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Treadmill Vs. Stationary Bike: A Quick Comparison

Wondering what you should choose between the treadmill vs. stationary bike? Which has more to offer? Which will stand a better chance of getting you to your end goal?

Both of these machines are classified as cardio exercise equipment, but they each bring a different set of benefits to the table and are better for certain types of users. By matching your own needs, preferences, and desires to these machines, you can ensure that you are making a wise purchase decision.

After all, if you’re going to invest close to or over a thousand dollars in a machine, the last thing you want is for it to become an expensive clothes hanger.

Here are some quick comparisons between the treadmill vs. stationary bike that you’ll want to know.


 TreadmillStationary Bike
Good For BeginnersYesYes
Good for Advanced ExercisesYesYes
Good For Athletes YesYes
Good For Fat LossYesYes
Good For Muscle BuildingNoYes
Good For Older Adults NoYes


So from this chart, it would seem that both of these machines are quite similar and stack up nearly identical. But there are some further points you should know when making a good comparison between the treadmill vs. stationary bike.

Let’s take a look.

Good For Beginners

Both of these machines are great for beginners because both mimic a movement pattern that we’ve all done many times before – or most of us, anyway.

The treadmill allows for walking, which we do every single day and the stationary bike is like riding a bike, more or less.

Both will take a bit of time to get used to because you are on a machine, not out in everyday life, but the adaptation process is usually very quick and after one session, you’ve completely gotten the hang of it.

Both of these machines are also quite scalable, so you can easily make them easier to suit the beginners needs. With the treadmill, you’ll just put it on no incline and walk at a slower pace. This is great for anyone just starting and then as you progress, you can increase the speed or add some incline to the mix.

With the stationary bike, simply put it on a very low resistance level and pedal at a speed that’s comfortable for you. As you get stronger and fitter, you can then increase the resistance level up higher.

Good For Advanced Exercisers

Are both of these machines a good option for someone who is more advanced? They are. Advanced exercisers are people who are looking to get the most from their workouts so they need that ability to take it up to the highest intensity level.

With the treadmill, you can either walk very briskly (or even jog) at the highest incline level. This will without a doubt give you a great cardiovascular workout. You can also perform sprint training as well, however note that sprint training on treadmills tends to be less ideal because by the time the belt gets up to the full speed you want it at, your interval is almost over. So in terms of your ability to do sprints, the treadmill actually falls quite short.

With the bike, you can really crank the resistance level up higher, which will surely give the most advanced exerciser a good challenge. The bike is also better for doing sprint training on because the only thing that stands between you and your way of that sprint is the rate in which you are pedaling. You can change the resistance as well and the stationary bike will do a better job at increasing the resistance almost instantly, unlike the treadmill, which takes time.

Good For Athletes

Looking at athletics now, both machines will provide benefits for different reasons. The treadmill can help you build running endurance, which many sports require, so it can help you advance your performance in that regard.

The bike on the other hand though, is a good low-impact activity that can be used for cross training to build muscular endurance. If you are doing a high impact sporting activity, the last thing you might want is to go do more high impact exercise, especially if you’re someone who’s prone to joint pain.

Therefore, the bike will provide good relief in these cases. This is one reason why some athletes choose the bike over the treadmill. Even though they aren’t ever cycling while out on the court, field, or arena, it’s the low impact nature of it they like for their cross training activities.

Good For Building Muscle

Which now leads us to our next point, between the treadmill vs. stationary bike which is better for building muscle?

If lean muscle is what you seek, definitely opt for the stationary bike. The resistance you’ll get from this bike is simply so much higher, making it more ideal for anyone who wants to gain functional strength to add to their fitness level.

If you are consuming a hypercalorie diet, you might actually be able to build more muscle size too. Just look at the legs of most Olympic cyclists. While you may never get to quite that level with your training, it proves that cycling can support muscle growth. Do keep in mind these athletes are likely doing other activities as well. Cycling does make up the bulk of their fitness program however, so it will support these goals.

Good For Older Adults

Finally, which of the machines is a better bet for older adults? Here the answer is definitely the stationary bike. As you get older, you’ll typically find that joint pain is far more likely and you may even start suffering from osteoporosis. Therefore, the treadmill may be too painful to do. The bike is a great alternative. Since it’s low impact but you are still acting against resistance, thus it’s giving you that weight baring effect, it may help assist in actually increasing bone density and helping you build stronger bones.

It’s important for any older individual starting an exercise program to go slow however and build up your duration and resistance. Allowing the body to get used to this type of exercise and react to the stressors it brings will ensure that you can keep going injury free for many months to come.

So there you have the comparison between the treadmill vs. stationary bike. Both of these machines can certainly take your fitness level higher, help you burn fat, and potentially even gain strength and lean muscle mass. It’s how you use them that dictates the results you see. Consider your own personal preferences, goals and needs in a cardio machine and use this to help you make an informed purchasing decision.

Photo credit: Ljupco Smokovski/Shutterstock; Goran Bogicevic/Shutterstock; Sergey Nivens/Shutterstock

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