What are the Benefits of Running vs Elliptical?

Written By: Jeremy N


Elliptical machines are modern standard equipment found in the gym, specially designed for simulating the movement of running and walking, while at the same time minimizing the impact on the affected joints, according to the national Arthritis Foundation.

Running on the other hand, is a natural old cardiovascular exercise meant for burning calories and building endurance among individuals.

What are the Benefits of Running vs Elliptical?

Running and using elliptical equipment are arguably today’s most widely used modes of attaining fitness and weight loss in the world.

For quite some time, there has been a raging debate on which among the two offers more health benefits.

The main benefits for both are more or less similar, but each has some unique characters and results that every individual must be made aware of.

The Similarities of Running and Ellipticals

Ideally, both exercising through running and elliptical equipment offers incredible cardiovascular benefits to the body.

They are proven workouts for the heart in the sense that they boost the flow of blood and delivery of oxygen to all the organs of the body.

They are also known to focus entirely on the development of muscles, for example hamstrings, quads, hips, gluteus, and calves, which warm the body, consequently preparing it for the burning of even more calories.

For most people globally, these two modes are used to promote the process of natural weight loss, but for that to be achieved, a healthy diet must always be in place.

The Differences Between Running & Ellipticals

Running and elliptical workouts can be done at home, or anywhere else for that matter, but they come with a bit of downside.

Running is better than ellipticals when it comes to burning calories because unlike the latter type, running requires more energy expenditure.

This is in spite of the fact that both modes burn about the same amount of calories in an hour.

The key here is that ellipticals provide a near normal range of motion, which means you are less likely to get injured during workout sessions.

On the other hand, running puts excessive pressure on muscles and joints because it involves bouncing motions, requiring more energy expenditure than stationary machines.

Another factor playing into the benefits of elliptical workouts is that it comes with ergonomically-designed pedals, enabling the user to move smoothly and quietly.

This provides an added advantage because users are allowed to focus more on their respiration system instead of concentrating on movements, as required during running sessions.

What are the benefits of an Elliptical Machines: We break down the Pros and Cons.

Elliptical vs Running: The Considerations

As has already been mentioned, there are a plethora of similarities between elliptical machines and traditional running.

With that in mind, here is a brief comparison on the key differences between the two:

Ellipticals vs Running Distance

This is one of the main considerations when deciding between ellipticals and running.

Another factor you must consider when making this decision is your individual fitness level.

For beginners in the game, it would make more sense to opt for an elliptical workout because it allows you to start at a slow pace until your body gets used to the process.

On the other hand, running requires no such acclimatization period, meaning that beginners can go all out with their sessions from the get-go.

The physiological natures of ellipticals are meant to closely mimic the motion of running, hence they provide a low impact workout on muscles and joints.

Running, on the other hand, requires more energy expenditure because it involves bouncing motions instead of natural movements as seen in elliptical workouts.

This results in excessive stress being put on the muscles and joints, which may lead to injuries if ignored.

Ellipticals vs Running: Duration

Running is a form of anaerobic exercise, meaning that it can be sustained for a maximum duration of 90 minutes.

After the 90-minute mark, lactic acid starts to accumulate in the blood stream as a result of incomplete combustion of glucose.

When that happens, the muscles are unable to function properly because of low blood flow, eventually leading to fatigue.

On the other hand, elliptical workouts are anaerobic-alactic, meaning they do not produce lactic acid in the body.

Due to this characteristic of elliptical machines, it is possible for an individual to go on nonstop for about an hour before fatigue starts to set in.

The physiological natures of ellipticals are meant to closely mimic the motion of running, hence they provide a low impact workout on muscles and joints.

Elliptical vs Running: Safety

One of the most important factors you must consider when deciding between running or elliptical workouts is your safety.

Since running can be done anywhere without the need for any equipment, it is highly favored by most individuals.

On the other hand, ellipticals are stationary machines that require a sufficient amount of floor space to operate properly.

The distance between these two points depends largely on the footprint of the machine you have purchased.

However, while elliptical machines may provide a safer workout session than running, they still can pose some risks depending on individual preferences and fitness levels.

For example, the lowest (level 1) setting of most elliptical machines will barely make you break a sweat during your early sessions.

But as your body starts to get used to the process, the resistance levels will start to increase and you may feel more challenged than before.

This is where injuries such as pulled muscles and tendons may occur because of overworking your muscles, especially when returning from a break in between sessions.

Another factor that plays into safety considerations with elliptical workouts is its design.

Some machines feature an "incline" option while others do not.

When using elliptical machines with an "incline" feature, the higher you set it up, the more your muscles will be challenged.

However, if you are recovering from some form of injury or have difficulty in maintaining proper posture, then opting for an elliptical machine without an "incline" option is advisable.

Elliptical vs Running: Calories Burned

One of the most important factors when deciding between elliptical or running workouts is how much energy you will be expending in the process.

Depending on your current fitness level and intensity of workout, a single session can take up anywhere from 400 to 1000 calories for a 150-pound individual.

When it comes to elliptical machines, most of them will have a similar calorie expenditure rate as that of running.

However, some high-end machines may boast a more "intense" workout that targets muscle groups you cannot target on regular ellipticals.

As mentioned earlier, the intensity level depends largely on the resistance level you are using during your session.

When used in conjunction with a heart rate monitor, elliptical machines can give an accurate reading of how many calories you have burned based on your current weight.

Sunny Health & Fitness SF-E905 Elliptical Machine Cross Trainer with 8 Level Resistance and Digital Monitor , Gray, White, 28 L x 17 W x 57 H

Elliptical vs Running: Time

If you are pressed for time and want to get in shape as soon as possible, then elliptical workouts may be the way to go.

Because of its low impact nature, ellipticals can be used as a form of cardio that does not affect muscles and joints over time.

But only if you maintain proper posture and take enough breaks in between sessions to avoid injuries such as tendinitis and pulled muscles.

On the other hand, running can be done anywhere and even by individuals who have a difficult time walking.

But because of its high impact nature on muscles and joints, it may take a few weeks to get used to the motions before you can run longer distances without feeling too much pressure on your body.

The Differences Between Running & Ellipticals

It is safe to say that there is no perfect machine when it comes to working out.

Ellipticals have their own advantages and disadvantages just like any other workout equipment.

However, elliptical trainers may be a better option for individuals who are recovering from an injury or have poor posture because of the lower impact nature on muscles and joints during sessions.

Running is faster but you will feel some pain after your first few sessions.

Ellipticals are easier to use but may not provide the same results as running over time.

However, it is important to note that these factors depend largely on an individual's preferences and fitness levels.

For example, someone who has never exercised before will probably experience discomfort when using elliptical trainers for the first time.

But as time goes on and their muscles get used to the motions, they will feel less discomfort and may even enjoy working out on elliptical machines more than running.

Elliptical machines and recumbent bikes are ideal for achieving the same results with minimal impact on the joints (the S chwinn 430 tends to be one of the more popular ones on Amazon with reviews that talk about the low impact on joints) because they are programmable and involve absolutely no added weight.

Elliptical Machines: Pros and Cons

In general, elliptical machines involve lower impact when compared to running. They are also easier on your joints and can be used by people who have a difficult time walking or maintaining proper posture .

However, because of the low intensity levels, you may not see as much results when using an elliptical machine compared to running.

There is only so much that you can do on an elliptical machine without the resistance level being turned up to a high intensity.

Some runners have elected to purchase more advanced ellipticals called High Intensity Training (HIIT) to increase their interval training. Here are two that are very popular .


  • Elliptical machines are also known as low-impact workout machines because if done correctly, there is minimal impact on the ankle, hip, and knee joints, meaning that chances of accruing injuries are almost zero.
  • The best equipped gyms have various elliptical equipment designed for all parts of the body, therefore, there is every chance that the body will attain an all round muscle toning devoid of pounding and injuries that may be associated with other forms of workouts. For beginners, a trainer is always handy to walk them through every step for a full body work out.
  • Modern elliptical machines come with movable handles for working different parts of the body. Adjustments can be made for upper as well as lower body workouts. That includes movements for streamlining the back, the feet, and the arms.
  • In terms of personal safety, elliptical machines provide a much improved option compared to other modes like treadmills. This is because in an elliptical machine, the feet are always on the pedals, and there is no risk of miss-stepping or losing balance.
  • As opposed to what most people perceive, elliptical machines are not luxury equipment found in the gym, but rather very important cardiovascular exercising aids. Given the amount paid out as membership fees in gyms, and the monetary value of these equipment, a duly qualified and professional instructor should be present to take beginners through the paces. There are some quality ones that start less than a $100 on Amazon.


  • Elliptical machines are not readily available, therefore, are not accessible to everybody whenever they need.
  • Also, with extended use of these equipment, the body strength is put to test due to over-reliance of machines. Muscles do not achieve the optimum strength as is the case with physical exercising like running and jogging.
What are the benefits of an runnin. We break down the Pros and Cons.

Running Pros and Cons

Unlike elliptical machines, treadmills use all the body parts in tandem, creating a full body workout. Treadmills are available to almost everybody, and require no special skill to operate. This is because running is an activity everyone knows how to do, even without proper physical training.

They are easily accessible especially in outdoor environments like parks.

On the downside, running outdoors creates unnecessary dangers for users especially due to the traffic and other environmental irritants like insects and dust particles. The best option is purchasing a treadmill that can be used indoors without any of these problems. 


  • Running for purposes of fitness and weight loss can be referred as active running. As a classic cardiovascular exercise, running is an extensive activity that burns calories in high amounts, (Running World has a great calculator to tell you exactly how many you have burned per mile). as well as assisting in body metabolic processes. Running regularly builds stamina, and at the same time increases agility. Bone and muscle strength can also be achieved through running, which has also been known to stimulate bone cells and make tendons stronger.
  • One can create their own routine for running on a daily basis, based on how busy their schedules are, and provided they are in good health. Besides, every one capable of working out is capable of running, and save for a convenient pair of boots and the right gear, nothing else is required.
  • Also, running does not require any special skill, and can be done anywhere, indoors, or even across the streets. An effective running exercise should begin with a 10-or-so minute warm up, and end with a similar cool down activity.


  • Running is associated with joint injuries after regular exercising due to the heavy burden of having to put up with the body weight throughout the process.
  • For most people, it is not easy to keep up a regular program of achieving the desired results.

Benefits of Running vs Elliptical:

Running strengthens the heart more than an elliptical machine, which is believed to be of great importance in regulating good health.

Also, running helps people build endurance and strengthen leg muscles better than most other cardiovascular exercises.

On whether it's the treadmill or the elliptical machine that advantages runners go for depends on how you want to get your exercise.

Treadmills are ideal for people who like to change up their workouts while running on the elliptical machine is great for building core strength. Also, treadmills work better than elliptical machines when it comes to burning calories because they allow you to run at a faster pace for longer periods of time.

Another thing every passionate runner knows is that running outdoors has a lot of advantages, and this holds true if you compare working out on a treadmill or an elliptical machine.

Running regularly helps increase muscle stamina more than the elliptical. However, since treadmills require you to operate them manually, it can be quite exhausting especially for beginners who need time to build up strength and stamina to begin a running program.

Scheduled Workout

Weight loss is a journey that takes time to complete, and sometimes it does not end. As long as people are eating, chances of wanting to burn those extra calories at the gym or through running remain very high.

Contrary to what misplaced advertisements on the web will purport, there is nothing like a magic weight loss pill, and if there is, it cannot be claimed to be fit for human consumption.

While physical and elliptical-based work outs have been proven to be effective and safe, it takes time, devotion, and personal discipline.

The idea is to maintain high levels of fitness and good health, and hence, overall well-being. Without a regular work out plan, all that cannot be achieved, but with a working schedule followed to the core.

Your time at the gym can largely be dictated by your daily schedule, and that includes work or school time table.

It is however easy to move and come up with a flexible schedule that does not collide with any of the above, probably late in the evenings or in the morning before you set out for work or lectures.

Fitness cannot be achieved through random workouts on that recumbent bike, or through running once or twice when you feel in the mood.

It requires total devotion and self discipline. Pop Sugar has some really in-depth workouts for the elliptical.

Ellipticals like the Proform 250i and the most of which that are right at $500 have built-in programs which make working out a whole lot easier!.

Simple or Complex Workout:

In all modes of exercising and training, it is advisable to begin from lighter, adjusting to more extensive workouts.

This helps in adjusting the body system to newer levels without stretching it too much.

Whether you are running or using elliptical machines, the room is always set for progressing from a lighter to a deeper activity.

When running, for example, one can only run a short distance on the first day or days for purposes of preparing the muscles and setting the pace for a more complex activity.

As days progress, those muscles will be flexible and resistant enough to withstand longer distances at even faster paces with less strain.

Similarly, with ellipticals one should not begin at high speed levels, but instead, pedals should be adjusted gradually as the body gets accustomed.

The hours spent on a particular machine must also be monitored, otherwise sometimes it might make no sense at all.

Irregular exercising can be detrimental to the weight loss program, and to be safe, it is better left unattended than half-attended to.

Setting goals is everything

As mentioned earlier, weight loss is a journey.

Not often will an individual hit the gym for fun or out of boredom, and if they will, it is highly unlikely someone will run for the sake of running. 

Setting goals of the amount of pounds one wishes to shed over a particular period of time is a good platform for getting started.

That means one will be working towards an achievable objective, and all the necessary adjustments shall be based on the will to get it done.

Whichever way you decide to burn those unwanted calories, it all begins with noting the need to do it.

Everyone wants to be healthy and in good shape, so the time you spend on the pedals, and your input in the machine should be determined by a certain will to lose weight.

Running vs Elliptical? Your call..

Running may be the most common form of exercising, and it is often referred to as the best form of cardiovascular exercise.

The main reason for this is that when one runs, they are actually doing something which comes naturally especially for men.

On an average, running can burn about 600 calories in just 30 minutes.

An elliptical machine can provide almost the same calorie-burning capacity with half of that time, and it does so without straining the body too much.

For women who cannot go out for running, elliptical machines are best alternatives to avoid injuries.

Ellipticals also provide excellent cardio workout in about 30 minutes, counting on the intensity of machine used.

This makes it possible for people who do not like running or cannot run to actually stay in shape.

For those who are new to exercising, elliptical machines offer the much needed support and guidance.

The machines themselves come with built-in programs that tell how intense they should be based on the weight of the user.

All this means that a beginner can always start with a low pace and stay there for a while until they get used to the motions.

Elliptical machines are also an excellent choice because of the adjustable intensity levels.

For different exercises, you need to adjust your workout session accordingly, and ellipticals provide this option.

One thing about running is that many beginners tend to start out too fast and end up with injuries.

This is especially common for women who do not know what pace they can keep up, and it often happens that many cannot complete their first run without pain or strain.

For such people, elliptical machines are an excellent alternative as the machines regulate the intensity on their own.

Sore joints are also an issue for many.

Running requires strong joints, and when they are weak or painful, elliptical machines can provide better workout choices.

The only thing that cannot be fixed with elliptical machines is actual road running.

This is why it is suggested that people head to the track for a good run every once in a while for variety.

Elliptical machines are wonderful fitness equipment, and they can provide better results than running if the user knows what he or she is doing.

For those who do not know how to adjust their machine's resistance, it may as well be useless after all.

This means that setting goals and monitoring progress is a must for achieving the best results.

Being aware of one's limits and capabilities is vital, and it should be done carefully.

This means that if your body or joints are not ready to handle elliptical machines, you might want to consider other activities such as running or cycling until they get stronger.

Another issue with elliptical machines is that they do not provide upper body workout.

This can be easily fixed by wearing weights while using the machine, but if you are very keen on working out other parts of your body, you might want to consider elliptical cross trainers or regular treadmill machines.

Ellipticals have been known to come with a high price tag for some reason.

This is not true especially in the case of cross-trainers where instead of having one large machine, you get two smaller machines which work together in giving your body a comprehensive workout session.

These are excellent for joint problems and offer better options than one single elliptical machine.


Hi, Jeremy Here, 

I am the the guy behind Train for a 5K. On this site, I share everything that learned along my running journey. The content I create is the running training I wish I had before we started this journeyAbout Jeremy. 

I have run over 250 races including the California International Marathon, Clarksburg Country Run, and various other 5K & 10K races throughout the United States. I am a former Athletics department employee at University of the Pacific and Shoe Consultant with Dicks Sporting Goods

Hi, Jeremy Here, 

I am the the guy behind Train for a 5K. On this site, I share everything that learned along my running journey. The content I create is the running training I wish I had before we started this journeyAbout Jeremy. 

I have run over 250 races including the California International Marathon, Clarksburg Country Run, and various other 5K & 10K races throughout the United States. I am a former Athletics department employee at University of the Pacific and Shoe Consultant with Dicks Sporting Goods

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