Choosing which exercise machine to use can be tricky especially if you are pressed for time. In this treadmill vs bike comparison we explore the benefits of each and find out if one gives better results than the other.
With a tight work schedule I often find myself with no more than an hour to workout. The treadmill and spin bike are my favorite gym equipment so I end up having to make a choice between the two. Which one will give me a quick but intense workout to help me meet my weight loss goals?
In this treadmill vs bike comparison we find out which of the two is a better option for users looking to enjoy gains in the least time possible.
What are the Differences Between a Treadmill and a Bike?
Burns more calories ( reach fitness goals faster)
Burns less calories ( takes longer to reach fitness goals)
Risk of injury
Higher chances of injuries
Low chances of injuries
Large footprint ( requires more space)
Small footprint ( require little space)
Treadmill vs Bike: How Do They Compare?
We all have different goals we hope to achieve when we work out. One of the main ones is to burn excess calories. If this is your primary goal, which of the two machines is best for you.
You burn more calories when you run on a treadmill than from an exercise bike session of the same intensity.
A 155 pound adult running on a treadmill for 30 minutes at 6 miles per hour burns about 350 calories. The same person riding an exercise bike for the same duration at a steady pace burns about 260 calories. If they are in a spin class, it is much more intense so they burn more, that is between 400 and 600 calories.
This can be attributed to your position. With a treadmill, you are standing, your legs are supporting all your weight and you are propelling yourself forward over and over again.
With an exercise bike, you are seated so the bulk of your body’s weight is supported by the seat. Your legs do most of the work to pedal forward.
It is worth noting that many people are more inclined to work out on a bike for longer. There is less strain on the joints so the workout is generally more comfortable.
If this is the case for you, remember that calories are still a game of numbers. You burn less on a bike but if you ride for longer than your run, you do end up burning the same number of calories so your goal is still met.
Risk of Injury
What are the chances of sustaining an injury when using these machines? Here the treadmill wins (or loses). You are more likely to get injured while running on a treadmill than riding an exercise bike.
Some users have lost balance and fallen off a treadmill. The machine is designed such that you have to walk or run continuously. You have to stay focused to get your foot to the front of the belt every time. There is a chance of injury if you set the speed too high and can’t keep up and can’t slow it down in time.
For people who have problems with balance, a treadmill poses a higher chance of injury because it calls for a great deal of balance and proper timing to keep going.
With an exercise bike there is little or no chance of injury. The worst that has happened is muscle pain in the legs or foot from pedaling for too long or pain in the buttocks from an uncomfortable seat.
Apart from sustaining injuries, we must also consider users who sustained injuries elsewhere and are recovering from them. A preference for a bike still stands. It places less pressure on leg and back muscles.
How much space do you need to comfortably accommodate your piece of exercise equipment? If you have dedicated space such as in a home gym or you are buying it for a commercial gym or studio, space may not be too much of a concern. If on the other hand you only have a bit of space to spare in a small apartment, one piece may not fit.
Average dimensions for a treadmill are 7 by 12 inches. The smallest exercise bike takes up about 22 by 32 inches and the largest takes up 26 by 48 inches. Treadmills require more space.
There are some foldable treadmills in the market so if you get yourself one of these, it will take more space than a bike but only when it is in use. After that you can fold it and put it away. Since the bike takes up space whether it is in use or not, a foldable treadmill becomes a worthwhile consideration in space-constrained situations.
Treadmill vs Bike: A Comparison Overview
Treadmills have been the one constant member of any gym. It is probably the first machine you think of when you want to set up a home gym. Some machines require some learning or getting used to but few people need that for a treadmill.
Even for first time users, it is one of the easiest machines to use since walking and running is not a new skill. It gives you loads of benefits. You get to run or walk at a time of your convenience regardless of what the weather is like.
If your regular outdoor terrain is rough, the treadmill assures you of a smooth run. They are great for cardiovascular exercise and aerobic routines.
Most treadmills come with a monitor which displays basic statistics like the distance you would have run were you running outdoors, how long you have been running and the number of calories you have burnt.
A heart rate monitor lets you keep track of your heart rate as well. You can also increase resistance to simulate running or walking up a steep hill. Some allow you to create multiple user profiles so you can easily keep track of your progress.
One notable benefit you get from walking, especially running on a treadmill is that you get a full body workout. Unlike other exercise equipment which tend to concentrate work on certain parts of the body, running requires input from more or less every part of your body.
Yes, there is more demand on the legs but it also works on abdominal and back muscles. These are the muscles which keep you stable as you run. Some people believe that running doesn’t work the upper part of your body but it actually does. You get a good arm workout from pumping them back and forth with each step.
- Burns more calories
- Full body workout
- Options to walk, run and adjust resistance
- Places pressure on joints and lower back
- Significant chance of injury
- Takes a lot of space (foldable machines are available)
- Limited multi-tasking options
Exercise bikes have been available for years but have in recent years made their way to the forefront of the workout scene. With improved designs, advances in technology and a growing popularity of spin classes and programs, bikes are now the coolest machines at the gym.
Some higher end bikes like the Peloton give users a wide variety of workout programs including live streamed sessions from their studios in New York as well as on-demand repeats of past live sessions.
Most exercise bikes also have a monitor which displays statistics to help users keep track of distance, speed, RPMs, wattage and heart rate.
In terms of benefits, cycling gives you a great cardiovascular exercise. This workout concentrates heavily on the lower part of the body. Muscle groups used and toned as you pedal are the calf, thigh, buttocks (gluts) and foot. There is minimal work on the arms and shoulders. To incorporate more upper body exercise, many bike users use weights as they cycle.
Cycling is a low impact exercise in that it does not place much pressure on the joints. Such exercises are gentle and have fluid motions and this is why they are ideal for people with joint problems. It you have weak back muscles for instance or are recovering from an injury, indoor cycling is ideal. It doesn’t strain muscles and still gives your heart and lungs the exercise they need.
Cycling is also preferred by users who tend to get bored when they have nothing else to do as they work out. With an exercise bike, you can do other things to kill the boredom. You can listen to music, listen to a podcast, perhaps even read a magazine if your motions are not very vigorous.
- Low impact exercise
- Small chance of injury
- Many options for multitasking
- Small footprint
- Minimal upper body workout
- Burns fewer calories
Treadmills and exercise bikes are both great exercise machines for your daily workout routine. Both give you good cardiovascular exercise and give you control to adjust resistance levels as you like. Most brands of each have a monitor which displays statistics to help you keep track of your progress and allows you to create a personal profile.
Verdict: So Which Is Better? Treadmill or Bike?
Ideally, you should be able to use both in different workout sessions on any given week. If however, you have limited time to get as much work done, the treadmill is a better bet for you. It gives you a full body workout so you don’t have to use weights or another exercise machine afterwards. Running burns a lot of calories so you can reach your target for the day on only one machine.
Drawbacks such as space can be dealt with by using a foldable type so it only takes up significant space when it is in use.
How much is too much (or too little) resistance on an exercise bike?
The American Council on Exercise advises that resistance should be set such that you cannot pedal at a speed faster than 60 revolutions per minute. This gives the quads and hamstrings sufficient challenge but keeps you moving forward.
Is running on a treadmill better than running outdoors?
You use the same amount of effort running on a treadmill and outdoors as long as outdoor terrain is mimicked on the treadmill by adjusting resistance. Outdoor running has the benefit of change of scenery which makes it less boring.