Shopping for exercise equipment may lead you to ask, “Is an elliptical calorie burn as efficient as a treadmill or exercise bike?” The answer is that it is oftentimes more efficient than either one.
There are a couple of reasons why you get a more efficient calorie burn with an elliptical trainer workout. One of these is that you tend to push yourself more on an elliptical machine than you would on a treadmill because of the lower perceived exertion. We discuss this topic a bit more here.
That is, you feel like you aren’t working as hard to expend the same amount of energy on an elliptical as you would on a treadmill or bike.
You also get a more complete workout with an elliptical, especially if you are using one that provides an upper body workout. Studies have proved that the more muscle groups you work, the more effective your workout and the more calories you actually burn.
An elliptical calorie burn is high because the elliptical machine uses all of the major muscle groups. Make regular use of the reverse motion and you increase calorie burn even more.
A lot of elliptical trainers today include calorie counters, but keep in mind that these can vary in accuracy depending on the brand, make and model. Generally speaking, the more information you have to input, the more accurate a calorie counter on an elliptical machine will be.
For instance, if the calorie burn count is gauged only by how long you’ve been working out and the resistance, you are getting a pretty general estimate. If you own an elliptical trainer where you are able to input your age, weight and other information, the calorie burn reading is going to be much more accurate.
A very general idea of what you can expect with a medium level elliptical trainer workout (not extremely intense, but definitely working up a sweat) would be that a 150 pound woman can burn about 340 calories in 30 minutes, while a 180 pound man can burn up to 500 calories in 30 minutes.
Keeping track of your elliptical calorie burn is one way of gauging how effective your workout is. If you begin to see that you aren’t burning off as many calories or that you have reached a plateau, it may be an indication that you should adjust your workout intensity.
One thing is clear, that an elliptical trainer’s calorie burn can be one of the most efficient of any type of exercise equipment.
The reality is, if you have one person on a treadmill, another on an elliptical and a third on an exercise bike, without knowing anything else about the workout other than the fact that all of them are exercising for an hour, you could not say with any confidence which individual was burning the most calories.
Why? Because there are just too many factors that contribute to that total, and any one of them could have burned more in the period of time.
Let's assume for our purposes that all three users below are identical and see how each one of the three can burn the most calories in an hour's time...
User #1: Elliptical
User #2: Treadmill
User #3: Bike
How the Elliptical Could Burn More Calories Per Hour
If User #1 is fully exerting, engaging both the arms and legs, maximizing resistance and incline levels, doing interval training...all of these things alone, or just a combination of two of them, will add up to a much higher calorie burn than User #2 simply walking or jogging, or User #3 at a regular pace.
How the Treadmill Could Burn More Calories Per Hour
Now, if User #1 is not fully exerting, not taking advantage of the higher resistance levels and incline, and User #2 is doing a decent run for the entire hour, User #2 will definitely burn more calories in that hour's time, given the same regular pace of the User #3.
How the Bike Could Burn More Calories Per Hour
Let's say User #1 is again not fully exerting, not using the higher resistance levels and incline, User #2 is doing a light jog and now User #3 has cranked up the resistance levels, incline if the bike has it, and doing HIIT training....well now guess who burned the most calories per hour?
So you can see when someone asks which burns more calories...the treadmill or the elliptical or the bike or the rowing machine or any other cardio equipment, there's really no clear answer.
Sure, the treadmill manufacturer will say the treadmill, because they're trying to make the sale. Same for the brand selling you the elliptical.
Take a look at Bowflex...the main selling point for the Max Trainer, TreadClimber and all of their other exercise equipment is the fact that you can purportedly burn more calories per hour. But can you really? Who knows? You may be able to. But I bet you can burn more on any of the other machines if you really tried hard.
The bottom line is you can burn a ton of calories on the elliptical or any other machine if you use it to its fullest capacity. Machines these days offer more resistance levels, incline capability, cross training, built in workouts, access to live personal trainers and much more to ramp up your workouts and ultimately calorie burn to higher levels than ever before.
So don't worry about which burns more...just focus on working out hard and the rest will follow.
UPDATE: Spring Elliptical Sales have started!
Here is your chance to rant or rave about the elliptical you use at home or at the fitness center.