Is Elliptical Better Than Running? Elliptical vs Running: The Showdown

Is elliptical better than running? Or is it the other way around?

 To answer this question, several factors come into play:

  • Medical history
  • Age
  • Your goals

 And much more…

 Today I’ll dive deep to help you decide. Should you be doing elliptical training or running?

 Let’s find out!

Is Elliptical Better Than Running? The Pros and Cons

Elliptical Benefits

Either you are using one of the machines from my best elliptical reviews, or the high-end Bowflex or NordicTrack models – using an elliptical offers a low-impact alternative to running.

This is hugely advantageous to people who may have suffered an injury – or the pregnant mother who wants to stay in shape with a less rigorous workout than running. Elliptical machines are also an excellent alternative for the retiree who may not have the energy, stamina, or bone density to run – even for a short time. Lastly, overweight people will find these types of machines as a perfect partner in their weight loss adventure – with next to no impact on their knees and joints.

Running Benefits

Running is essential in the zombie apocalypse, but it can stand to benefit us in everyday life as well…

Running is a quick, high-impact way to get your heart rate to peak – which is when you gain the most benefits. Becoming a conditioned runner is an excellent way to reach future goals in other areas of life as well – that may be competitive or productive in a career and much more. 

Elliptical Disadvantage

As a low-impact exercise machine, the elliptical trainer can be a bit lackluster when it comes to functionality.

This is due to the inability to use your entire body when operating the machine. Your arms and legs are constantly moving – but with little to no strength required. Therefore, you may be raising your heart rate, but you’re not gaining muscle mass. 

Running Disadvantages

Injury is the most common disadvantage of running, no questions asked.

Even the most conditioned runner will suffer at least one injury in their lifetime. This is obviously due to the high impact of your entire body while weight is slamming down on your ankles, knees, hips, and lower back.

The other disadvantages include a weakened immune system from exhaustion and a higher risk of quitting because of a lack of variety in your workout routine. To sum it off, because of the release of endorphins, this type of exercise can become addictive (although that kind of addiction is more like a positive than negative…).

Elliptical Machine vs Running

The Cost

Depending on the model and type, the cost of ellipticals ranges anywhere from $85 to nearly $15,000.

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Obviously, running seems to be free, but the cost is physical and, in some cases, mental and emotional if you are a competitive runner.

To gain the most from your running, there is also the cost of a personal trainer; this can range from $25-$100 per session.

Calories Burned And Weight Loss

  • Interval training
  • HIIT
  • Low intensity

Both got you covered.

In short, there is not a vast difference between the two types of exercise. They are both great at burning calories!

There is, on average, only about a 100-calorie difference when using the same exertion, speed, and length of both workouts. The primary reason that running burns slightly more calories is the extra energy expelled when propelling your entire body through the air at any speed.

Although elliptical may have a lower calorie burn rate, it is still one of the top cardio machines!


The fact is that age typically slows us down in one way or another – and that affects how we can exercise.

Someone with osteoporosis, arthritis, joint or muscle injuries, or any other physical ailment may find running difficult – if not impossible. The average person does not suffer joint, muscle, or bone deterioration until their fifties.

Most young people in their twenties and thirties are aware that everything has become a social media event – and health & fitness are no strangers to this.

Running has definitely its chair at that table!

You cannot get on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat without seeing all your friend’s morning rituals of a 2-mile run followed by a protein shake. You’ve probably noticed this doesn’t include many people in their 50’s and above.

The fact is:

Our bones, joints, and muscles are not made to endure that type of impact for 50+ years. The most conditioned runner starts to see negative effects around 45.

When your knees, back, and ankles start to hurt when running – switching to an ellipse machine will be a wise move… 


To get the best out of any workout, you must be mentally and physically prepared – and adapted to your surroundings.

Apart from stretching, you must be in an environment that allows for the most beneficial results. For some people, that is the gym or their living room – and for others, it is Mother Nature.

An elliptical can not run a trail up a mountainside – and running at full speed with the wind blowing through your hair cannot be done indoors. You must listen to your body’s signals to decide what is best for your health. This includes both your physical well-being and your state of mind.


Although either is regarded as a total body workout, both your upper body and lower body will get somewhat toned while engaging in these types of cardio.

“The use of ellipticals demonstrated greater quadriceps activity and greater quadriceps/hamstrings coactivation than all other conditions.”


The bottom line is that if you are looking to build strength, your cardio should be supplemented with strength-focused exercise as well!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is Elliptical or Running Better for Weight Loss?

Both elliptical and running can be effective for weight loss, but the choice depends on personal preference, fitness level, and individual factors. Running is a higher-impact exercise that generally burns more calories per minute, but it may not be suitable for everyone due to joint impact or other limitations. The elliptical provides a low-impact workout that still burns calories and can be more gentle on the joints. Consistency, intensity, and creating a calorie deficit through diet are key factors in weight loss, regardless of the exercise chosen.

What Does 30 Minutes of Elliptical Do?

A 30-minute elliptical session can provide several benefits. It is a cardiovascular exercise that helps improve heart health, burn calories, and contribute to weight loss. Additionally, using the elliptical engages muscles in the legs, arms, and core, promoting overall muscular strength and endurance. The exact number of calories burned and fitness benefits obtained will depend on factors such as intensity, resistance, and individual fitness level.

Is a 30-minute Walk Better than Eliptical?

The effectiveness of a 30-minute walk or elliptical workout depends on the intensity and personal fitness goals. Both activities can contribute to overall health and weight management. Walking is a low-impact exercise that is accessible to most people and provides cardiovascular benefits. The elliptical offers a more intense workout, engaging multiple muscle groups and potentially burning more calories. Ultimately, choosing between a walk or elliptical session depends on personal preferences, physical capabilities, and fitness goals.

Do Ellipticals Help Lose Belly Fat?

While the elliptical can contribute to overall weight loss and toning of various muscles, it won’t specifically target fat loss in the belly area. Spot reduction is not possible, and fat loss occurs throughout the body as a whole. To lose belly fat, a combination of a healthy diet, overall exercise routine, and core-strengthening exercises is recommended.

Is 2 miles on an Elliptical Equal to Running?

The calorie burn and effort of 2 miles on an elliptical can be similar to running, depending on factors such as intensity and resistance level. However, it’s important to note that running is weight-bearing and involves more impact, which can provide additional benefits for bone health and muscle strength. The elliptical offers a lower-impact option that is gentler on the joints. The choice between the two depends on personal preference, fitness level, and any specific limitations or goals.

Will I lose Weight if I Only use the Elliptical?

Weight loss depends on various factors, including calorie intake, exercise intensity, duration, and overall lifestyle. Using the elliptical as your primary form of exercise can contribute to weight loss if you create a calorie deficit by burning more calories than you consume. However, incorporating a balanced diet and a combination of different exercises can provide better results, as it promotes overall fitness, prevents plateaus, and ensures a well-rounded approach to weight management.

Do you Burn More Running or Elliptical?

Running generally burns more calories per minute compared to using the elliptical at the same intensity. However, individual factors such as weight, fitness level, and effort exerted can influence calorie burn. Running is a higher-impact activity that engages more muscles and requires more effort. The elliptical provides a low-impact workout that is easier on the joints. Both exercises can contribute to weight loss, and the choice between the two depends on personal preference, fitness level, and any specific limitations or goals.

Final Words: Elliptical Training or Running? Running vs Elliptical – Your Choice!

So, is elliptical better than running? Well, as I mentioned in the intro:

It depends.

If you are a young person with no medical issues – I would recommend running outdoors.

If you are elderly – or have a medical history of an injured back, bad ankles, joint pain, and so on – an elliptical trainer should be your choice.

But wait:

There are also several other ways to do cardio training – some have even way higher calorie burn rate than both running and elliptical workouts. You can check out a whole bunch of them in my MASSIVE cardio training archive. See you there!

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