Let’s talk about the age-old debate of elliptical vs bike, which is perhaps the two most popular machines for fitness. For many people, an exercise bike and an elliptical trainer may appear similar, and it can be confusing to know how each one works, or which is “better”.
For instance, which machine can help you lose weight quicker? Which is more ideal for rehabilitation purposes? Which is more effective in general when it comes to achieving your fitness goals- an exercise bike or an elliptical machine? Is an elliptical better than a stationary bike?
Here is a comparative guide that will help you gain a better understanding of how each of these two fitness machines can help you with your fitness needs.
Fitness Needs and Benefits
The reason why the stationary bike vs elliptical machine debate is still going on is primarily that they are both effective fitness equipment. The elliptical machine, or cross-trainer as some call it, and the exercise bicycle, are both cardio exercise machines.
As such, they both offer certain health benefits for cardio and other bodily functions, such as:
- Boost in cardiovascular system performance, which consequently leads to a reduced risk of cardiovascular conditions like diabetes, hypertension, and stroke
- Improved endurance or ability to sustain physical effort over an extended period of time
- Low impact on the joints, which make them better on the hip, ankle, and knees, as opposed to running, which, according to Healthline, can lead to joint pain as the feet absorb more weight from each stride
In other words, both stationary bikes and elliptical trainers are appropriate for staying fit and exercising. It’s not really that one is functionally better than the other; the simple fact is, these are two different machines that offer similar fitness benefits.
Which is more suitable for you?
That said, one of the two may be more suitable for certain needs.
For instance, stationary bicycles let users sit down during a workout, and focus on the body’s lower section, whereas elliptical machines require the use of the user’s whole body, making them more demanding in a way.
Therefore, if you want a full-body exercise, a cross-trainer would be a better fit, but if you are, say, a senior citizen, or someone who needs joint rehabilitation, a stationary bike machine would be a more forgiving option.
Simply put, it all boils down to your fitness goals: muscle toning, weight loss, HIIT, and so on.
Comparison of Fitness Functions
To give you a better idea, here’s a table comparing the fitness functions and features of a typical exercise bike vs an elliptical machine:
|Muscle toning/ strength
|Less weight loss potential
|More weight loss potential
When it comes to muscle toning and strength, one important thing to remember is that these machines are both intended for cardio, which means they can help tone your muscles, but won’t really double your muscle mass.
That said, stationary bikes and elliptical trainers target different muscle groups. For instance, exercise bicycles target your lower section, so you can effectively tone your calves, quads, thighs, hamstrings, and buttocks. Meanwhile, elliptical machines work both the upper and lower body- your hamstrings, thighs, buttocks, glutes, stomach, chest, arms, and back muscles.
In simpler terms, if you want a full-body workout, cross trainers are better. But if you want a machine that is made for legs and ass, a cross-trainer would do a decent job, but a stationary bike would be more effective in targeting your quads and hamstrings.
The beauty of these two fitness equipments is that they offer low impact exercises, meaning, they won’t hurt your joints. LiveFit defines low impact exercises as those that allow you to leave one (or both) feet on the ground, which makes for less pounding on the joints.
Even so, not all workouts are the same; some are more taxing on the joints. When it comes to cycling vs elliptical machines, stationary cycles offer moderate joint impact since your knees move periodically from straight to highly bent positions and back, which, to a certain extent, can be taxing to the joints.
On the other hand, cross trainers are much easier on your joints, since your feet are simply resting in the footpads throughout the entire workout, thereby making for zero joint impact.
Fat Burning Capacity
If you want to know whether a stationary bike or elliptical trainer will help you lose weight faster, the answer is, unfortunately, not a clear-cut as you might want. That’s because it all depends on several different factors, such as how much effort you put into the exercise and how comfortable you feel using the machine.
Think of it this way: the more comfortable you feel, the more likely you are to wholeheartedly use the equipment and exert more effort in exercising, which then leads to burning more calories. This is as opposed to feeling awkward and uncomfortable, in which case you’re just hurting yourself in a sense and posing more of a personal challenge to lose weight.
Now, assuming that all factors are constant and comparably similar, elliptical machines are researched by the Harvard Medical School to offer better fat-burning potential than stationary bicycles. The main reason is that ellipticals engage more parts of the body and require the use of more physical energy, so you’re burning more calories with each movement.
Still, both machines are quite effective weight loss tools, and whatever difference in performance is only minimal.
When talking about variability, what we mean here is how likely a user is to hit a plateau or drop from a workout program.
Meaning, the more and wider range of movements you can perform, and the more difficult options you can work with, the more likely you are to stay engaged in the workout and want to come back for more, unlike if it’s always the same, simple, boring thing every time.
In this aspect, ellipticals are arguably better since you can perform a variety of actions, such as moving backward or forward, doing shallow or steep inclines, and playing with variable resistance during the exercise. Whereas, even though stationary bikes offer a full-body workout, they are also easier, simpler, and more straightforward to use, therefore “less interesting”.
Best Exercise Bike
One of the best exercise bikes we found is the YOSUDA Indoor Cycling Bike Stationary, which is an insanely smooth stationary bike made with a durable, heavy-duty steel frame that weighs 35 pounds and ensures stability while cycling. It makes use of a belt-driven system that offers a quieter and smoother ride as compared to chained bikes.
It also features non-slip two-way adjustable handlebars, a four-way adjustable padded seat with a 25 to 35-inch inseam height, and a wide range of resistance to offer a comfortable riding experience indoors while working out so you can lose weight, look fit, and feel healthy.
Other amazing features include the LCD monitor that tracks your performance, the iPad mount that lets you exercise while listening to music, the adjustable cage pedals that protect you during fast rides, the transport wheels that allow you to easily move the cycling machine, and the water bottle holder that makes for convenient hydration mid-workout.
Best Elliptical Machine
Meanwhile, the best cross trainer that we can recommend is the Sunny Health & Fitness Premium Cardio Climber Stepping Elliptical Machine, which is made with a steel climber frame that has a 260-pound weight capacity.
It’s a versatile fitness machine that lets you enjoy long-lasting striding and climbing sessions by optimizing each intense movement with a seven-inch horizontal striding distance and nine-inch vertical climbing height.
Like the stationary bike above, this one also uses a belt-driven mechanism that makes for smooth and quiet workouts. Its inertia-ready flywheel is easy to engage whether you want easy climbs or challenging strides, and it offers eight different levels of magnetic resistance so you can choose between easy and difficult workouts.
The debate of elliptical vs bike isn’t new, and the answer to the question of which one is better is still largely the same- both these fitness machines offer effective cardio workouts and will help you boost endurance and tone your muscles while also losing weight.
Each piece of equipment does have certain pros and cons, if you may, depending on your personal fitness needs, requirements, and goals, so based on these personal factors, one will naturally be more suitable and sustainable than the other.
We hope this guide has helped you figure out which machine is better for you.