Exercise Bikes vs. Treadmills – Which is the real champion for home fitness?
So you’ve decided to take the plunge and buy a cardio machine for your home gym. There are a lot of advantages to having a bike or treadmill in your own home, but choosing between them can be pretty difficult.
No two pieces of exercise equipment are ever the same, and there’s a big difference in how they can affect you, your body, and how you hit your goals.
So here’s the low down on the differences between bikes and treadmills, which one is best for you, and which bikes and treadmills you should consider purchasing when you’ve finally made your choice.
Benefits of a treadmill
- Easy to use – Everyone knows how to walk and run
- Plenty of options – Including speed and normally incline
- Torches calories – Burns a high amount of calories
- Good for all ages – From gently walks to HIIT sprinting
- High impact – with a higher risk of injury or long term aches and pains
- Take up a lot of space – Although you can get smaller, ‘walking’ treadmills
- Easy to cheat – supporting yourself on the treadmill frame
- Larger chance – of falling than on a bike
- Nosier than a bike – Could wake housemates up
- Can be expensive – especially for a good one
Are there different ways to use a treadmill?
The main issue with running machines as a form of cardio is that you’re relatively limited in what exercises you can do on them. (This also affects bikes, but we’ll get to that.) Things like online running activities via an app, or varying the workout program, if your treadmill supports is, can all help break up the monotony.
This doesn’t mean that treadmills don’t have multiple uses, though, and you can use a treadmill for:
- Slow warm-ups
- Interval training and sprints
- Steady-state jogging and running
On top of this, a lot of modern, more expensive treadmills are starting to build in the ability to elevate and incline, which adds a massive amount of resistance to workouts by working like a hill climb.
One of the main downsides to a treadmill is that they are big, heavy and clunky to move around, although there are folding options that can let you claw back previous floor space when they’re not in use. But, for a proper-sized treadmill, you’ll have to allot a good chunk of your home gym, or spare room to it compared to an exercise bike.
Exercise bike pros and cons
- Very low impact, with almost no chance of injury
- Easier for beginners than running
- A lot more relaxing than other types of cardio
- Easy to use
- Wide range of programs for things like HIIT and hill-climbing
- Can burn a lot of calories
- Wide range of classes on youtube you can follow along to
- No upper body involvement at all
- Burns less calories than other cardio
- Can get boring if you’re not prepared
- More to adjust between users
What exercises can you do with an upright bike?
Exercise bikes are a fantastic form of cardio but by design they’re only ever going to target your lower body. A bike can be used for:
- Slow, easy warm-ups
- Long, solid-state cardio
The exercise bike can take many forms, from recumbent bikes that you recline back in, to spin bikes – popularised in spinning classes online, and the less intense upright exercise bikes. They take up less space than running machines and are often easier to move around.
Better for fitness: cycling or running?
Because bikes and treadmills are so different, it’s actually hard to weigh up the benefits and downsides regarding your health and fitness, and how each one will affect you.
Bikes are gentler on the body, which means that you can probably maintain the pace for a lot longer and stick to longer workouts.
But treadmills hit more muscles and burn more calories, as well as being a more difficult workout in general.
Long story short, both running and cycling are effective workouts, and you can use both to hit your goals. Choose the one that’s best for you.
Bike vs treadmill: calories
According to the statistics, on average:
- Moderate exercise on a stationary bike burns 260 calories in 30 minutes
- Running at an easy pace on a treadmill for 30 minutes burns up to 355 calories
This is backed up by every source out there. Expect running on a treadmill to burn far more calories than using an exercise bike.
The reason is simple. On a bike, your whole body is supported, and the bike itself makes your movements far more efficient. Whereas when you’re running on a treadmill, you’re having to support your entire body weight as well as drive yourself forward.
It stands to reason, especially if you compare it to the actual exercises that these machines mirror.
What would burn more calories, a 30 minute run or a 30 minute bike ride, at the same level of exertion?
It’s always the running!
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- How To Not Get Bored Running On A Treadmill
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- Running Outside vs. Running on Treadmills
- 10 Benefits Of Using A Spin Bike At Home
Which is better for weight loss, bike or running machine?
Because a treadmill burns more calories, it’s a better option if weight loss is your goal. You can also set a treadmill to a low speed and still get a good workout from them. Treadmills also tend to have a higher weight limit, if that’s something that concerns you.
But the best option for weight loss is the fitness plan that you’ll stick to. Consistency is far more important than burning a few extra calories, and if you know that you’re going to prefer one choice over the other, that’s almost certainly the one you should choose.
Which is better for your injuries treadmill or indoor cycle?
If you suffer from long term injuries, especially joint issues in your legs or hips, then you should probably lean towards a bike instead of a treadmill.
Because bikes support your entire body weight throughout any exercise performed on them, they put much less strain on your body, and you’re much less likely to feel the impact of your exercise regime in both the short and long term.
Balancing this is the fact that modern treadmills, especially anything that’s better than absolute budget models, will have cushioning and other systems that can help to take the impact off of your body, so this is much less of an issue.
Verdict: should you buy a bike or treadmill?
If you’re still on the fence about which machine you should buy, then we’d recommend a treadmill.
A good treadmill is a lot more versatile than a bike and can have a lot more of an impact on your health and fitness.
But remember, the best form of exercise is always the one that you’ll stick to. If you want a bike because you prefer it, buy a bike. If you want a treadmill, buy a treadmill. No matter which one you buy, as long as you’re using it, it’s a good form of exercise.
Either way, thanks for reading our guide. If you have any comments or advice for our readers, make sure to leave them in the comments below.
References & Further Reading
- NCBI – Comparison between treadmill and bicycle ergometer exercise tests in mild-to-moderate hypertensive Nigerians
- ScienceDirect – Short-term effects of cycle and treadmill training on exercise tolerance in peripheral arterial disease
- Forbes – New Study Suggests Regular Cardio Can Improve Some Types Of Brain Function
- Spine Health – Advantages and Disadvantages of Treadmill Use for Exercise and Pain Relief
- BMJ Journals – Benefits from aerobic exercise in patients with major depression: a pilot study