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Treadmill Vs. Bike – What Is The Superior Choice?

 

As someone interested in cardiovascular fitness improvements, it’s important that you are choosing your machine wisely. Not all cardio machines offer the same benefits, so you need to find one that’s directly in tune with your own goals.

If you are looking at the treadmill vs. the bike, it can be a touch decision to make. Both offer pros and cons and both seem like reasonable buys. To help you better decide, let’s look at a quick comparison between the two.

 

 TreadmillBike
Fat Loss BenefitsHigh, great calorie burnModerate, mediocre calorie burn
Cardiovascular BenefitsHighHigh
Strengthening BenefitsLowModerate-High
Agility BenefitsHighLow
Injury RiskHigh Low

 

To give you a better idea how these stack up, let’s talk about each of these in more detail.

Fat Loss Benefits

Most people who start using a cardio machine are doing so to help promote some degree of fat loss. The obesity rates in the world are climbing, meaning more and more people are concerned about their expanding waistline.

So which stacks up as the better choice, the treadmill vs the bike? The treadmill will win out here. If you do interval sprints or simply jog at a brisk pace, you will burn more calories compared to if you rode the bike.

It’s relatively easy to get a calorie burn of up to 7-10 calories per minute on the treadmill but most people will only be burning around 4-5 calories per minute on the bike. Some of those who are very experienced and able to cycle with great intensity may get to the 7-9 calorie range, but going beyond that is quite challenging.

One of the primary reasons this is the case is because the treadmill has you standing while the bike has you sitting. Whenever you are standing, you are contracting more total muscles to keep your body in balance, so this ups your total energy expenditure.

Cardiovascular Benefits

Now let’s consider cardio benefits. If your primary goal with your cardio training is to boost your heart health, which it should be, is there one machine that’s better?

Not really. The honest truth here is that both of these machines, provided they are done at the same intensity level, can provide similar benefits.

What you do need to keep in mind though is that in some cases, you’ll need to up the resistance level of bike up higher in order to reap those cardiovascular benefits and unfortunately, doing that can cause your quads and hamstrings to fatigue before your actual cardiovascular system does, so this could become a limiting factor.

Since flat running (or walking) doesn’t provide any resistance at all, you don’t have to worry about this issue. So for that reason, you may find that the treadmill does serve you better as a cardiovascular boosting choice.

Strengthening Benefits

On the flip side, if you look at the strengthening benefits of these two machines, the bike definitely wins out. The bike is always going to have you working against resistance as it’s integral to its operation. The treadmill does not.

Anything that has you working against resistance has the potential to build muscle. Cardio training, by nature, isn’t going to give you the greatest overall muscle building results, but if you had to choose between the treadmill vs. bike, definitely opt for the bike.

The higher you can crank that resistance level while biking, the more muscle building potential you’ll gain.

Do keep in mind however that you are only going to receive muscle building potential for the lower body, not the upper body. You’ll still need to do another exercise, preferably strength training for the upper body as well.

Do also keep in mind that if you want to really see great muscle building results, you should just stop cardio training altogether and instead, focus on weight lifting. Cardio training creates a much different type of stimulus in the body than weight training does and the two tend to work against each other. So by doing too much cardio training, you could actually be limiting you muscle building entirely, no matter which mode you choose.

Agility Benefits

If agility is something that’s important to you, perhaps because you also participate in athletics of some sort or maybe you’re just getting older and want to ensure that your balance stays at a good level, then this is something to consider too.

The treadmill is the clear winner here. Because the bike has you sitting down, there’s no agility needed. You’re fully stabilized by the seat.

The treadmill has you moving while standing however, so you’ll have to balance your body as you change speeds, or add incline. This adds more agility boosting benefits to the mix.

But if the truth is told, if you really want to see optimal agility, you’d be better off simply doing agility focused exercises that have you moving off your center of balance and regaining control, such as doing movements on a bosu ball.

Strictly speaking though, if you have to choose, opt for the bike here.

Injury Risk

Finally, don’t overlook your risk of injury. Being out injured will not only lead to great frustration, but also decrease your motivation and halt your results. The treadmill holds the greatest risk factor here.

With the treadmill, you risk:

  • Shin splints
  • A rolled ankle
  • Sore ankles due to impact
  • Sore knees due to impact
  • Sore back due to impact
  • Stomach cramps
  • Tendonitis in the knees
  • Bursitis in the knees or feet

With the bike, the only real injury you may risk is saddle sores, and that’s only if you bike too often and the seat is aggravating your bum region. There are other injury risks on the bike too if you aren’t taking enough rest between sessions, typical overuse injuries, but those are going to be present with just about any type of exercise you do.

The bike is a non-impact exercise, so there just isn’t that high level of stress and strain coming down on the body like with the treadmill, so that’s the main difference to know about.

So there you have a closer look at the treadmill vs. bike. Both are great pieces of cardio equipment but you do really need to think about which is going to meet your needs best over the long haul along with which you enjoy more. Use those are your deciding factors.

Photo credit: Ljupco Smokovski/Shutterstock; Pressmaster/Shutterstock; HconQ/Shutterstock