Are you trying to exercise and burn calories without risking injuries? Are you looking at elliptical vs. walking exercises as your go-to for a better workout?
Look no further because, in this guide, we will learn the differences between elliptical and walking workouts. I’ll discuss each and compare the pros and cons head-to-head.After comparing both, I’ll give my verdict on which is the better workout for you based on your personal preference and needs.
Elliptical Machine: An Overview
An elliptical machine focuses on protecting your joints and knees through low-impact exercises and simultaneously exercising your upper and lower body.
A few distinct features make ellipticals unique compared to other aerobic exercise or cardiovascular exercise machines.
Burning Calories and Body Fat
One of the most sought-after features that using an elliptical machine offers is the high-calorie burn rate.
This is because using the elliptical works out more muscle groups than other cardio machines, including your arms, core muscles, and legs.
In addition to burning more calories, performing a high-intensity exercise using the elliptical trainer allows faster fat burn per hour than other exercise methods.
Less Stress on the Joints
Another benefit that elliptical trainers offer is that your feet never leave the surface. This lack of ground impact makes it much easier on your legs, hips, and joints, like your knees and ankles.
This feature is particularly beneficial for people who want to pursue their physical fitness goals but require a low-intensity or lower-impact body workout to mitigate joint pain.
QUICK NOTE: You might want to get some proper elliptical training shoes to ensure you’re comfortable and safe using this machine.
Here are some of the pros and cons of using an elliptical trainer:
- Higher calorie expenditure vs. other exercises
- Full body resistance workout
- Best workout for less strain on joints
- It fits into most home gyms
- Not for those who prefer walking outdoors
- Added cost (installation, repairs, maintenance, etc.)
Walking: An Overview
A walking workout is one of the oldest and most trusted ways to achieve weight loss. It also fits naturally into your daily routine, as it’s normally impossible to go a day without walking.
Effortless and Seamless
When walking outside, you don’t need any extra equipment except exercise clothes and your own self. This saves a lot of money compared to more expensive fitness equipment.
You walk even when you’re not exercising – like a person walking an hour to work or leisurely strolling around the park on a nice day.
You will ultimately burn calories throughout the day by walking and increase your heart health without needing to focus on it too much.
However, walking on a treadmill has become a lot more popular recently. You’ll see these treadmill machines in many home gyms. They offer one advantage to walking outside that you may find useful.
One of the ways you can burn more calories and lose some body weight is to add resistance by adding an incline to your treadmill workouts.
It simulates walking up and down a hill but from the comfort of your own home. It increases resistance and heart rate, letting you burn more calories without being exposed to the elements.
The best part about the feature is that most treadmills have adjustable incline settings, which means you can adjust your workout based on the resistance that you can take.
Here are the pros and cons of walking, either outside or on a treadmill:
- Flexible and fits into your fitness routine
- Cheap fitness routine
- Easy to switch between walking and jogging
- Ability to choose a resistance level on a treadmill
- Not ideal for those with medical issues in their joints
- There is some level of danger and a higher risk of accidents when running outside in real life
Elliptical vs. Walking: Side-by-Side Comparison
I’ll declare a clear winner for each category and then give an overall winner in my final verdict.
Between elliptical or walking, one is the clear winner if you want to burn calories faster.
The same person will burn more using elliptical machines compared to walking outside or on a treadmill given the same amount of time.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, a 155-pound person will have 149 calories burned after a half-hour walk on the treadmill.
A person of the same weight will burn 335 calories in the same amount of time while using an elliptical. The clear winner is the elliptical trainer for getting a good workout to burn calories!
There is a stark contrast in movement type between elliptical or treadmill/outside walking. Going for a walk is much more natural than moving on an elliptical.
However, the elliptical uses more muscles. The arm handles allow more focus on the upper body, hips, and core muscles, which often go ignored during a casual stroll.
On the other hand, walking focuses more on the legs and lower body. This includes hamstrings, calves, and ankles, as these parts will carry your entire weight.
Overall, this category is a tie because preferring a natural movement or a more controlled, mechanical one will depend entirely on your needs.
If you have a medical condition that requires fitness activities that aren’t taxing on your joints, then the elliptical beats walking each time.
While it’s a more mechanical movement, the smooth motion and the way you use an elliptical means that each foot never leaves the surface of the pedals.
You won’t be putting pressure or force on your ankles or any other joint that might induce pain.
While some treadmills offer to cushion, they won’t be as smooth or comfortable as an elliptical. Elliptical trainers induce far less stress when carrying your body weight.
Only one of these two fitness activities allows you to transition between different intensity levels easily.
Walking allows you to adjust the intensity of your workout. If you don’t have much time to exercise, you can switch to jogging in a split second.
Then, if you get tired, you can always slow down until you’re ready to ramp it up again.
However, on the elliptical or a treadmill, you’d have to press a few buttons to adjust the speed or set up a whole workout ahead of time to change this.
While either the elliptical or walking offer some resistance, they won’t help you build mass effectively.
Cardiovascular exercise is focused on getting your heart pumping, and while you will have some development in your muscles, you’ll still have to complement it by lifting weights.
Using dumbbells, kettlebells, resistance bands, or any other strength-training machine in the gym will help muscles in your arms and legs grow faster and bigger.
Variety of Workouts
What more variety can you get when walking outside? You can adjust the speed and intensity in an instant. Getting on the treadmill also allows you to increase your incline or decline.
The disadvantage of the elliptical machine is that it only has one motion. While fluid, if you want more variety in your fitness routine, you should stick to walking.
This is a more subjective section since you might have different health goals than me. The elliptical machine is better if you want to decrease body fat and increase the calories you expend.
However, if you want more variety when exercising, or have a more long-term goal that can fit into your daily life seamlessly, then walking is the way to go.
Full Body Workout
If you want to exert, train, and work out all of your skeletal muscles, then using the elliptical machine is the way to go.
While you can add a weighted vest or strap wrist weights to work out your arms and core when walking, it isn’t as effective as the movements on the elliptical.
This is because your arm muscles are also pulling on the handlebars, which have a level of resistance to them. This activates more muscles in your arms and upper body.
WARNING: Before using the vest, consult a certified personal trainer, especially if you have health issues with your back and/or shoulders.WINNER: Elliptical
Frequently Asked Questions
Now that you know more about using the elliptical vs. walking, you might have other questions about how they relate to your fitness and health.
I’ve answered the most common ones below.
Do Ellipticals Help You Lose Belly Fat?
Yes, they help you lose a lot of belly fat. This effect will increase if you ramp up the speed and intensity during your workouts.
The elliptical is a better workout than going out on a walk if you want to lose more belly fat faster.
How Many Calories Do Ellipticals Burn Compared to Walking?
According to Harvard Health Publishing, a 155-pound person will expend 149 calories after a half-hour walk on the treadmill.
That person, however, will expend 335 calories in 30 minutes on elliptical machines, making it the better workout option for expending calories.
Are Steps on the Elliptical Machine the Same as Those When Walking?
They’re not the same. Elliptical machines are smoother but more repetitive. They’re less natural than walking outside or even on a treadmill.
This is because walking outside involves different body functions like balance and adjusting to how your weight is affected by gravity.
Each time you take a step, you subconsciously make micro-adjustments to keep your balance and stop you from falling when the path becomes uneven. An elliptical doesn’t offer the same conditions.
Final Verdict: Elliptical or Walking, Which Offers a Better Workout?
Here’s my final verdict between getting an elliptical, walking outside, or getting a treadmill.
Use an Elliptical Machine If:
- You want to burn calories faster
- You had a low-impact training routine
- You have an injury but want to remain fit
- You can spend a bit more and have space in your home gym
Do a Walking Workout If:
- You want to control the speed of your workout more easily
- You want more variety
- You’re on a budget
- You want a seamless exercise that fits into your schedule better
Whether using the elliptical or walking, both will increase your heart rate, help you lose weight, and improve your overall health. You can do either or both: get an elliptical and walk outside.Choose a workout based on what fitness or health needs you have, as well as your personal preferences.