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Treadmill and Elliptical Science

Treadmills vs Running

A study by Elliot & Blanksby in Medicine and Science in Sports examined stride length and stride rate. The authors recorded no significant differences in stride length or stride rate between running on a treadmill and outdoors when running between 3.3 and 4.8 meters per second. However, at higher speeds, stride length decreased, while stride rate, and the length of time a leg is on the ground, increased.

Treadmills v. Bike, Rower, and Stepper

A study from the Medical College of Wisconsin found that treadmills provide the most efficient way to burn calories when compared to other popular exercise machines. Researchers asked eight male and five female young adults to exercise on six different types of indoor exercise machines, including a cross-country skiing simulator, stationary bike, rower, and stair stepper. They compared energy expenditure at ratings of perceived exertion levels of fairly light, somewhat hard, and hard, and found that subjects who exercised at “fairly light” burned approximately 40 percent more calories per hour on the treadmill as compared to the bike, which produced the lowest energy. Zenia and Clifford, Energy Expenditure with Indoor Exercise Machines, Journal of the American Medical Association (1996).

Treadmill v. Bike, Stepper, Elliptical

A study at the University of Wisconsin found that heart rates and oxygen consumption levels from using an elliptical machine were virtually identical to those from running on a treadmill, and much higher than walking on a treadmill, using a stationary bike, or a stepper. This was true despite similar rates of perceived exertion. However, the impact forces in the feet were closer to those from walking on the treadmill (Evaluation of an elliptical exerciser in comparison to treadmill walking and running, stationary cycling and stepping, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 1998) A similar study had similar results. Zenia &Hoffman, Energy expenditures with indoor exercise machines, Journal of the American Medical Association, 1996.


Going "backward" on an elliptical machine burns approximately 7% more calories than going forward. Kravitz & Wax, Metabolic response of elliptical exercise training, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 1998.


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