Stationary Bikes vs Treadmill – Which cardio trainer is best for you?

Obviously, you need a treadmill or a stationary bike for running or cycling at home respectively and your choice largely depends on whether you prefer running to cycling because these are two very different cardio exercises.

If you’ve already got a preference, then this article wouldn’t be very useful for you. But if you equally enjoy both or you’re not sure which route to take for better gains, then I’ve tried my best in this article to make your choice easier.

When comparing a stationary bike vs treadmill, aside your obvious preference for one type of activity, you should also consider some things like your fitness goal, your budget, the amount of space you have in your home gym, maintenance of these equipment and any current or recurring injuries you might have. 

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Quick comparison table

STATIONARY BIKETREADMILL
Max. Load up to 400 lbs.up to 600 lbs.
ImpactLow impact.High impact.
Injury RateLowerHigher
Calories Burned/hour200 – 1000 calories/hour.400 – 1800 calories/hour.
MaintenanceLowerHigher
Area StrainedLower body.Full body.
Durability High.Low.
Storage SpaceRequires smaller space.Larger space is required.
Power RateMostly self-driven200 Watts/hour
Price $200 – $2000.$200 – $4000.

First option: A stationary exercise bike

A stationary exercise bike is a bicycle without the mobile wheels. On a stationary bike, you’ll get the complete feeling of cycling, except… you’re doing so in your gym and not actually moving to anywhere. They have been around since the eighteenth century (source), but only started to become popular in the last 15 years.

Their popularity in recent years could be from the fact that they are easy to use, have very little impact on the joints – especially the knees – and burn a decent amount of calories.

READ ALSO: The Best Exercise Bikes for home use

Furthermore, there are now different iterations of stationary bikes which are based on the seat type and also on the resistance mechanism.

spin bike 1 - Stationary Bikes vs Treadmill - Which cardio trainer is best for you?

Based on the seat mechanism you can find upright bikes, recumbent bikes, and foldable bikes. And based on the type of resistance, there are magnetic resistance bikes, air resistance bikes, and friction resistance bikes (which are not very common).

For👍 

  • Low impact cardio trainers that are very easy on the joints.
  • Most models take up a lot less space than treadmills. 
  • Easy-to-use.
  • adjustable resistance to make the most of your workouts
  • Connected fitness programs available on many mid-tier models.
  • Less expensive than treadmills
  • great for burning calories during rehabilitation/recovery
  • good for lower body muscles, especially the calf and thighs.
  • requires very little maintenance

Against 👎 

  • Zero effect on upper body muscles
  • Does not burn anywhere near enough calories as a treadmill.
  • Excessive use may affect sexual performance

Second Option – A treadmill

A treadmill, on the other hand, is a machine with a large surface that you can run on. Most treadmills have a motor that moves the running surface at different speeds (can go as high as 17 miles per hour) and have other mechanisms such as incline, decline, and resistance to make your running session more challenging.

This means that running on a treadmill is very versatile and can already simulate most outdoor environments while providing all the same terrific calorie burn that running is known for.

ASUNA 7750 SpaceFlex Motorized Running Treadmill

Treadmills take up more space than exercise bikes, and generally need more maintenance in order to continue to function properly but they undoubtedly burn calories faster, and are becoming more versatile and cost effective.

READ ALSO: The 7 Best Treadmills for your Home Gym

There are manual treadmills that do not have a motor and move by making use of the energy generated as you run, treadmills for walking, and under-desk treadmills that are replacing work chairs in many new companies. And these all offer unique but interesting variations to the traditional treadmills.

For 👍 

  • Best for weight-loss programs
  • Less impact on knees compared to running on concrete
  • Adjustable incline and decline can simulate running up and down a hill
  • Total body exercise compared to stationary bikes that focus on the lower body
  • Great for beginners
  • Good and affordable entry-level treadmills.
  • Good long term investment in your health.

Against 👎

  • Difficult to use for rehabilitation
  • High impact on joints and knees
  • Larger than most stationary bikes
  • Requires regular maintenance to last a long time

Stationary bikes vs Treadmill

1. Injury risk

Although not so common, running on a treadmill generally has more injury risk than using a stationary bike.

These are some of the injuries associated with using a treadmill.

  • There is a high chance that you could lose your balance and fall off the machine. The incidents of this type of injury have reduced drastically as many treadmills have an instant stop button. 
  • Misstepping on narrow-width belts can cause an ankle sprain. 
  • Being thrown off the treadmill is possible if you set the speed too much faster than your legs can run.

Some injuries and risk associated with a stationary exercise bike are:

  • Pain in the knees caused by the constant circular motions of the legs.
  • Shoulder and back pain for overly long periods of hunching.
  • Butt pain due to sitting for long periods.
  • *Risk of decreased sexual performance due to constant seat pressure on the perineum region. 

Overall, you more likely to get a sports injury on a treadmill than on an exercise bike.

2. Durability

Both Treadmills and stationary bikes are machines and require some maintenance and servicing all through their use period to continue to function effectively.

However, a stationary bike has a lot less moving parts than a treadmill and so requires less maintenance. Another thing to note is that a treadmill bears your entire body weight as you run continuously on it when compared to many exercise bikes where you are seated and not bearing down on the pedals.

These two factors combined means that treadmill, although more robust, are more likely to break down when compared to exercise bikes.

3. Performance

When it comes to the intensity of your workouts, the number of calories burned, and the parts of the body trained during your workout on these two machines, treadmills have a clear upper hand.

While the exact number of calories burned on each machine will vary from person to person, running for 30 minutes on a treadmill can burn anywhere between 500 to 1,300 calories depending on speed, incline setting, and your body weight. A similar amount of time on a stationary bike will burn around 300 to 600 calories.

A treadmill is best for you if your goal is to lose weight.

Treadmill vs Stationary bikes – different use cases

Here, you have to articulate your fitness goal in order to choose which machine works best for you.

1. If you have an injury

If you suffer from any type of muscle, joint, or mobility problems, you might want to reconsider using a treadmill. For improving, strengthening, and healing these problems through exercise, using a stationary bike is a non-bearing exercise machine and is a better option.

2. If you want to lose weight

If you plan to burn more calories in a shorter time, stationary bikes are not the choice for you. Treadmills, as I have already stressed, are a lot more efficient in burning more calories compared to stationary bikes.

Therefore, you should definitely side with a treadmill if this is your primary exercise consideration.

3. If you just need to stay active 

A stationary bike would be the obvious choice if you want a machine to just stay active and get in some routine daily exercise. However, there are now very good low-budget walking treadmills that offer the same perk.

If you’re within this category, my advise is that you should go with an exercise bike because it requires less maintenance and takes up less space

Final Verdict 

A treadmill excels in being a great machine for weight loss and cardio conditioning, while a stationary bike excels in providing a low impact cardio training.

If you have the money and space in your gym, you couldn’t really go wring with buying both machines as they can also complement each other. But if you don’t and you have to chose only one, then make the decision based on these points discussed.

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