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Elliptical Vs Running For Weight Loss: Choose Right

Choosing the right weight loss workout can be challenging with all the options. What about the elliptical vs running, which one is better?

Elliptical trainers are a fitness machine made for cardio workouts. You move a very specific way with them.

Running on the other hand is basically the most popular cardio workout in the world. On top of that it is automatically a part of many sports.

Each of these workouts has its advantages and disadvantages. Depending on your personal situation one or the other can be better for weight loss.

For example if you want to lose weight and you are not afraid of injury, running is likely the best choice for you.

Elliptical vs running for weight loss summary

EllipticalRunning
Calories Burned*335 Calories And Higher298 – 500+ calories
Injury RiskMedium/LowMedium/High
Toning LegsLowLow
Ease Of UseEasyEasy
*Approximation for a 155 pound person doing the exercise for 30 minutes

Comparison for calorie burning

The main comparison aspect between elliptical workouts and running most people are interested in is the number of calories each exercise burns.

You have to keep in mind that the number of calories burned with specific workouts depends from person to person. Things like age, weight, activity levels, internal processes, … influence it.

Another question is, what determines how many calories you can maximally burn with an exercise? For cardio workouts, this usually comes down to the capacity of your lungs and heart. Which should come down to the same amount of calorie-burning for these 3 workout machines.

That being said, there are still different approximations for how many calories you can burn on the elliptical vs running.

The following numbers are an estimation for a 155-pound person doing the exercises for 30 minutes (1).

  • Running 5 mph: 298 calories
  • Elliptical Trainer (general): 335 calories
  • Running 6 mph: 372 calories
  • Running 7.5 mph: 465 calories

The thing with these numbers is also that the more intense and the longer you do your exercise, the more calories you will burn. These measurements are great to get an estimation but you can’t rely on them being the exact same for you.

If you compare ellipticals vs running these measurements say that running is better when it comes to burning the most amount of calories in the least amount of time.

man checking watch for calorie burning count

Elliptical vs running for toning legs

Some people have the goal of losing fat in a specific area like for example legs. Unfortunately, it is not possible to target fat loss in your legs. What you can do is tone up, grow muscle in, your legs to make them look better.

So how do these two workouts compare in terms of effectiveness for toning legs? This is a hard question to answer objectively with raw data.

You can argue that because with running you mostly use your legs, all of your heart pumping power and lung capacity can go to working out your legs.

Compared to for example the elliptical where part of your lungs and heart have to maintain your upper body. This would leave less capacity for your legs. In the end that would mean that your legs would be able to work harder with running.

It would be great to have more exact data on this but that is unfortunately not the case.

In any case, if you are serious about toning your legs it’s better to turn to particular weight lifting exercises like for example squats.

Comparison of injury risk

Another important thing you need to look at in the elliptical vs running comparison is the injury risk with each of these workouts. An injury can reduce the amount of time you can exercise to 0 in the worst case.

Consistency is an important factor when trying to lose weight. Doing one big workout is often not as effective as three medium ones.

That means that a workout with a smaller injury risk may burn fewer calories today but more in the long term by avoiding periods of injury in which you do no exercise at all.

Running is the clear loser in this category. Running, even jogging at a low tempo, is risky if you are injury sensitive. This workout puts a relatively high amount of pressure on body parts like your knees and back.

If you have bad knees and a lot of pounds to lose you most likely shouldn’t go straight to running at a high tempo. If this is the case for you, walking, swimming, using the elliptical trainer, or other running alternatives are likely better choices.

So in terms of injury risk the elliptical trainer is better than running. Not everyone is as sensitive to injury so whether this factor means anything for weight loss depends on your personal situation.

Elliptical trainer for less injuries

The budget required for each workout

The difference in budget required for these workouts is likely non-existent if you have a gym membership. That being said, not everyone goes to a gym for their cardio workouts. The budget you have is still a relevant aspect of weight loss.

If you want to use an elliptical in an area close to home you will likely have to invest in a machine. Running on the other hand basically only requires a pair of good running shoes. In that case, going for the elliptical option could require several 100’s of dollars more.

You may also want to do the running inside of your own house. Owning your elliptical trainer or treadmill can offer some benefits.

By getting your own workout machine at home you won’t have to spend money on a gym membership, spend time driving to the gym, finding a parking spot,… The machine will probably not be occupied (unless your family is really into it). Finally, you don’t have to exercise in front of other people.

Working out at home can also just make the whole exercising experience more enjoyable. You can put the workout machine in front of the tv, you can catch up with your family members, you can play your favorite music through your favorite music installation,…

Investing in a workout machine makes the difference between exercising and not exercising for some people.

Prices of ellipticals vs treadmills of course vary from brand to brand. Nonetheless, generally ellipticals are less expensive than treadmills.

Looking to invest in your own machine? Check out these articles:

Complexity to use

Some machines and workouts almost require a university degree before you can use them optimally. For example some kettlebell workouts or something like dancing can be slightly more complicated to get started with.

When trying to lose weight you want as little reasons as possible to not work out.

The difference between the elliptical trainer and running in terms of complexity to use is as good as non-existent. There might be slight differences when it comes to the right running technique but in general, everyone can get started with these workouts without having to learn anything extra.

Complexity elliptical vs running for weight loss

Can you lose belly fat with these workouts?

Losing belly fat is more about losing weight overall than doing a “targeted” workout. This means you can lose belly fat with both the elliptical trainer and running.

Basically any workout can help you lose belly fat. In this case running will help you lose slightly more belly fat than working out on an elliptical trainer.

Do keep in mind that your diet plays a big role in whether or not you will lose fat. Exercising is no guarantee for losing body fat.

Which one is right for you?

The answer to the elliptical vs running for weight loss depends on your personal situation.

If you want to lose a lot of weight and you are not injury sensitive running is likely the best choice for weight loss. If you are injury sensitive the elliptical trainer is probably the better choice for weight loss.

If you want to tone your legs you should give weight lifting a try.

You also need to keep in mind that your choice of workout isn’t only about how many calories you can burn in the shortest amount of time. Your personal preference also plays a role.

Some people want their workout to be outside, others don’t care about it and are fine with training on the elliptical trainer inside.

Either way, if you don’t like your workout plan, it becomes harder to stick to. The exercise that doesn’t get done doesn’t help you lose weight and doesn’t offer any health benefits.