Fit Couple running on treadmill

Treadmill Vs Bike: Which One Should You Choose?

by

Billy Hughes
August 26, 2021
59 Views

Both cycling and running on the treadmill can help you to tone up, lose weight, and get fit.

But it’s not always easy to know which type of exercise will be better for your specific weight-loss and/or fitness goals.

Which exercise burns more calories?

Running on a treadmill burns more calories than cycling because it works out more muscles, but cycling is easier on the body so you can do it for longer periods at a time. 

With that in mind, let’s explore what you need to know about treadmills and bikes. We’ll start by looking at their respective pros and cons, followed by how they compare in different categories. 

What Are Pros And Cons Of Treadmills? 

what are pros and cons of treadmills

A treadmill is a piece of equipment that you’ve probably envisioned bringing into the family room and working up a sweat on it while you listen to your favorite music or watch your favorite Netflix shows.

While convenient, especially in the home, a treadmill does have some important advantages and disadvantages.

Pros

  • It reduces impact on your joints. This is because the belt on a treadmill is smooth and padded, therefore being gentler on your body than if you had to run on various types of outdoor terrain.
  • It enables you to train for marathons. The great thing about running on a treadmill is that by choosing a high-end treadmill model you can mimic different types of outdoor trails and terrains, which provides an ideal way for you to train for races and marathons.
  • It offers special fitness features. Depending on the treadmill model you have, you might be able to make use of heart rate monitors and step counters that will help you stay on track with your fitness goals and health.

Cons

  • You lose out on boosting various skills. When you run outside, you will boost your balance and coordination. These are not skills you can improve much when running on a treadmill.
  • You might not get the workout you need. Since the treadmill belt will do a bit of work for you, treadmill running won’t give your glutes and hamstrings a hard workout.

What Are Pros And Cons Of Stationary Bikes? 

benefits of stationary bike

By comparison, a stationary bike comes in a variety of styles. Think spin bikes, air bikes, and others.

But, what are a bike’s general pros and cons? Let’s check them out!

Pros

  • A bike offers low-impact exercise. This is ideal for you if you’re a beginner, have little experience or low fitness, or are recovering from a recent injury.
  • Using a bike can help you to burn a lot of calories in one session (on a spin bike, for example, you’re looking at burning up to 600 calories per hour) and get a good workout for various muscles in the lower body.
  • While you can get injured on a bike, especially if you’re not using the correct form and posture, this risk is reduced as compared to a treadmill because you’re not running.

Cons

  • With some stationary bike types, you won’t get as much of an upper body workout. An exception is the air bike that requires you to push and pull its handles.
  • You can strain your muscles. This is because you have to remain seated on many bikes (again, the air bike is an exception!). This can cause you to end up slumped over the handlebars, which will put pressure on your back and neck.  

Treadmill Vs Bike: Which One Is Best? 

Now that we’ve looked at the pros and cons of treadmills and bikes, let’s explore their differences in various categories.

Calories Burned

Right off the bat, it’s good to know that both the treadmill and bike offer much in terms of how many calories you can burn by using them.

Doing an intense workout on a bike could cause you to burn up to 400 or more calories. On a treadmill, you could increase this to over 600 calories if you’re increasing your pace and walking on a steeper incline. 

Upper Body Workout

If you want to achieve an upper body workout, your best bet is to use a treadmill. Its other benefits include loss of belly fat, muscle toning, and bone and heart strengthening.

By comparison, a stationary bike is focused on giving you a lower body workout, such as for your glutes, calves, and thighs, but it’s also ideal for weight loss, toning your muscles, strengthening your heart, as well as boosting your lung capacity.

Still, if you want to tone up your upper body, you will do better with a treadmill – unless you’re using an air bike. This type of bike will work various parts of your body, such as your arms, shoulders, back, glutes, and legs.

Muscles Worked

couple exercise on treadmill

Both the treadmill and stationary bike offer great workouts for many muscles in the body. Let’s take a look at what muscles they both target.

  • The treadmill works your lower body and cardiovascular system. You’ll mainly get to target the thigh muscles – the hamstrings and quadriceps. Your glutes and calves will also get a good workout. If you run on the treadmill instead of just walking, it will also work your abdominals.
  • A stationary bike, by comparison, will target the cardiovascular system, leg muscles (mainly the quadriceps and hamstrings), glutes, calves, abs, and back muscles. Although the bike will target your lower body muscles, your abs get a workout because of how you have to maintain the correct posture.

If you want to build muscles in your lower body, then using a bike will be better than a treadmill. By comparison, running on a treadmill won’t produce a lot of bulk.

That said, your muscles will become stronger from the impact caused by running on the treadmill.

Toning

When it comes to running versus cycling, running is said to tone your muscles better because of how it’s an all-round body workout that burns more calories – this is true whether you’re running outdoors or on a treadmill.

In fact, to really see your body tone up, you should run at a slower pace but for longer stretches at a time.

Injuries

Earlier, we mentioned that you’re probably more likely to get injured on a treadmill because you’re standing up and walking or running. If you take a wrong step, you could fall off the treadmill and hurt yourself.

On a bike, you’re generally sitting down which eliminates that risk. However, you can get aches and pains, such as in your back or knees, and injure yourself, so it’s not completely without risk.

Mobility

If you’re experiencing mobility issues, such as a result of a previous injury or health condition, your best bet is to climb onto a bike instead of using a treadmill.

The mere fact that you can sit down can help you, especially if your balance or coordination is affected.

Workout Variability

If you want to keep your workouts interesting, you will have better luck by choosing a treadmill instead of a bike. This is because you can change the tension, speed, and the type of terrain the treadmill is mimicking.

You can adjust the incline, and choose to walk, jog, run, or even sprint on a treadmill, therefore making your workout much more exciting. 

You can’t really do that as much on a stationary bike, as you can only really change its resistance. What further limits its variety is how a stationary bike won’t give you much in terms of an upper body workout.

Since you can also hit a plateau in your weight loss or fitness progress, you want to be sure that you can mix things up with your workout. This is where a treadmill definitely makes it easier for you to feel motivated to head back to your workout.

Space

amount of space for treadmill

If you’re interested in using these pieces of equipment at home, you will need to ensure you have enough space for them.

Since treadmills are larger than stationary bikes, they will take up more space in the home so you might battle to find storage spots for them. That said, you can find foldable versions of treadmills and bikes, so that sort of evens out the playing field!

Maintenance

Before you invest in a treadmill or stationary exercise bike, it’s worth considering how much maintenance you’ll have to do.

Generally, treadmills have more components, such as motors, belts, and incline features, which increases the risk that one of them will break down and require repairs. By comparison, stationary bikes rarely break down. 

Your treadmill will need to be serviced once a year. As for your bike, however, it’s also worth getting it checked out by a local bike professional. 

Price

You’ll have to consider how much you’ll have to pay for a treadmill vs bike. Generally, you can purchase a bike for approximately $200 to over $2,000. The price depends on its features and brand.

By comparison, a treadmill is a bit more expensive. You can find cheaper ones that also cost around $200, though, but treadmill prices can go all the way up to $2,500. 

What Stationary Bike Should You Choose?

fit man spinning

If you want to start exercising on a stationary bike, you will have to decide what type of bike you want to use.

Let’s take a look at the different types of stationary bikes. 

Upright Exercise Bike

This is a common type of bike that is affordable and compact. It offers low-impact exercise, so it’s good for getting cardio, improving your muscle tone, and making your legs stronger. 

Recumbent Exercise Bike

This type of bike offers a similar workout to the upright bike, but you can sit in a way that your back is supported. The seats are more like a chair, which is also more comfortable.

If you’re recovering from an injury, a recumbent bike is a good choice. The workout you’ll get from a recumbent bike concentrates on the glutes and offers more impact on the lower abdominal muscles than what you’ll get from an upright bike.

Air Bike

air bike

An air bike makes use of a giant fan that creates resistance when you pedal. The harder you pedal, the more resistance will be produced.

An air bike also has two upright handles that you have to pull and push while you cycle, which is why it’s an excellent bike to use if you want an upper and lower body workout from one convenient piece of gym equipment.

Spin Bike

A spin bike makes use of a heavy flywheel in its design and has a conventional bike shape so that you can use a natural posture when cycling.

A spin bike’s seat isn’t padded because you have to stand up at intervals during your spinning session. A good reason to invest in a spin bike is because it can be used for interval training. This is because it blends low- and high-intensity workouts. 

Related Questions 

How many days a week should you use a treadmill?

You should run between three and four times per week, as it’s important to take a few days off to allow your body to recover.

Does cycling burn belly fat?

Cycling is a good exercise to help you lose belly fat as it boosts your heart rate and burns a lot of calories, helping you to lose weight not just in your belly but everywhere. 

Conclusion 

If you want to start working out at home or in the gym, you might wonder if you should spend your time exercising on a bike or treadmill.

In this article, we’ve looked at the advantages and disadvantages of both, as well as their main differences according to important features. 

Sources: 

Billy Hughes

Billy Hughes is a fitness trainer based out of New York. She has registered success in training clients at multiple fitness centers and thus aims to establish her module relevant to the post-pandemic era. Her space, Cerevellum.com, is an attempt towards encouraging and educating more people on the scope of indoor fitness. She believes the power of fitness can transform attitude, personality, and way of living. She also finds it rewarding to help people achieve their goals and make their lives better.