Treadmills Or Elliptical Machines – Pick Yours!
Treadmills and Cross Trainers have long been popular methods of getting fitter and losing weight. Together they are probably the two most popular cardiovascular machines in the gym. Running is a cult of its own, and the sometimes very particular members cannot do without their daily dose. Throughout the winter or during the working day this can mean popping into the local commercial or corporate gym for a quick fix on the treadmill. Cross Training doesn’t have the same cult-like following as running, it’s not a sport after all, more of a means to an end. Both can produce excellent results but both have their own pros and cons. In this article I’m going to give my personal knowledge based off working as an elite personal trainer for several years while also hopefully answering the question of which is better overall for weight loss.
What do we mean by better?
There are a number of caveats to consider when trying to decide which machine is better for weight loss. The treadmill without a doubt is the more energy consuming of the two. It can force you to work harder and faster than the Cross Trainer, with top speeds of up to 23 km/h it can be a super-challenging work out for even the super-fit and can leave your metabolism spiked for hours and hours post-workout meaning you are burning fat well into the night. The treadmill also has a higher psychological effect – this keeps you going for longer. Since running is a sport your progress seems somehow more relatable, it’s easier to drive competition with yourself (and the chap on the treadmill next-door), set yourself tangible goals and push yourself harder. Scientific research backs the treadmill as the preferred option for weight loss with studies by the Medical College of Wisconsin comparing groups working at equal levels of intensity, resulting in the Treadmill group burning more calories than the Cross Trainer group – but just barely.
Knees or calories?
The issue with the treadmill is the impact involved. Road running also involves lots of knee-crunching impact, however road running is a more natural movement than running on a treadmill. Road running involves the use of the glutes and hamstrings to propel yourself forward – this use of the posterior chain is a more complete running motion that removes some of the stress felt by the knee when treadmill running, which relies more on the hip flexors and quadriceps to raise then drop the leg. It’s this lift then drop motion, rather than forward propulsion driven by the contracting force of the glute, that is felt directly by the knee joint.
Why not float?
The Cross Trainer is in effect gravity free – the machine takes all the impact and all the user need do is push and pull with their arms and legs to get an almost total body workout. It lacks the similarities to a real sport (unless you include skiing) and by its nature places less of a mental challenge, putting you under less pressure to perform and therefore giving you less reason to stay on track. But why break, when you can float?
Not what, but who?
When I compare the machines and their ability to create weight loss I have to compare the different personalities that use them. Type A personalities with their high stress, high personal demand and drive to succeed will inevitably be more successful on the treadmill. Type B personalities on the other hand, more relaxed, chilled out and with greater attention spans often find the cross trainer the better option. Of course this is all based off stereotypes and everyone is different. I personally know a high powered investment bank executive who has peaked Everest several times who finds the Cross Trainer his preferred option, whereas my friend who works in an independent book store sipping chai tea and reading 16th century English romantic poetry will nightly slam the living daylights out of his local health club’s treadmill.
The question of what delivers the better weight loss results between the Treadmill and the Cross Trainer is not easily answered. Scientifically it has been found that the treadmill is slightly more effective, but in reality the answer comes down to personal motivation, structural health and more than anything preference. My suggestion – find your own answer, try both, see which works best for you. Keep things interesting. Variety will keep you coming back and after all, the most effective method for losing weight and getting in shape is consistency.