get sky-high calorie burning potential and great cardiovascular benefits. With the bike, you’ll see enhanced lower body strength and power. Both can help with weight loss, so you’ll be safe there regardless of your choice.

So which is best?

Let’s take a look at help you settle the debate between treadmill vs. bike.

Treadmill

Pros:

  • Excellent for burning calories
  • Great for those who aren’t looking to build muscle
  • Easy to use – very natural movement
  • Can provide more variation because you can walk and run
  • Is more focused on cardiovascular endurance than muscle strength/endurance

Cons:

  • May lead to numerous injuries such as back pain, shin splints, twisted ankles, ankle pain, and so forth
  • Doesn’t do much to help build strength
  • Is very high impact in nature
  • Can break down more easily

Bike

Pros:

  • Provides good cardiovascular as well as strength training benefits
  • Is ideal for those who are interested in increasing muscle power
  • Is non-impact, so great for those worried about joint pain
  • Is also quite a natural movement pattern

Cons:

  • Only has one option – cycling
  • Knee pain may result due to the repetitive movement pattern called for on the bike
  • Some people may complain of low back pain or butt pain from sitting on the seat for so long
  • Is less than ideal for those who are looking to also work their upper body

A Closer Look

Upon taking a closer look, you may help make the decision between the treadmill vs. the bike more clear.

Injury Risk

Injuries are one of the most frustrating elements of being active so it’s normal to want to do everything you can to prevent them. This means considering the injury risk when you choose your mode of exercise. Certain types of exercises are far more likely to lead to injuries than others, so by planning ahead, you can minimize your chances.

Treadmills do pose a higher injury threat than bikes do. First, you could fall off. While rare, if it does happen, count yourself out for a while. Sprained ankles are also highly likely on the treadmill if you step on your foot funny, while on the bike, you’re strapped into to the pedals, so there’s no risk here.

Shin splints also tend to make an appearance in many runners lives and when this strikes, it can be a nagging injury that doesn’t go away for quite some time. This is another thing that cyclists do not face at all.

Running may also lead to joint pain – knee pain or back pain due to the intense forces coming down on the body with each step you take. It’s highly demanding and any time you are running, there’s a good chance that you will feel pain sooner or later. Walking perhaps not as much, but once you raise the intensity, injuries await.

It’s very rare to meet a runner who has never been injured.

With the bike, the real only injury you’ll potentially face is knee pain, which often comes about due to the repetitive nature of cycling or because one of your thigh muscles is stronger than the other and is pulling the knee in one direction.

With the bike you may also get saddle sores, which is essentially just soreness where the bike seat is constantly rubbing against the body, but this isn’t really an injury per say and can be fixed with a different bike seat or padded clothing to help reduce the pressure on these areas.

Ability To Burn Body Fat

Next, let’s consider the ability to burn off body fat. This is what everyone wants to know: treadmill vs. bike. Here, the treadmill wins out slightly. Simply because running, at a very intense pace will always burn more calories than cycling will.

This said, if you are walking versus cycling, it’s very likely at cycling will help you burn more so cycling wins out.

When thinking about which is better for fat loss, think about which type of exercise you can carry out at the highest intense more easily and which you can carry on longer without fatigue.

These will be the two factors that will dictate how many calories you burn per session, so need to be considered here when making you selection. It does you no good to burn 10 calories per minute running if you can only run for 3 minutes. 30 calories is no big calorie burn and when you drop down to walking, you’ll only be burning 3-4 calories per minute.

If you can cycle for 30 minutes at a good pace though burning 8 calories per minute, this is really going to add up to a much greater overall calorie burn effect – and thus, weight loss effect.

Program Options

Both machines will typically come with programmable options allowing you to change up your workout from time to time. You’ll see hill programs, fat burn programs, random programs, and so forth depending on the particular brand you purchase.

Both also allow you to adjust the speed and resistance/incline on your own, so you can technically create any program you desire as well.

The treadmill however, is the only machine that lets you do either walking or jogging, so this adds another element of variability. With cycling, you’re always cycling. So this may put the treadmill ahead slightly in terms of the total programming options you have available, and thus, the ability to progress.

Machine Durability

Finally, when thinking about machine durability, the bike definitely pulls out ahead. It’s quite rare for the bike to break down and require repairs, while treadmills do start failing with heavy use after not too long.

If you get a good quality treadmill it should last you for at least a year or longer but after that, with heavy use, the belt will likely become worn and the motor or the incline ability may start to falter. So keep this in mind when thinking about your total investment.

Conclusion

So there you have the primary points to know and remember about the treadmill vs. bike. Both are terrific options – you just need to figure out which is going to be the better choice for you based on your own unique set of preferences and goals.

Photo credit: Ljupco Smokovski/Shutterstock; aslysun/Shutterstock; Serghei Starus/Shutterstock; Poznyakov/Shutterstock