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Treadmill Vs. Cycle

Looking to get started with your fitness plan but aren’t quite sure where to begin? Asking yourself which is better, treadmill vs. cycle? Are both of these machines created equally in terms of the fitness benefits they bring?

The answer is yes, and no. The two machines aren’t exactly like but they do bring similar benefits. That said, they also have their differences too. This is why learning more about the treadmill vs. cycle will help ensure that you make the most informed decision which is right for you.

Here’s what you need to know.


Fat Burning PotentialVery HighHigh
Ability To Gain StrengthLowModerate
Sports Performance Improvements  HighModerate
Machine Durability LowHigh
Cost ModerateLow
Mimics Real Life Movements HighHigh


Now that you have that brief overview of the treadmill vs. cycle, let’s look at these in more detail.

Fat Burning Potential

First let’s consider the fat burning potential of both machines. The great news is that if fat loss is what you desire, you can see good results from either. The treadmill however, does inch ahead.

If you are doing a brisk paced run or a very steel incline walk, you will typically burn more calories doing this than you would if you were cycling.

It’s not abnormal to find people burning up to 10-12 calories per minute on a very fast run or 8-10 calories per minute if walking briskly on a steep incline.

This said, if you are just going for a casual jog or you are walking at a moderate pace on a moderate incline, expect your calorie burn to be more in the 4-6 range per minute.

When considering biking, intense cycling can usually land you around 8-10 calories per minute. You’d have to go incredibly hard at a very high resistance level to reach the 10-12 calories per minute mark, so for most people, this will simply be out of reach.

The average cyclist will burn quite a bit less than that, coming in at around 3-5 calories per minute. Cycling, by nature, doesn’t burn as many calories as running does at the same intensity because of the fact you’re sitting while doing it. So there is less overall stabilization muscles involved. This is the big difference in the calorie burn of the treadmill vs. cycle.

Ability To Gain Strength

Let’s now consider your ability to gain strength. Which wins out here? Here the cycle is the clear winner. With the treadmill, the only way you’re going to add resistance is by increasing the incline and even then, not that much resistance will really be added. It’s more going to work the calves than anything else. Your best shot at building more muscle using the treadmill is to perform sprint training, which utilizes very intense bouts of exercise that will call upon your fast twitch muscle fibers. By doing so, you’ll recruit more muscle building hormones in the body and may end up with a more chiseled physique (think sprinter versus marathon runner).

This said, running alone likely won’t get you that look. Most sprinters with their high amount of muscle mass are also performing quite an extensive amount of weight lifting as well.

Cycling on the other hand, does have you working against more resistance with each and every rep you take, so it can be quite good for building up your strength level. It will, however, only build this strength in the lower body, so that is something that you do need to consider. If you are looking for upper body strength, you simply aren’t going to find it here.

Sports Performance

If you are an athlete looking for a means of cross training, you’ll probably be wondering how the treadmill vs. cycle compares in terms of how well it’ll boost your sports performance.

Here you’ll likely find that you’ll gain more benefits from doing running or jogging than you will spinning. Simply because of the transferability. Most sports do require you to be running – basketball, baseball, soccer, and so forth, whereas no sport requires you to be cycling.

Both will help boost your cardiovascular endurance, which is also important for sport performance so you can reap benefits from both for sure, it’s just that you’ll get more of a carry over effect from the movement pattern of walking or running.

Machine Durability

If you’re going to invest money in a machine, you’re going to want to ensure that it lasts. Therefore, it’s a good idea to consider this factor as well. Machine durability should factor in as constantly doing repairs on a machine can get to be quite costly, so the total price of the machine would then change.

If choosing between the treadmill vs. cycle, you’ll definitely want to opt for the cycle here. Treadmills can be a bit more prone to breaking down as there are simply more parts and mechanisms that can become faulty. The belt can get worn, the motor may begin to break down, the elevation mechanism can fail. These will all need to be looked at by a skilled individual.

With the cycle however, you just don’t have these faulty parts, therefore there really isn’t much concern.


If budget is a driving factor for you, don’t overlook this. In terms of total cost of the machines, treadmills will come in higher. While you can certainly buy a bike that is more expensive than a lower model treadmill, when compare apples to apples in the same machine grade quality, you’ll find the treadmill is the pricier of the two.

So if you want fitness on the cheap, the cycle is your better bet.

Mimics Real Life Movements

Finally, also think about which one is going to best mimic real life movements. This means it carries over well into your day to day activities. Here, the treadmill wins out again.

We all walk through the course of the day. But how many of us cycle? Walking simply provides better benefits overall for our lifestyle activities we do. This said, if you are someone who climbs a lot of stairs over the course of the day, this may be reason to go with the cycle as it’ll help you gain more quad and hamstring strength compared to the treadmill.

So there you have a quick comparison of the treadmill vs. cycle. Both are great choices so think about which is most important to you and decide from there where you’ll invest your time.

Photo credit: nazarovsergey/Shutterstock; Duct/Shutterstock; ninikas/Shutterstock

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