Cardio Throwdown: Elliptical vs. Stepmill



If you are looking for an aerobic workout that torches calories then both the elliptical and the stepmill are the perfect gym machines for you and your joints. The American Heart Association recommends you knock off at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week.

But which machine is best for your fitness goals, especially when cardio equipment seems to have similar benefits?

We break down the pros and cons of the elliptical and stepmill to help you put your best foot forward next time you’re ready to break a sweat on the gym floor.

For a full-body workout 

Winner: Elliptical

The elliptical wins here due to it providing an opportunity to focus on both your upper and lower body, versus the stepmill which focuses on the lower body. The elliptical works the chest, triceps, biceps, hip flexors, quads and hamstrings whereas the stepmill targets the calf muscles, glutes and hip flexors.

The all-compassing challenge of an elliptical makes it a valuable addition to your training session, but only if you push hard and crank up the resistance and speed.  

For building strength

Winner: Stepmill

As you climb upwards, your muscles contract as they bear the weight of your body to pull you up, and this repetition causes them to strengthen.

The continual motion of lifting and propelling your legs forward will toughen the major muscle groups in the lower body: the quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves. A stepmill will also help strengthen your core as you’re forced to maintain balance–providing you don’t hold onto the stair rails.

To get the most out of your stepmill workout, try incorporating the following moves: skipped steps, cross-over steps, wide and narrow jump squats, sidesteps, reverse climbing and sprints. 

For losing weight

Winner: Elliptical

According to Harvard Health Publications, you can burn up to 800 calories in one hour on an elliptical machine, whereas on the stepmill, a 160lb person would burn just 658, says the Mayo Clinic.

Furthermore, a paper in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found taking longer strides on an elliptical meant more calories burned without increasing perceived exertion. 

However, calorie calculations on ellipticals were found to be inaccurate on most machines, revealed Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, so try not to get bogged down with the numbers on the screen. For optimal fat loss on the elliptical, incorporate high-intensity interval training into your session. This will ensure you aren't just going through the motions. 

Both the elliptical and stepmill are solid choices for your cardio workout. Vary your routines to incorporate both and enjoy the benefits you get from the variety. 



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