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It’s being called the home workout revolution. This past year, sales for home fitness gear doubled in revenue to $2.3 billion in the United States from March through October alone. Treadmills enjoyed a sales increase of 135 percent, and stationary bikes sold 3 times more than usual. In fact, inventory for everything from bikes to ellipticals had trouble keeping up with American’s awakened interest in working out at home.
And some think that even though more and more Americans started working out more at home due to pandemic restrictions on gyms, that the trend may be here to stay.
Increasingly, Americans see the benefits of working out at home, from the convenience and safety to a renewed investment in one’s health.
At the same time, starting a workout program, especially if you want to do it at home, may mean buying exercise equipment. But before you shop, you should consider what type of exercise machine is best for you.
In this article, I’ll compare the benefits of training on an elliptical vs stationary bike and each’s pros and cons. I’ll also give you my recommendations for the best stationary bikes and the best elliptical trainers you can buy.
|Sunny H&F Flywheel
|NordicTrack S15i Cycle
|Sunny H&F Synergy Bike
Main Differences Between Elliptical vs Bike
The Main Differences Between Elliptical vs Bike are:
- Bikes can burn more calories, whereas ellipticals can add more upper body strength
- Bikes work lower legs and back, whereas ellipticals can work the upper back and legs
- Bikes often are available with live streaming workouts, whereas ellipticals more commonly have apps
Should I buy an elliptical or stationary bike?
I always advocate for varying up workouts. Not only does adding variety keep you motivated and engaged, but it can also help prevent injuries, general burnout and improve your fitness gains overall. The best routines all incorporate both cardio and strength/ resistance training.
But if you’re thinking of buying exercise equipment for cardio, it’s certainly an investment. Here’s how an elliptical machine vs a stationary bike compares to some important factors you should consider before buying.
Which burns more calories
If part of your motivation to workout out on a bike or elliptical is losing weight, you may want to consider which burns the most calories. As a disclaimer, figuring out which exercises burn the most calories can be tricky, as it depends partially on the intensity level. But in general, there are some clear distinctions between a bike vs an elliptical
Ellipticals are great for low impact exercise, but they’re not known for the most strenuous workouts. For a 150 pound person, 30 minutes on the elliptical burns 330 calories, or around 660 calories in an hour if you keep up the same pace. It’s a respectable amount and still more calories than you’ll burn for a typical walking workout.
It turns out that estimating calories you’ll burn on a stationary bike is a bit trickier because there’s more room for a big difference in intensity. If you’re biking at a slow or moderate pace, the 150-pound person averages just 260 calories per 30 minutes. However, intense cycling can burn up to 390 calories per half hour, or just under 800 calories in an hour.
If you’re going to cycle at a slow or moderate pace, you may actually end up burning more calories than an elliptical. However, a bike has more calorie burn potential as a whole than an elliptical. For this reason, I don’t recommend calorie burn being the main deciding factor for elliptical vs bike.
Is a stationary bike or an elliptical better for preventing injuries?
Whenever you start an exercise routine, the risk of injury is a concern. That’s part of the reason why I’m such an advocate of mixing up your routine with cross-training.
However, it’s also true that some exercises are more or less likely to cause/ prevent an injury than others.
Elliptical trainers are actually used as a form of cross-training, whether for fitness or even under-desk ellipticals. In fact, when I was a competitive runner, many of my teammates on the cusp of the injury took days off running to train on the elliptical instead.
Ellipticals are considered low impact and often used with people with knee or joint injuries. It’s also considered to be better exercise for those with hip issues.
Of course, overuse injuries are still possible. The most common overuse injuries are from not using an elliptical with proper form and also as a result of repetitive movements. That motion can worsen foot injuries or conditions, such as arthritis, Morton’s neuroma, and plantar fasciitis.
Stationary bikes, like ellipticals, are typically seen as safer, low impact exercise for those prone to injuries. Like ellipticals, they tend to be more gentle on joints than high impact workouts like trail or treadmill running or HIIT sessions.
Common running and walking injuries like shin splints, knee problems, and IT band injuries are often reasons why athletes and nonathletes alike go to the stationary bike. Being able to adjust the intensity easily is helpful, too.
Overuse injuries that do come from stationary bikes are often due, again to improper form. Those with back issues are more likely to be aggravated by a stationary bike, as are foot issues like Metasarliga, also known as burning foot syndrome.
Though an elliptical has a bigger reputation as a rehabilitation machine, the stationary bike just slightly edges it out in injury prevention and rehabilitation. In fact, some experts recommend using a stationary bike over an elliptical after knee surgery.
Stationary bikes place a bit less pressure on your joints, and most of the overuse injuries can be avoided by adjusting your seat so that your knees are straight and the heels of your feet sit securely in the pedals. You should also wear proper footwear and warm-up before workouts.
Is the bike or elliptical more affordable?
If you’re on a budget, the truth is that you can get an affordable stationary bike or elliptical if you want one, but which one can you get a better deal on?
Ellipticals tend to be moderately priced for most models. While you can find ellipticals for as little as a few hundred dollars, models with the best features tend to average around $1,000 to $2,000, with the upper range getting you extra features as BlueTooth and wifi connectivity.
Ellipticals can run as inexpensive as under two hundred dollars when they are bare-bones cross trainers, but your best value ones will probably settle somewhere a little below or above the $1,000 mark. Very high-end ellipticals, such as those from NordicTrack, can run above $3,000.
Stationary bikes, as you might imagine, also have quite a price range. Once again, you can find bare-bones bikes for as little as a few hundred dollars, while high-end bikes like Peloton can be as much as $4,000 or more for the most advanced options with high tech details. The best bikes range from $600 to $2,000, with many popular options near the $1,000 or $2,000 mark.
Depending on the company, you may pay more for an elliptical or a stationary bike, and with a price range from as low as $200 up through $4,000, there are countless options for both ellipticals and stationary bikes.
It really comes down to features like magnetic resistance, technology, and quality construction. If the price is a big factor, I wouldn’t choose one over the other but keep shopping.
Does either or a bike or elliptical offer strength/ resistance training?
If you buy a bike or elliptical, you’re likely looking for a way to get in aerobic exercise, which, of course, is a form of cardio and critical for your heart health.
That said, for those looking to sneak in a little more of a full-body workout, is a bike or elliptical superior?
Elliptical works many of the same muscles as get worked if you go on a run. Most training sessions work quads, glutes, but also your core, to a limited degree. Elliptical machines, the best ones, do include levels of resistance to make your workout more challenging.
But due to the specific motion, you will be getting more resistance training than you’d think; pulling on the handles helps work your triceps and upper back. Of course, it’s not equivalent to powerlifting or even dumbbells, but it’s an added perk.
A stationary bike also is mostly known as low-impact aerobic exercise. And like an elliptical, you’ll indeed be working more than just your heart.
The pedaling works the hamstrings, quads, and even your calves, while upping the resistance can also help develop your core and, to some degree, your back. Mostly, a stationary bike is best for working your legs.
I don’t recommend relying on either an elliptical or a bike for resistance training or a full-body workout. Still, an elliptical does have the edge over a bike due to the up and down motion and pulling on the handles–you’ll have a better chance to work your arm and back muscles, in addition to your legs.
Is an elliptical vs bike easier to stick with?
Say your main goal is to start a new routine, and you want to actually stick with it. There are a lot of factors to consider, especially if you honestly prefer one over the other. But another factor is how much you can vary workouts, as well as, for some, enjoying a sense of community.
Ellipticals are easy enough to stick with. They are low impact, easy to use, and fairly intuitive. Many ellipticals also include a holder for tablets or smartphones or even books for entertainment. But there is not a huge variety in different types of workouts, and there are fewer options normally for classes.
Bikes, of course, also have a limit to different workouts, but there tends to be more variety. More companies sell bikes with Livestreaming classes and even community challenges than they do for ellipticals. I also like that training on a stationary bike can transition to outdoor biking too.
Stationary bikes offer more variety and more options to engage with a community, whether in person or virtual. This may not be a make-or-break factor for all, but it can play a role in feeling motivated and keeping workouts from feeling dull.
FAQs For Elliptical vs Bikes
Question: Is a bike better than an elliptical?
Answer: A bike is not better than an elliptical in all areas–for instance, an elliptical works your arm muscles more and may just be more enjoyable for some. However, a bike does have a higher calorie burn potential and a wider range of workouts.
Question: Do ellipticals help lose belly fat?
Answer: No one piece of exercise equipment guarantees belly fat loss. In fact, it’s a myth that you can directly target where you lose fat. To lose fat, you need to focus on expending more calories than you take in. Adding in any form of activity, both strength, and cardio, can help these efforts, including ellipticals–though you’ll burn more calories with treadmill running and improve your basal metabolic rate by adding in strength training.
Question: Is an elliptical bad for knees?
Answer: Both stationary bikes and ellipticals are considered low impact and generally gentle on joints. If used properly, ellipticals should not cause knee problems, though if you have a current knee condition, you should always consult with an expert first to see the best way to incorporate an elliptical in your routine.
The bottom line is that both an elliptical and a bike can offer a great low impact workout and great cross training. If you want a little more resistance or genuinely like it better, go with the elliptical.
But taking into account all factors, for most, I’d recommend buying a stationary bike first. It’s a bit more versatile, may help more with weight loss efforts, and has more options for community connection.
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Challenge yourself with the programmable magnetic resistance when you power on this elliptical. Complete smooth strides as you engage the internal flywheel and the belt-drive mechanism.
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Best Companies for Ellipticals and Stationary Bikes
Interested in buying either an elliptical or stationary bike for your exercise routine? The good news is that there are many great options out there, but I know that having so many options can also be overwhelming. Here are my recommendations for a few of the best companies/brands for ellipticals and stationary bikes.
For Overall Value: Keiser
Keiser is a well-respected brand that sells both bikes and ellipticals at average prices but with many features. Equipment ranges around the $1,000 to $2,000 mark but comes with 10b year frame warranties, adjustable seats, and smart tech to sync with workout apps.
I also love the sturdy construction of both their ellipticals and bikes and how many features you get for a fair price.
For Community and Tech Features: NordicTrack
NordicTrack is a leader in fitness equipment, and for a good reason. From a wide range of equipment to sleek, quality design, it’s another one of my favorite companies for the best stationary bikes and elliptical machines.
This is one of your best options for high-end ellipticals and bikes with all the bells and whistles. Gorgeously designed, quality construction and high tech, with access to a whole community and streaming classes, this is a great pick if you have more room in your budget.
For Small Budgets: Sunny Health
To be clear, I don’t recommend Sunny Health above my other options. Still, Sunny Health does offer much more affordable ellipticals and stationary bikes for those on a tight budget, just getting started, or on the fence as to how much they want to invest in a home gym.
Rated well by most customers on Amazon, Sunny Health delivers ellipticals and bikes well under $1,000, with some options even under $500. Youn won’t get workouts or much tech, but the models still can give you a quality workout.
Whether you’re looking for the best elliptical trainers or exercise bikes, there are many great options out there for every budget and personal workout preference.
No matter what you decide to buy, consider supplementing your routine with something like resistance bands or even full-body home gym machines to make sure you get both aerobic and strength training for the best results.