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Exercise Bikes or Elliptical Trainers: Which is Better?

Last Updated on Jun 16, 2016
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Workout with Exercise Bikes and Elliptical Machines

Cycling on an elliptical machine or an exercise bike provides an excellent combination of fat-burning, cardio workout and strength training exercises. The pace can also be set to high or low intensity in both types of cycling exercises.


Both stationary bike and the elliptical trainer have similar cycling benefits. Being indoor machines, they can be incorporated into the routine of home based workouts and done while watching a movie or a particular television show. They make a good choice when the weather outside is too bad for jogging or running. However, some basic differences are seen while working out with stationary and elliptical cycles.

Workout With Exercise Bikes and Elliptical Machines

Stationary Cycle

A stationary cycle lets you hold on to the handles, be seated on a special seat and move the legs to pedal the cycle. The exercise intensity can be adjusted by tightening the wheel and the speed can be increased by pedaling fast. This means that you can use only your lower body to workout.

Stationary Cycle Workout

These exercise bikes provide an intense workout for thighs and buttocks. They are also good to get the heart pumping faster and burn calories. Further, adjusting the handles can determine how much you want to lean forward. Leaning forward makes the cardiovascular workout more intense, though it still does not provide any workout for the hands.

If you want to exercise your arms on a stationary bike, you can choose some hand exercises and perform them along with the pedaling movements. Doing this can increase the heart rate and make the workout more vigorous.


Elliptical Machine

Elliptical trainer or cross-trainer is a machine that is primarily driven by legs, by standing on a pedal that is attached to two handle-levers. The handle levers also provide support to move the pedals, while simultaneously working out the arms as well. The push and pull movements with the hands in a criss-cross manner are coordinated with those of the pedaling movements in elliptically shaped paths. The motion is similar to climbing stairs or running in slow-motion, with hands being used for support.

Elliptical Machine Workout

Elliptical trainer goes smooth and soft on the knees. The user does not lift his or her feet away from the pedaling floor, thus does not impact the foot surface. Using the hands gives extra support for pedaling and provides a workout for the arms as well. Most of the elliptical trainers have a stationary handle too that can be used when the user wants to rest his hands.

The elliptical trainer also provides excellent weight bearing exercise. Weight-bearing exercise is one of the best bone-building exercises as it forces your bones and muscles to work against gravity. Regular weight-bearing exercises help the bones to adapt to the impact of weight and muscle pull. More bone cells are produced and the bones become stronger. This helps in prevention of osteoporosis.

Elliptical TrainerStationary Cycle
Cardio workoutIncreases heart rate and metabolismIncreases heart rate and metabolism, but slower than elliptical machine
Weight bearingExcellent weight bearing exercises resulting in stronger and well-built bones. Prevents osteoporosis.Does not provide weight bearing workout but improves the strength of the leg muscles.
Muscles that are workedUpper body - Chest, shoulders, back, triceps, biceps
Deep core muscles of abdomen
Lower body- Glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, calf muscles, lower shin
Thighs - Glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps
Lower leg - Calf muscles, ankle muscles
Impact on jointsGoes soft on joints, but not recommended for those with severe knee problems or osteoarthritisLow impact on joints and recommended exercise for people suffering from knee pain
Strain on BackNot recommended for those with back pain as exercised in standing positionLess impact on the back, hips and knees as the person is seated
Ease of exerciseHigh intensity and whole body workout so can be done for a lesser duration.Low impact exercise, so can be done for longer time, improving endurance and stamina
Aerobic exerciseThe use of arms improves the aerobic effort. Hence better transport and use of oxygenLesser levels of aerobic activity as only lower part of the body is used.
Pedaling in reverse directionHelps in working out the calf muscles, without changing the resistance of the workoutHelps maintain the increased heart rate while the muscles rest for a while as there is no resistance in reverse pedaling
For beginnersA beginner can start with pedalling action first then go on to holding the handles and workout the handsRecommended for beginners, start with low resistance and increase the speed and resistance with time
For weight loss goalElliptical machine can be too strenuous for a beginner who is overweight by 30 kilograms. But elliptical trainers can be used effectively after getting used to the workout sessionsExcellent option for beginners with weight loss goals. But has to be used only as a part of the regime and workout arms, strength training Health Video and other physical activities to lose weight.

The manufacturers of fitness equipment have seen that both elliptical trainer and stationary bikes can be used effectively and have successfully come up with 2-in-1 cross trainer machine that has a seat and stationary handles fitted to the elliptical machine. This enables users to choose the pedaling in a seated position without moving the hands when they are tired of standing and pedaling the elliptical trainer, keeping the heart rate up, while resting the muscles.

  1. Fitness - (http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/expert-answers/elliptical-machines/faq-20058294)
  2. 7 Exercise Benefits of Real Bikes vs. Stationary Bikes - (http://www.icebike.org/exercise-benefits/)
  3. Benefits of Stationary Cycling - (http://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/exercise/workouts/other-activities/stationary-cycling.php)

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