Stairmaster Vs Treadmill: Calorie Burn, Risks,…

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It’s clear that exercising can offer many health benefits. There are however a lot of options, how do the stairmaster and treadmill compare?

The health benefits of a good workout range from weight loss to longevity and a lot in between. The stairmaster and treadmill are popular cardio workout machines that can offer you these benefits.

In general running on the treadmill can burn more calories in a shorter amount of time. A treadmill may also be more budget-friendly.

On the other hand, if you are very injury-sensitive one of the best stairmasters might be the better choice. When you are injured the amount of exercise you can do goes down drastically.

If you are injury-sensitive walking on the treadmill may also be an option but you burn fewer calories compared to using the stairmaster.

In the end, you want to weigh the factors in this article against each other for your personal situation and think about whether you can see yourself sticking better to using the stairmaster or using a treadmill.

Stairmaster vs treadmill summary

Calories Burned*220+ calories128-165+ calories (Walking)
293-421+ calories (Running)
Muscles EngagedLegsLegs a Tiny Amount (Walking)
Mostly Legs (Running)
Injury RiskLowLow (Walking)
Medium/High (Running)
Busy Schedule FriendlyAlright/GreatGreat (Walking)
Alright (Running)
Budget RequiredMedium/HighMedium
Complexity To DoEasyEasy
*Approximation for a 155-pound person doing the exercise for 30 minutes

Stairmaster vs treadmill for calorie burning

The main difference most people care about when comparing a stairmaster vs a treadmill is how many calories each machine burns. In turn, this influences details like the weight loss potential of each machine.

Something you have to know first is that it is hard to make accurate predictions when it comes to calorie-burning during workouts. This also applies to these statistics for treadmills and stairmasters.

These numbers vary a lot from person to person. Things like age, weight, activity levels, key hormone levels, and a lot more influence the actual amounts.

Another factor that makes these calorie-burning estimations less precise is that doing a workout at high intensity can also cause something called “afterburn”.

This is basically having an increased metabolism for a while after you stop doing the exercise.

That being said, there are still methods available to estimate the number of calories burned with both of the workouts.

The below charts are estimations for individuals doing each workout for 30 minutes (1). The treadmill can be used for both walking and running.

If you compare the stairmaster vs the treadmill the estimations would say that running on the treadmill is the best gym machine when it comes to maximum calorie burning in the least amount of time. How intense you do each exercise matters a lot.

Calories burned with the stairmaster

For the stairmaster there are less precise estimations available for different speeds or resistances. Because of that, the below table is for different time intervals instead of different resistances like the running table below.

If you want to learn how to burn more calories while using the stairmaster make sure you read the article on how many calories the stairmaster burns.

Weight Person
1 Minute15 Minutes30 Minutes45 Minutes60 Minutes
125 Pounds (56 kg)6 calories89 calories177 calories266 calories354 calories
155 Pounds (70 kg)7 calories110 calories220 calories330 calories439 calories
185 Pounds (83 kg)9 calories131 calories262 calories393 calories524 calories
215 Pounds (97 kg)10 calories152 calories305 calories457 calories610 calories
Chart of calories burned with general stairmaster usage

Calories burned with walking

If you want more in-depth estimations and techniques to burn more calories while walking make sure you read the article on how many calories walking burns.

Weight Person
(3 mph/4.8 kmh)
(3.5 mph/5.6 kmh)
(4 mph/6.4 kmh)
125 Pounds (56 kg)103 calories118 calories133 calories
155 Pounds (70 kg)128 calories146 calories165 calories
185 Pounds (83 kg)153 calories175 calories197 calories
215 Pounds (97 kg)178 calories203 calories229 calories
Chart of calories burned per 30 minutes of walking at different speeds

Calories burned with running

If you want more in-depth estimations and techniques to burn more calories while running make sure you read the article on how many calories running burns.

Weight Person
Running (5 mph/8.1 kmh)Running (6 mph/9.7 kmh)Running (7 mph/11.3 kmh)
125 Pounds (56 kg)236 calories295 calories340 calories
155 Pounds (70 kg)293 calories366 calories421 calories
185 Pounds (83 kg)350 calories437 calories503 calories
215 Pounds (97 kg)406 calories508 calories584 calories
Chart of calories burned per 30 minutes of running at different speeds

Stairmaster or treadmill for fat loss

Some people get the impression that to burn fat you have to stay at a certain heart rate, eat certain foods, or do specific workouts.

Unfortunately, targetting fat loss in a specific area like your belly is generally not possible. To burn fat, or more specifically belly fat, you have to lose weight overall.

Since running on the treadmill seems to have more calorie-burning potential it would also be a slightly better alternative to stairmasters for fat loss.

Stairmaster vs treadmill for building muscle

While the stairmaster and treadmill are both cardio exercise machines, which means that they mainly focus on your cardiovascular system, they also help resistance training beginners build (or at least engage) some muscles in other areas.

The health benefits of working out are great but building some muscle in the right places is also a nice bonus. On top of that, extra muscle mass can help you burn extra calories after your workout is over.

Both the stairmaster and the treadmill mainly focus on your leg muscles. It’s hard to predict accurately which one of the two is more effective for engaging muscles.

Walking instead of running on the treadmill will make a big difference too.

Light jogging will engage your muscles less than full-speed sprinting. Walking on the treadmill will not be very helpful for building muscle.

If you want to build as much muscle mass as possible using the stairmaster and skipping a step each stride will likely be the better choice.

That being said, if you are serious about building muscle it’s better to turn to weight lifting exercises like for example squats.

Comparison of injury risk

Another important thing you need to look at in the stairmaster vs treadmill 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 improving your health. 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 on the treadmill is generally worse than the stairmaster 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.

Using the stairmaster on the other hand is a relatively low injury risk workout if you pay attention to posture. The same goes for walking on the treadmill.

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, using the stairmaster, or an exercise like swimming are likely better choices.

So in terms of injury risk, using the stairmaster and walking on the treadmill are way better than running on the treadmill. Not everyone is as sensitive to injury so whether this factor is important depends on your personal situation.

Ease of implementation in your routine

As mentioned before, the workout that doesn’t get done doesn’t offer any benefits. How easy an exercise is to implement into your daily or weekly routine is very important.

Using a stairmaster and running on the treadmill are about the same when it comes to ease of implementation into your routine.

For both, you either need your own machine, or you drive 20 minutes to your local gym. The duration of a good workout is also similar for both exercises.

If you only have a few small blocks of time throughout your day walking a few minutes on the treadmill may be the easiest to implement.

The budget required for each workout

Money put into improving your health is generally a great investment but sometimes you can get the same effects with less. Depending on your situation this may be relevant.

Depending on what exact machines you would invest in both a good stairmaster and a good treadmill could be more budget-friendly. In general, you can find a good treadmill for a lower price than a good stairmaster.

Complexity to use the stairmaster vs treadmill

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 stick to an exercise routine you want as few reasons as possible to not work out.

The difference between the stairmaster and treadmill in terms of complexity to do is not super relevant. Using the stairmaster may feel slightly more uneasy at first but there isn’t really any complex technique involved.

Which one is right for you?

Whether using a stairmaster or treadmill is the best choice for you depends on your personal situation.

If you want to burn as many calories as possible in the shortest amount of time and you are not injury sensitive running on a treadmill is likely the best choice. A treadmill may also be more budget-friendly.

If you are injury sensitive using a stairmaster is likely a good treadmill alternative.

Walking on the treadmill is also relatively low-risk when it comes to injuries but you burn a lot fewer calories compared to using a stairmaster.

You also preferably want to like doing your workout. If you don’t, it becomes harder to stick to. The exercise that doesn’t get done doesn’t offer any health benefits.

Ultimately you want to weigh each of these factors versus each other for each workout and your individual situation. You can then decide which one suits you best. You can also give both machines a shot at your local gym and find out which one suits you best.

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Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.