In a world where there is room for all cardio exercise, an elliptical vs. running argument seems a little senseless. It’s a matter of personal preference, of course, but if you are unfamiliar with the advantages of the elliptical trainer and how it compares to road running, here are a few thoughts to consider.
With your feet stepping on a pair of padded articulating pedals, running on an elliptical is a weight-bearing exercise that is like running on air. Not only is the oval shape (or “elliptical”) motion designed to mimic running, the pedals conform to your stride.
The normal 2° angled inward slant of the pedals further reduce strain on your joints. Not only is riding an elliptical superior to running due to this comfort factor, the risk of injury is reduced significantly.
Despite wearing the most advanced pair of running shoes you can buy, running on a hard surface such as concrete or asphalt is extremely jarring on the body. This is even an important point when comparing using an elliptical vs. walking.
The force of the foot striking the hard surface causes a jolt in the body, imperceptible though it may be. Some studies show that a runner’s foot strikes have a force up to 2½ times their body weight.
That’s quite a difference from “running on air.”
While running is the undisputed king of the calorie burn, cardio machines such as treadmills, bikes, steppers, and ellipticals have the ability to increase the load on the body and burn almost as many calories as running.
With a variety of programs to simulate hill climbing and different terrain, this is where the argument of elliptical vs. running really stands out. Ellipticals have the ability to increase the resistance, and most have incline adjustments and moving handlebars, offering a strenuous full body workout.
This a huge cardio boost equal to what you can get running on the road, plus you have the option of using a wireless heart rate control so that the machine is able to adjust the resistance automatically, keeping you in the Target Heart Rate Zone for optimal training.
The machine makes a significant contribution to the variety and intensity of your workout.
Another positive aspect to elliptical machines is that you actually work harder and burn more calories than you think you are. This is called the Rate of Perceived Exertion. This is a scale that subjectively quantifies the intensity of any exercise.
The RPE is based on a scale of 0 to 10 with zero being no exertion and 10 as the maximal exertion. Riding an elliptical has a lower RPE so you are getting a heart-pumping workout without completely taxing yourself. Or, if you prefer, you can also do interval programs on a crosstrainer and get the full benefits of high intensity training.
At the same rate of exertion, the elliptical vs. running on a treadmill or outside will be nearly the same in terms of calorie burn, though running will be higher due to natural circumstances such as wind resistance and the fact that you are propelling your body hard enough that both feet are off the ground.
If you are overweight, have bad knees, or can’t risk an injury, there’s not much variation involved with running. Some folks just don’t have the knack for running, or else they don’t like the idea of running outside in public along with the hassle of traffic and weather.
The beauty of the elliptical trainer is that it is adaptable to your level of fitness whether you are a beginner or a very fit individual. Whether you are slim or fat, short or tall, there’s an elliptical that will serve your needs.
You can pace yourself when you are just starting an exercise program, and then use the programs and settings on the very same trainer to advance to a higher level when you are ready.
Ultimately, you will decide which activity wins in the elliptical vs. running debate, but whatever you choose, make it something you enjoy and look forward to doing several times a week.
You can't really say that one form of cardio exercise is better than another, yet the debate of elliptical vs treadmill will always be a thing. There are those on either side that will give you 10 reasons why one is better than the other.
But at the end of the day, it comes down to getting a good workout, feeling good afterwards and reaping the many health benefits. If that's the elliptical for you, or the treadmill, or an outdoor run or swimming, as long as you are doing it on a regular basis and you're seeing results, by all means stick with it.
We're big elliptical fans here, but we're known to run on the treadmill, ride the bike and use the rowing machine....to each his own! :)
UPDATE: New Year's Elliptical Sales are on!
Here is your chance to rant or rave about the elliptical you use at home or at the fitness center.