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​Does an Elliptical or Treadmill Provide a Better Cardio Workout?

Posted by DIY HCG on


Good cardiovascular health is essential for reducing your risk of heart disease and osteoporosis, improving the function of your heart and lungs, and improving muscle mass.

To maintain good cardio health, you should perform 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week. To improve cardio endurance, make that 20 to 60 minutes 3 to 5 days a week.

Treadmills and Ellipticals for Cardio

Treadmills and ellipticals are gym staples, and many models are affordable enough to have one in the home gym. But which one provides the best cardio workout?

The truth is, they can both pack a powerful aerobic workout. In general, how good your cardio workout is depends on you, not the equipment. Cardio is all about getting your heart rate up for a period of time during exercise; and the treadmill and the elliptical are both highly effective tools for doing just that.

So Which One Should You Choose?

Whether you should work out on the treadmill or the elliptical really depends on your fitness goals.

For good general fitness, including cardio, strengthening, weight loss, and overall health, the elliptical is the ideal choice. A low-impact way to exercise, using the elliptical at moderate intensity is much easier on your hips, knees, and back than running on a treadmill. However, walking on a treadmill puts about the same amount of force on these joints as the elliptical.

If you're in training, such as for a marathon or other race, the treadmill is probably the best tool for reaching speed and endurance goals. However, using the elliptical as a way to cross-train can help you maintain cardio endurance while helping to prevent injury.

Whichever you choose, good posture and the proper form are essential for an effective, injury-free workout.

How to Get a Good Cardio Workout

Cardio workouts are all about heart rate. For moderate-intensity physical activity, a person's target heart rate should be 50 to 70% of his or her maximum heart rate, to get to the aerobic zone, you should work out at an intensity of 70 to 80% of your maximum heart rate, and for a high-intensity, anaerobic workout, your heart should be beating at a rate of 80 to 90% of your maximum heart rate.

An estimate of a person's maximum age-related heart rate can be roughly calculated as follows:

First, subtract the person's age from 220, i.e., for a 45-year-old person, the estimated maximum age-related heart rate would be calculated as 220 - 45 years = 175 beats per minute (bpm).

Then calculate the bottom and the top of the target heart rate level. For moderate-intensity, the target heart rate level is 50 to 70% levels and would be calculated as follows:

  • 50% level: 175 x 0.50 = 88 bpm
  • 70% level: 175 x 0.70 = 123 bpm

Thus, moderate-intensity physical activity for a 45-year-old person will require that the heart rate remains between 88 and 123 bpm during physical activity.

  • Cardio Workouts: Which are better?