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Treadmills vs Elliptical Trainers

Two of the most popular pieces of cardio equipment in any gym are the treadmills and elliptical trainers. While these machines were both designed to imitate the motions of walking or running, there are significant designs differences between a treadmill and an elliptical trainer. 

What Is a Treadmill?

A treadmill is a piece of indoor sports equipment that is designed to mimic the actions of walking or running. A treadmill utilizes a circular conveyor belt so that a person stays in the same place, but is still able to maintain the same speed while walking or jogging. The user is able to select what pace or speed they want to workout at. The name 'treadmill' was chosen because this piece of equipment is similar to the machine, a mill, which was operated by a person to grind grain.

What Is an Elliptical Trainer?

An elliptical trainer is a piece of indoor sports equipment that is also designed to mimic the motions of walking or running. This piece of equipment provides a non-impact variation to these activities, as the legs move in a circular motion. The elliptical trainer was created by Larry Miller after studying the motion of a runner.  He aimed to provide a piece of indoor equipment that put less strain on the low extremities. Additionally, an elliptical trainer is different from a treadmill in that a user does not select a pace or speed, but instead selects a level of intensity for their workout.

What Are the Benefits of a Treadmill?

A treadmill offers similar benefits to normal walking or running, yet the treadmill offers additional shock absorption compared to paved roads. While on a treadmill, someone can significantly raise her heart rate, which can lead to cardio vascular fitness and an increased caloric burn.  A unique feature of many treadmills is that they can mimic a hill by adding an incline to the conveyor belt. The indoor nature of a treadmill allows for the walker or runner to multitask by watching television or reading a book while on the machine. 

What Are the Benefits of an Elliptical Trainer?

An elliptical trainer is beneficial because it provides a non-impact environment that mimics the process of running or walking. Similar to a treadmill, a person can significantly raise their heart rate while on an elliptical trainer, which leads to cardio vascular fitness and an increased caloric burn. Much like a treadmill, an elliptical trainer provides an indoor alternative to running or walking which is beneficial during poor weather conditions.

A Treadmill Compared to an Elliptical Trainer

While a treadmill does offer additional support and absorption than simple outdoor running, compared to an elliptical, the walking or running motion on a treadmill can still be harmful to knees, ankles or feet.  An elliptical trainer offers a non-impact variation to the walking and running. For individuals suffering from low extremity injuries, they should ask their doctor if an elliptical is a preferable cardiovascular machine.  For diehard runners or walkers, the treadmill is often a preferable piece of equipment. This is because the motion created on a treadmill is closer in form and feel to that of actual running or walking. The motion created by an elliptical trainer is like bicycling standing up.

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