Exercise Bike Vs Treadmill: Which One Should I Buy?

Stationary Bike and Treadmill Analyzed

While both the exercise bike and treadmill are useful pieces of equipment to have in your home, it’s likely that one – or the other – is going to be a better match for you. Both pieces are considered cardio exercise equipment designed to enhance your overall physical conditioning and build endurance through aerobic exercise. And either one can be used in just about any environment, even those with somewhat limited floor space.

Continue reading to know everything about these two options for improving your condition and aerobic endurance.


Exercise Bikes and Treadmills Similarities

Stationary bikes and treadmills are popular pieces of home exercise equipment. They’re also among the most commonly used options at most gyms too. Each is easy to use and capable of growing with you as you ramp up the intensity of your workouts and consequently, your fitness level.

Both forms of exercise have multiple health related benefits including lowering your risk of many diseases, like heart disease and diabetes. Using either machine can help you build and maintain a leaner, healthier body and like any good exercise – it makes you feel good all over. Working out regularly can lower anxiety and even depression in some cases.

You can manage a good cardio workout and feel the burn on either device. And both machines allow you to vary your routine by increasing resistance levels during workouts to enhance your level of conditioning.

Using an exercise bike or treadmill for extended periods of time means you’re getting a powerful aerobic workout, something that is tremendously beneficial to your health and well-being. It can also help reduce pain. That’s because aerobic exercise causes the release of endorphins – hormones that inhibit pain and promote feelings of well-being at the same time.

Stationary Bike

Exercise Bike Vs Treadmill: Similar Yet Different

But there are many notable differences too. In this article, we’ll discuss the benefits and drawbacks of both, which happen to be the two most popular pieces of home exercise equipment on the market. Our assessment is going to help you decide conclusively which piece of equipment will better serve your needs now and in the future.

A treadmill can help you burn a lot of calories. And thanks to the variations in incline and speeds, treadmills can provide as intense a workout as you want. While you can also burn significant calories on an exercise bike, at the same level of energy expenditure – you’ll consistently burn more of them on a treadmill.


Pros and Cons of Stationary Exercise Bikes

Getting your exercise on a bike is a better option for anyone lacking good balance, since you can stay seated for the duration. You can keep things basic, or ramp up your bike routines thanks to the workout programs and variable resistance capabilities supplied with the majority of stationary bikes these days.

Bikes work well for improving the flexibility of your leg muscles and ligaments. When seated on a bike, it tends to be easier on the lower back, for those who regularly suffer pain in that area.

On climbing onto a comfortable recumbent bike allows you to read or multitask as you workout.

On the downside, during a workout of equal intensity, you’ll burn fewer calories on an exercise bike vs. treadmill. And since there’s no impact with bike riding, you won’t get the bone building benefit of working out on a treadmill.

Stationary Bike

Pros and Cons of Treadmills

A quality treadmill offers a variety of activities including walking, jogging and running, though some of the smaller models may not be suitable for the latter. Variable inclines, speeds, and workout programs give you a full range of exercise benefits. You’ll likely burn more calories since moving on a treadmill typically involves moving more of the body than cycling does. Once you get used to a treadmill, you may find that you have less resistance to getting off the couch and into a daily exercise routine. And a treadmill can be good for multitasking with some modifications, like adding a small desktop to sit on top of the handlebars.

But treadmills aren’t perfect. No piece of equipment is. Injuries are more common on treadmills simply because it’s easier to miss your footing and trip up, though most come with a safety shut off feature to help avoid or minimize injuries. Using a treadmill puts pressure on the joints and lower back. But since most treadmills come with cushioned tread decks, they are somewhat easier on the body’s joints vs. jogging or running outside.


Exercise Bike Vs. Treadmill: Which Burns More Calories?

If you compare the same energy expenditure and time spent on each machine, the treadmill wins out in the calorie burning category. All things being equal, you will burn more calories on a treadmill than you would on a stationary bike simply due to the position of the body. On an exercise bike you’re in a seated position, so the seat supports your body’s weight. When walking, jogging, or running on the treadmill is weight-bearing exercise. You are carrying your entire weight and engaging more muscle mass as you propel your body forward. Not only does this help you burn more calories, it helps to prevent osteoporosis by maintaining your bone mass.

Stationary bikes on the other hand engage three major muscle groups – the quadriceps, hamstrings and calf muscles. Either way, you can increase the intensity of your exercise by boosting the resistance. But during weight-bearing exercise on a treadmill, the body is in full motion.

In a single hour, you can typically burn 50 to 250 more calories on the treadmill versus stationary exercise bike. That’s due to engaging more of your muscles in the activity than you normally would while riding.

On a bike you’re (mostly) in a seated position and therefore you may be more likely to work out for longer periods of time. That’s because it puts less puts less pressure on your joints and you’re in a relatively comfortable position. So one way to counteract this and burn more calories than you ordinarily would on a stationary bike is to spend more time on the bike. Increase the resistance and you’ll expend more energy and burn more calories.

The Best Compact Treadmills

Mix Up Your Routine and Burn More Fat

On a recumbent bike the upper body is not active at all. But if you ride with intense resistance and/or you do so over a longer period of time – you could exert more energy and burn more calories than a person walking at a slower pace on a treadmill. It really varies based on the intensity, variation and pace of your exercise.

Both treadmills and upright exercise bikes are proven effective way to reduce abdominal fat through high intensity interval training. Most models of both machines come with a variety of exercise programs built into their consoles. These programs help guide you through the training process so you can consistently ramp-up the intensity and improve your cardio conditioning significantly.

Recumbent bikes do not engage the abdominal muscles simply due to the positioning of the body. So if you’re trying to develop your core muscles and decrease your belly fat, choose something other than a recumbent stationary bike. If losing abdominal fat is your primary goal – a treadmill will probably be the better option for you.

Exercise Bike Vs. Treadmill: Which is Better For Weight Loss?

Both the stationary bike and treadmill can give you quality, vigorous workout. Both offer aerobic exercise and can be very effective at helping you lose extra weight.

Losing those extra pounds is the primary driver behind the purchase of either device for a lot of people, with good reason. The CDC states that even a slight loss of between 5 and 10% of excess body weight can have notable overall health benefits. The trick is to use whatever exercise equipment you’re more likely to use consistently. That’s the key. When you exercise consistently, you’ll lose the extra weight the healthiest way – in a gradual process over time.

Exercise Bike Vs. Treadmill: Which Is Better For Strength Training?

The stationary bike provides better strengthening benefits though it tends to not burn off as many calories over the same time on a treadmill. The secret is to really work those muscles by increasing the resistance, making it harder to pedal through each revolution. What both the treadmill and exercise bike offer in general terms is an effective form of cardiovascular exercise.

But to build strength in your thighs, hamstrings and calves, riding is the way to go.

Treadmills Are More Accommodating

Today’s treadmills and exercise bikes come in a variety of sizes, models and prices. In both cases, you can increase the resistance with the touch of a button or turn of a knob on the console. You can also vary our speeds and workout times to ramp up or scale down your exercise.

But bikes are somewhat limited in size. So for those with larger than average frames, you might want to for a spacious treadmill, since there’s a greater variety of options here. One key factor that comes in the play when considering a treadmill is the size of the tread deck – and they can differ dramatically. But on a stationary bike, it’s the space between the seat and the main control panel frame that limits access to some. Folks with larger builds probably won’t find the same comfort level on an exercise bike that others enjoy.

Most exercise bikes require you to be able to bend your knees at an angle that’s close to 90°. So anyone with limited movement or a condition that limits their mobility should be aware of this before making a purchasing decision.

The Best Compact Treadmills Find out our top 10 models here!

Exercise Bike Vs. Treadmill: Which Is Easier On The Body?

You’ll likely experience a greater degree of soreness from an upright stationary bike, due to the design and functionality. While riding, you’re often bent over, causing back or shoulder pain from being in a hunched position over a period of time. You can also develop pain from the constant circular motion made with each revolution on a bike. Adding days off between workouts can help minimize soreness in the knees. And the longer you’re seated, the more likely it is to feel pain in the backside, though this can vary from person to person and depends on the model of exercise bike you have.

Using proper posture while on an exercise bike can help minimize the discomfort in your shoulders and neck area. But the longer your workout, the more tired you get and the tougher it becomes to maintain good posture.

Treadmills are harder on the joints and injuries are probably less avoidable and generally more severe then on an exercise bike. Both pieces of equipment require natural movement that is done automatically for the most part – without you thinking about it much.

If you’ve rode a bike in the past (as almost everyone has as a child), getting on a stationary bike feels easy and natural. There’s not much of a transition at all. But if you’ve never used a treadmill before, it may take a little bit of practice before you feel comfortable using it. You need to get used to the moving tread under your feet. It doesn’t take long, but there is a slight learning curve.

Stationary Bike

Exercise Bike Vs. Treadmill: Which Device Is More Durable?

When it comes to machine durability, the stationary exercise bike wins out over the treadmill. With a bike, there typically is not that much that can go wrong. These stationary devices are fixed in position with an enclosed spinning wheel under or in front of the pedals. Stationary bikes rarely break down. If there is a breakdown, chances are it involves the electronics, which are far more delicate than solid mechanical structure itself. Electronics are also a major component in today’s treadmills. So there’s just no getting around the convenience – or susceptibility – that results.

With a treadmill, it’s not just the electronics that can be problematic. Principally, there are three areas where things can go wrong on a treadmill. These include the motor, the tread belt and the incline adjustment.

Exercise Bike Vs. Treadmill: Which Machine Takes Up More Space?

Bikes are almost always smaller in size than treadmills – though it is possible to buy a small and somewhat compact treadmill – one that is of comparable size to some of the bigger bikes.

But on average, a bike will take up less space in the room than a treadmill. It’s important to note that many of today’s treadmills are folding models. So after a workout, you can notably reduce the footprint your treadmill would otherwise claim by about 50% in most cases. Some reduce even further, but it’s a rare find.

Exercise Bike Vs. Treadmill: Which is Better For Cardio Exercise?

Exercise bikes been around for decades but new advances in technology and improved designs make today’s models much more valuable from an exercise perspective than they were in the past. This is particularly true for bike riders who choose to become participants in a spinning program, or group exercise workouts.

With these advanced options you can significantly increase your heart rate without putting serious stress on the joints like ankles, knees and hips. With built-in resistance you can intensify your workout to any level you wish. In fact, you can even simulate climbing hills and riding along different terrain easily.

Treadmills provide more of a full body workout. The act of walking, jogging, or running involves more muscles of the body than bike riding. Working out on a treadmill also engages the abdominal and back muscles as they help stabilize you as you move forward with each stride.

Stationary Bike

On a stationary bike you’re working muscles and extending your range of motion in a way that you don’t normally do with everyday activities. Naturally, that’s going to be quite different if you’re an athlete training on a bike. But the muscles you develop on an exercise bike are not typically those that will normally use on a day-to-day basis.

On the other hand, the movements required on a treadmill are much more practical and functional. It mimics the way you move every day of your life and it involves muscles that you use all the time.

Exercise Bike Vs. Treadmill: What Costs More?

Although low-cost options exist in both categories, treadmills are generally more expensive than stationary exercise bikes. But it really depends on the brand, the size and the model. Most treadmills are larger and heavier than exercise bikes. You can pay very little for a smaller treadmill. But it may not meet your size requirement and is not likely to last as long as an exercise bike.

The Best Treadmills Under $500 Find out our top 10 low cost treadmills

Exercise Bike Vs. Treadmill: Which is Better For Bad Knees and a Bad Back?

Bikes help users boost their heart rates without putting excessive pressure on the knees, ankle, feet, or hips. They also help to strengthen the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves. These are the areas where you really feel the burn whenever you when you cross a new threshold in your exercise routines.

Stationary Bike

If you suffer from bad knees, but can pedal without any pain – a stationary bike is the best option for you. A treadmill can be much harder on bad knees and backs due to the constant impact of every stride. Some physical therapists recommend using an exercise bike for those recovering from some knee injuries in order to continue to exercise as part of the recovery process.

Treadmills provide users with a low to moderate impact workouts, so some find them harder on the knees than the back. Bikes give you an opportunity to enjoy zero impact exercise. And on a recumbent bike, your back is supported by a comfortable, padded backrest.

Exercise Bike Vs. Treadmill: Which is Better For Toning Legs?

Working out on a treadmill and stationary bike is aerobic exercise that engages the leg muscles. But since cycling is a leg-driven action that doesn’t engage the upper body, you can build greater muscle definition by riding a bike. Riding a stationary bike will typically help you develop and tone the muscles in your legs more than you could on a treadmill.

Regardless of your form of exercise, it can be helpful to stretch your legs after working out. It’s also a good idea to warm-up before you ramp-up to a more intense exercise. Cooling down with more stretching after your workout is always a good idea too.

Exercise Bike Vs. Treadmill: Which Is Better For Weight Loss?

With time and energy spent being equal, you will burn more calories on the treadmill compared to a workout of the same intensity on a stationary bike. Both machines are helpful and worth owning, since they give you a strong aerobic workout that will boost your cardiovascular system while helping you to burn calories. But if you want to lose maximum weight, the most direct route is via treadmill since using it involves the entire body. The key is to use it. And that applies to any exercise equipment. It won’t do you any good if it sits idle.

For the best workout, it’s a good idea to vary your speeds. This can help you burn up to 20% more calories. Similar to interval training, when you mix it up with various speeds and inclines, your calorie burn rate soars. It’s always best to vary your exercise routines and keep the body guessing as you progress on your journey to better fitness.


The Best Option For You

If you want to become more active, lose weight and just get into better shape, both a treadmill and exercise bike can help. Ultimately, it’s a personal decision that depends on your needs and budget. But the key question to consider is this: Which one are you more likely to use on a regular basis? Although I’ve got both pieces of equipment in my home office, I only really use the treadmill.

Treadmills are versatile machines you can walk, jog, or run on. You can move uphill, downhill or on a level incline. And any movement on a treadmill simulates the body’s natural movement – so it’s easy for anybody.

Stationary bikes cannot give you a complete, full body workout – at least not to the same extent as you could get on a treadmill. If you can walk with ease – without any mobility issues – than a treadmill is good option for you. But if you prefer cycling – get a bike.

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About the author

    Martin Tripodi

    Software Engineer, husband, father, and avid enthusiast of outdoor activities! Total fan of great quality and functional gear, spends part of his free time researching and compiling loads of information in the form of guides, product recommendations and reviews.