Treadmill vs Exercise Bike: Cardio Machine Comparison

Kristen NelsonKristen Nelson

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There are countless health benefits to regular exercise. Walking or running on a treadmill or riding an exercise bike are excellent sources of training! Strong heart and lungs, weight loss, and decreased risk of disease are just a few of them.

Treadmill vs Exercise Bike

Using either of these machines may help you:

1. Reduce your risk of heart disease and lower blood pressure.

2. Along with diet, it will help control your weight and prevent obesity.

3. Manage blood sugar levels.

4. Improve mental health and mood.

5. Strengthen bones and muscles.

6. Improve sleep patterns.

For the most benefit, you need to get the recommended amount of exercise for your age, at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week. The payoff is that you’ll look and feel better, help prevent or control many diseases, and perhaps live longer.

If you’re sold on the benefits of exercise and are trying to decide between a treadmill or an exercise bike, we’re here to give you the pros and cons of each so you can make an educated decision.

Treadmills

Treadmills entered the market for home use back in the 1960s and have been one of the most popular pieces of home cardio equipment since. With the pandemic gripping societies globally, home gyms have been on the rise, and treadmills are being snapped up.

What makes treadmills so popular? The answer is simple, the opportunity to burn calories and work on cardiovascular health any time of the day or year. The weather or time of day doesn’t become an issue when your treadmill is at the ready 24/7.

Of course, there are many other reasons treadmills are the go-to workout machines in many homes. Technology has brought the treadmill a long way over the past 50+ years, the equivalent of going from a frontier wagon wheel to a high-performance Michelin of today. If you peruse the treadmill market, you will find high-tech machines offering a variety of interactive training experiences.

There could be some negatives to owning a treadmill depending on your training style, but the positives likely far outweigh them. Let’s look at the pros and cons of buying a treadmill for your home gym and see if it’s the right choice for you.

Treadmill Pros:
  • Joint health: Most modern treadmills have deck cushioning to protect your joints–which is far superior to running on concrete or asphalt.
  • Ease of Use: You can set the difficulty level and forget it while watching TV or reading.
  • Variety: You can simulate situations like marathoning, trail running, or use an interactive app like iFit.
  • Incline and Decline: Full control over speed, incline/decline to mimic real-world training.
  • Programming: Different programs to keep things exciting and motivating.
  • Indoor Training: Great way to train for a marathon or triathlon in inclement weather.
  • Heart Rate: Can monitor heart rate easily with most models.
  • Bone Health: Striking your feet on the deck stimulates bone growth. Excellent for people at risk for osteoporosis.
  • Full Body: Uses the whole body to run or walk (if you don’t hold on the rails).
  • Calorie Burn: Treadmills burn more calories per hour than most exercise bikes (spin bikes being the exception).
Treadmill Cons:
  • Pricey: High-end models with high-tech features can cost many thousands of dollars–but there are entry-level and mid-level models that offer significant features at a reasonable price.
  • Bulky: Not all treadmill models work in small spaces or apartments. There are many excellent folding treadmills on the market. Check the footprint and weight carefully before purchase.
  • Specialized Care: Repairs will often need a professional and aren’t cheap unless under warranty.
  • Noisy: Some models are better than others with noise, but the key areas that generate that noise are the motor, inclining, and declining the machine and footfalls.
  • Affects Agility: Since the terrain is a constant, it may cut down on your agility.
  • Injuries: Serious injuries can happen due to the moving belt.
  • Focused Activity: Watching TV or reading a book is much harder on a treadmill.
  • Joint impact: Without proper cushioning, treadmills can be hard on the joints–especially when overused.

Exercise Bikes

Exercise bikes are also excellent low-impact cardio equipment. Stationary bikes offer many options in styles and onboard features, making them an attractive option for cardio.

Recumbent bikes offer support to the lower back for those with back issues while still getting that calorie burn. Upright bikes mirror the feel of an outdoor bicycle more but can be rough on your back and bottom. The wider high-backed seat on a recumbent bike is a bit more user-friendly.

Spin bikes aren’t just for classes at your gym. These are solid upright bikes that can provide a near full-body workout because of the type of training you can achieve on them. These bikes are built to take a beating, allowing users to get in and out of the saddle rapidly while remaining perfectly balanced. Streamed classes right to the console bring world-class spin instructors into your living room.

Consoles and displays have come a long way. In-console high-definition touchscreens bring so much to the riding experience, from the ease of tracking stats to full-blown entertainment.

The immersive virtual environments you can experience via iFit and other streaming services are a game-changer. You’ll find real-time classes and training worldwide with top-notch trainers who can control your speed and resistance. It doesn’t get much better than that for keeping you engaged and putting forth your best effort.

How do stationary bikes stack up as far as pros and cons, though? Let’s take a detailed look at what’s best and not so great about exercise bikes.

Exercise Bike Pros:
  • Not as Pricey: Exercise bikes tend to be a little less expensive than a comparable treadmill.
  • Balance: Excellent for those with severe balance problems–less likely to fall and hurt yourself
  • Muscle Development: Builds great leg muscles in a low-impact way.
  • Easy Focus: You don’t have to be concerned about traffic signals or anything else around you. Just keep on training.
  • Low-impact: Great for those with ankle and knee problems.
  • Program Heavy: Most newer stationary bikes have a wide variety of programs to help you achieve your goals while cycling indoors.
  • Injury Friendly: Great for those with foot issues (plantar fasciitis).
  • Entertainment Friendly: Easier to read or watch TV and not get hurt and fall off.
  • Family-Friendly: Much less likely for harm to children or cause serious injury.
  • Quiet: Most modern exercise bikes are very quiet and can easily be used in shared spaces. The exception would be air resistance bikes, which create a fair amount of wind noise.
  • Variety: Choose from recumbent, upright, spin, or air resistance bikes.
Exercise Bike Cons:
  • Calorie Burn Time: Must bike 2 to 3 times longer to burn the same amount of calories as a treadmill (spin bikes excepted).
  • Isolated Muscle Development: Works legs exclusively (unless riding a spin bike which works glutes too if ridden correctly).
  • No Balance or Core Improvement: Does not work on your balance or core.
  • Back Pain: Upright bikes can hurt the lower back in some people.

Bottom Line: Treadmill vs Exercise Bike

Both treadmills and exercise bikes are excellent forms of indoor training. Treadmills are best for serious runners, those looking to build bone and muscle strength, or torch calories.

An exercise bike is better for those with severe balance or joint issues or those wanting to cross-train. Perhaps you love to run outside but want to balance your indoor training with something more joint-friendly–then a bike is perfect.

Exercise bikes are also excellent for people who love to read or be distracted while training. It’s easy and safe to read or watch TV while on most bikes. You can also read or watch TV on a treadmill, but that becomes difficult and even dangerous at higher speeds. Training on a treadmill requires focus 100% of the time.

In a perfect world, having both a treadmill and an exercise bike would be ideal. But if you have to pick one, choose the one you know you will use and enjoy. Because really, that’s the most important criteria.

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