Looking for weight loss: Stationary bike or treadmill?

When weight loss is your goal and you’re looking for the right exercise to get in shape, which is better – a stationary bike or a treadmill? Both options are great choices for offering intense workouts building both stamina and strength. But since all of us are different with different needs, it’s best to compare and contrast what each piece of exercise equipment has to offer.

Stationary bikes benefits and drawbacks

Benefits: Stationary bikes have proven to be an effective form of aerobic exercise.  When used regularly, biking helps strengthen the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calf muscles all while seated.  For anyone with joint pain or limited mobility, stationary bikes are a perfect low-impact choice with less strain on muscles and joints. Though not as demanding as a treadmill, anyone can still get a good cardiovascular workout.

Depending on your budget, stationary bikes can include all the bells and whistles of electronic workout programs simulating hill climbing, interval training, and speed control. They can even keep track of your distance, time, and calorie burn.

Many stationary bikes are compact enough to easily fit into smaller living spaces making them accessible for apartment dwellers.

Drawbacks: The main drawback of stationary bikes is they do not work the entire body.  While excellent for leg work, your arms will have only minimal movement. You’ll need to avoid hunching your back while “riding” a stationary bike.  Pay attention to your posture by sitting up straight and be engaged while on the bike to help strengthen your back and abdominal muscles.

While it is possible to achieve weight loss using a stationary bike, you’ll burn more calories on a treadmill. In fact, working out on a treadmill can burn about 600 to 800 calories an hour (depending on speed and incline) compared to about 400 to 500 calories an hour on a stationary bike. Keep in mind the number of calories burned can vary depending on a person’s age, weight, gender, and intensity of their use of a stationary bike or treadmill.

Bottom line: Investing in a stationary bike is probably best suited for:

  • People with mobility issues of joint pain, arthritis, or limited range of motion
  • Anyone who needs to stay seated when working out due to balance issues
  • Those with limited living space in their homes
  • Anyone wanting to improve circulation, increase heart rate and stay active

Treadmill benefits and drawbacks

Benefits: Training on a treadmill can be a very effective full-body workout for strengthening the heart, toning, building muscle, maintaining bone mass, and improving lung capacity.  Considered an aerobic exercise, treadmills are excellent for burning calories spurring on weight loss. They are relatively easy to use with a flat surface reducing the risk of tripping on uneven sidewalks, curbs, or trails.

When compared to a stationary bike, walking or running on a treadmill has the advantage of higher calorie burn rates since you are standing bearing your own weight instead of being seated. Make treadmill workouts even more challenging by increasing the speed or incline for a greater calorie burn. But, be careful. Only attempt this if you are in good physical conditioning as higher speeds and inclines increase the risk of injury to your feet, ankles, knees, and back.

Drawbacks: Working out on a treadmill is not for everyone and like any piece of exercise equipment, has its drawbacks. For anyone with mobility or balance issues, walking on a treadmill can be challenging. Running on a treadmill poses possible injury to joints especially for anyone with fragile knees or ankles. Small children should be supervised when around a treadmill and not be allowed to use them to prevent serious injuries.

Depending on the model, treadmills can cost upwards of more than $2000. They also take up a lot of space making them inconvenient for those living in a smaller home. One other thing…treadmills are noisy. If you’re trying to watch TV or listen to music, you’ll have to turn up the volume.

Bottom line: Investing in a treadmill is probably best suited for:

  • Anyone with good balance, mobility, and with few or no joint problems
  • Anyone wanting a full-body workout that burns more calories
  • Anyone wanting a straightforward, efficient aerobic workout
  • Anyone wanting to improve heart health, leg, abdominal, and arm strength
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