Exercise machines come in different shapes and functionality, and it can get very confusing for people new to exercising – and even at times seasoned professionals – to choose between them when incorporating exercise equipment into their workout routines.
In this article, we will try to help you choose between stationary(exercise) bikes and elliptical trainers. By the end of this article, you will have a good understanding of each exercise machine, when to use and do not use them, benefits you get when using each machine, and much more.
The article goes as follows
- What is an Elliptical?
- What Is A Stationary Bike and What Are Its Different Types.
- Which is Best For What?
- Which Cost More?
- Advantages & Drawbacks of each and how they compare
What Is An Elliptical?
Simply put, an elliptical is an exercise machine similar to a stationary – exercise – bicycle. One of the main difference is the fact that and elliptical lacks a seat; so performing an exercise on the elliptical is done in an upright position while moving the pedals of the elliptical in a movement similar to an eclipse. Like this
Elliptical trainers work your body without putting too much pressure on your joints, therefore, it is great for people with injuries and the elderly who want to stay in shape this is one of many benefits of elliptical trainers which we will be covering later in this article.
What is A Stationary Bike?
An exercise bicycle – stationary bicycle – is a piece of cardio exercise equipment that includes, a seat, pedals, and handlebars.
Exercise bikes are very beneficial when it comes to cardio fitness and improving your strength, that and a host of other benefits that we will be mentioning later in the article.
Exercise bicycles come in three different main types
- recumbent exercise bikes
- upright exercise bikes
- and indoor cycle bikes also known as a spin bike.
We will be going over each type in-depth in the next section, covering their specific uses, who should use them, and their benefits and potential pitfalls.
Types of exercise bikes
In this section are going to be discussing in detail the three types of exercise bikes we mentioned previously.
1. Recumbent Exercise Bike
The recumbent exercise bike is an exercise bike that is designed to put the rider in a laid-back position since the pedals of the bicycle are positioned in the front and the seat has a lay-back mechanism. Because of this designed these bikes are great for tall people who for those that are on the heavier side.
This bike comes with a lot of benefits
- The way you sit in a recumbent bike helps your lower back (lumbar spine) since you’re pretty much in a resting position.
- The seat is usually larger on the recumbent bike which adds more comfort to the person using it.
- Being fully rested and comfortable when using this bike also translates in your workouts making them more gentle on all your joints this helps greatly in preventing potential injuries. For this reason these exercise bikes are great for knee rehab and for those who need to have low stress on their joints.
- All the benefits we mentioned above make the recumbent exercise bike, generally, safer to exercise with(low impact).
The recumbent exercise bike is best suited for overweight people, seniors, or people who would like to be able to exercise in a more comfortable way.
Upright Exercise Bike
An upright exercise bike is designed more like a regular road bicycle. The Schwinn GTX 3 is a good example of a road bike and is the one that I ride most often. It also targets the same muscle areas in the body that a normal road bicycle would target; people who use upright exercise bikes will need to sit, well, upright, and hold onto the bike’s handlebars as they perform their work out.
Benefits of the upright exercise bike include
- It works a lot of muscle areas in your body since it puts similar pressure on these muscles as a normal outdoor bicycle would, consequently working most of your body.
- These muscle areas include your abdominal muscles, your arms(this includes biceps and triceps and shoulders), and of course your legs.
- The added pressure helps with increasing your blood flow to the heart and overall increasing the blood flow in your body which in turn improves your cardiovascular health.
The upright exercise bike is best suited for people who are serious about losing weight and getting in shape. This exercise bike is not as comfortable as the recumbent exercise bike.
Indoor Cycle Bike
The indoor cycle bikes are the closest thing you can get to the real road cycling experience. These bikes are designed to simulate a real road bicycle with all its moving parts. As you might have guessed already, this bike puts the most pressure on your body but that doesn’t come without its benefits.
These benefits include
- a comprehensive full-body workout that mimics a real-world sporting activity; simulating the physical activity and reaping the benefits in the process.
- The indoor cycle bike helps competitive bicycle racers in honing their skills because not only do they train their bodies, but they also train their mind to do the cycling activity as it should be done.
- These bikes are designed in a way that works with programs like Zwift, Sufferfest, and TrainerRoad.
For those that want to see a comparison of TrainerRoad and Zwift you can see my review of both here.
Indoor exercise bikes are designed for people who want to be able to do live workout sessions with apps such as Peloton or other alternatives like iFit, and as I said, Zwift.
This is great for people who take cycling seriously; be it, competitive racing or normal people who like cycling outside.
Elliptical Trainers vs Stationary Bikes – Which is Best for What?
So by now, you have a pretty good understanding of the differences between elliptical trainers and exercise bikes.
Now we’re going to discuss their usability in different workout scenarios like, which one is better for losing weight, which one is better for your knees, which one is better for seniors, and so on.
Which Is Best for Losing Weight and Burning Fat?
When it comes to losing weight both the elliptical and the exercise bike will help you in burning calories but the elliptical does this a little more efficiently. You burn about 15% more calories when using the elliptical than when using the exercise bike; this is due to many factors.
One being that these machines offer full body workouts and the fact that you are standing rather than sitting down like you would when using an exercise bike. other is that you are standing when you’re using the optical while you are sitting when using the bike. But let’s face it, not everybody can ride the bike like this. And if your intention from the beginning is to do the cycling activity while standing you might as well just go with the elliptical.
Which Machine Is Best for Bad Knees?
If you have bad knees and you still want to work out and be in good shape, then your best bet is an exercise bike, specifically, a recumbent exercise.
This is simply due to the position that the bike puts you in; you are seated in a very relaxed position with your back supported, there is no weight on your legs that means that there is not going to be any impact on your knees. Not only that but the pedals on the recumbent bike are in the front not below as with other bikes. All of this results in this bike being low impact, meaning it doesn’t impact your joints (knees included) as much of the other bikes.
Which Is Best for Seniors?
As people get older staying in shape becomes harder; as your body gets older your overall physical ability and flexibility decreases significantly but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work out or exercise, on the contrary, you should strive to combat the negative side effects that come with age by working out and trying your best to stay in shape.
This is why we recommend the recumbent exercise bike over and elliptical or a treadmill if you are a senior.
As we mentioned above it is extremely low impact and it still helps you work a lot of muscle areas in your body without putting a lot of impact on your joints and other areas in your body that are more prone to injuries due to the age factor.
This is because, as we explained before in this article, the recumbent exercise bike is designed in a way that relaxes your body and supports your back. You sit on a large seat with your back supported with both of your feet on the pedals which are located in front of the bike giving you a very relaxed and comfortable seating position and allowing you to carry out your exercise with little worry about injuries or stress.
Which Is Best for Runners?
Now on the other hand, if you’re a competitive runner or generally someone who likes running outside but for some reason, you have to stay inside and choose a piece of exercise equipment to substitute your normal running routine, then an elliptical is going to be perfect for you.
Ellipticals also provide you with a low impact workout this means you don’t work your knees and joints as hard as you would with other exercise equipment like for example, a commercial gym or professional treadmill.
Another thing that the elliptical does better than the exercise bike or treadmill is allows you for a full-body workout. You’re constantly pushing and pulling the handles of the elliptical this helps with toning your upper body, and moving your legs in the elliptical motion works your lower body; giving you a total body workout, and that something the exercise bike can not provide.
Elliptical Trainers vs Stationary Bikes – Which cost more?
When it comes to exercise equipment prices, as anybody would expect, it highly depends on the quality of the exercise machine; in our case, we are comparing stationary bikes and elliptical trainers.
The same thing goes for the exercise bikes we discussed above; it all depends on the quality of the elliptical, additional features, and the manufacturer of the exercise machine.
If you are looking for just a good bang for buck home elliptical machine both the concept model d and Nordictrack RW900 are about the best that you can find.
Elliptical trainers vs Stationary Bikes – Advantages & Drawbacks
In this section are going to compare the stationary bike against the elliptical and see which offers the better bang for buck buy, which offers more benefits overall and what the drawbacks of each is.
Benefits of Elliptical Trainers
We have briefly gone over the benefits of elliptical trainers at the beginning of the article but now we’re going to address each benefit separately so that you clearly understand what you’re going to get by using the elliptical.
Provides a Total Body Workout
The way the elliptical is designed provides you with an exercise machine that will exercise pretty much all the muscle areas in your body, your arms your shoulders your abdomen (your upper body) in addition to your lower body your legs and your knees are all worked and impacted by the movement pattern that you perform on the elliptical. Will this machine give you a 10 pack set of abs? No but it will help significantly with toning up.
As we have mentioned numerous times in this article, the elliptical provides you with a low impact exercise that helps you immensely in working almost all your body without worrying too much about your knees and joints being stressed more than they need to be. And that helps greatly with reducing the risk of injuries giving you a nice well-rounded exercise routine that is also pretty safe.
Improving Your Stamina and Cardiovascular Health
The elliptical machine gives you a great opportunity to have a good aerobic workout that helps with your heart, blood flow, lungs, and muscles.
Cardio exercises are amazing when it comes to improving the stamina and endurance of your body and its cardiovascular health because it pushes your heart and lungs to work harder in order to provide your muscles with the blood and oxygen they need.
Cons of Elliptical Trainers
While the elliptical has tremendous benefits, as we mentioned above, it does have a couple of downsides that we will be mentioned next.
The lack of the seat, and being constantly standing can be a turnoff for some people who simply like to work their body with the most comfort that they can possibly get.
And not to mention unless you buy a bigger 20 inch stride elliptical they can be quite awkward for people over 6′.
If someone is too overweight or too old then standing on the elliptical might not be the optimal way for them to work their bodies as they may get too tired too early and that is definitely something they would not desire
Too Much of A Workout for Some
This one relates to the one we mentioned above as the elliptical is not for everybody, yes it offers a low impact exercise but it can be hard for some people to exercise on it, as we mentioned above someone is too older or too overweight then the elliptical is simply not for them.
For those want even more of a workout though, say for example athletes and sports goers. An elliptical might not be able to provide enough intensity. Rather a rowing machine or a punching bag might be a better home option.
Benefits of Exercise Bikes
Just as the elliptical trainers, exercise bikes have their own unique benefits that you can garner and that differentiate them from other exercise equipment and these benefits are what we are going to be discussing next.
Allows for Interactive Live Training Workouts
One of the really cool benefits that you get with an exercise bike is that it allows for live interactive training workout sessions(like the apps we mentioned above Peleton, Ifit, or Zwift). As far as workouts go, jumping on a Zwift exercise bike can be one of the most riveting and exciting workout experiences that you will ever have.
Although this is not to say that elliptical workouts are not fun because some of them really can be.
Zwift gives a computer-simulated world that mimics the real road cycling experience from the comfort of your home without the drawbacks that come from cycling on a real road. You know…potential accidents, injuries, and weather.
That is not to discourage going out, every once in a while cycling outside can be a great experience, you will enjoy the view, the fresh air, and potentially cycling with other people, your friends maybe, but still the benefits of an interactive live workout are not to be underestimated.
Comfortable Seating Position
Let’s face it, we all like sitting down when we are doing anything, that feeling will transfer over to exercising as well; a piece of exercise equipment that allows us to move and work a lot of muscle areas while we are sitting down is a dream come true for a lot of people if you ask me. The seat on an exercise bike allows for a very comfortable safe exercise position that works, pretty effectively, one a lot of your muscle areas.
Very Low Impact
As we said before, this is a lower impact workout than an elliptical workout.
Best for Overweight Users or Elderly People
As we said, exercise bike are better for seniors and overweight people.
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