Exercise Bike vs. Elliptical for Weight Loss

The time has come – you’ve committed to a weight loss regimen. Maybe you´ve decided to buy new exercise equipment, or maybe you want to maximize your time at the gym and don’t know which machine will bring you optimal results. 

The good news – both the bike and elliptical are great, low impact options to keep up your physical fitness and lose weight. In this article, we will compare the elliptical and exercise bike to determine which equipment better suits your needs. 

Key Takeaways

  • Both the bike and elliptical are low impact cardio machines that can help you lose weight and improve your fitness, but they have different features and benefits.
  • The elliptical works both your upper and lower body, has adjustable resistance and incline, and mimics cross country skiing.
  • The bike mimics outdoor bike riding, has adjustable resistance, and can provide high intensity workouts.
  • The elliptical is good for runners, seniors, and people with injuries who want a low impact workout while the bike is ideal for people who want to burn more calories in a shorter time, join classes, or multitask while exercising.
  • The best choice between the bike and elliptical depends on your personal goals, preferences, budget, and physical ability.

What is an Elliptical Machine, And How Can it Help with Weight Loss?

An elliptical is an exercise machine with two bars that you push with your arms while you move the pedals in an elliptical motion. The calorie burn comes from the resistance on your arm muscles and the cyclical motion of your legs in the same upward and downward motion. The corporal movement somewhat resembles cross country skiing. 

Many people choose to use elliptical machines because they target the upper and lower body (as you need to pump with your arms while running). 

One major difference between a stationary bike and an elliptical is that the elliptical does lack a seat. Elliptical trainers are good for people with injuries and the elderly who like to stay active, due to its low impact.

Is an Exercise Bike Better than an Elliptical for Weight Loss?

A stationary bike is a cardio machine that mimics outdoor bike riding. It’s basically got everything that a regular bicycle has; a seat, pedals, and handlebars – but it’s set in place. An exercise bike almost always comes equipped with a way to increase or decrease resistance (either by a dial, electronic settings or a knob) for advanced calorie burn. 

Many people favor an exercise bike over an elliptical machine for weight loss because it’s possible to achieve high intensity workouts relatively easily and with low-impact on an exercise bike. You are in control of your pedalling resistance on an exercise bike – so you can increase the intensity of your workouts easily. 

This means that, theoretically, you could burn more calories in a shorter amount of time using an exercise bike vs an elliptical.

Types of Exercise Bikes

There are also numerous different styles of exercise bike, offering different options ofr people who want to lose weight, but have specific or varying requirements when it comes to the types of equipment they want or are able to use.  

While the different types of exercise bikes are all similar, and when used correctly they will, of course, aid in weight loss – they’re certainly not the same. Let’s take a look at some of the different types of exercise bikes.

Recumbent Exercise Bikes

This kind of exercise bike has pedals positioned in the front while the seat is more reclined. Because of the weight distribution and relaxed positioning, these bikes are well suited for the tall, overweight, or those with knee and back issues. This makes them a great option for people with a lot of weight to lose.

Your lumbar region back is supported, providing a more comfortable ride. You can watch a video about this particular type below. 

Upright Bike

Upright bikes are similar to the classic outdoor bike, but have wider seats closer to the handlebars. This prevents your back from hunching as much as it would riding your average bicycle. 

The upright back is a good fusion between the recumbent bike and the indoor bike. It will provide you a good workout but with intermediate support for your back and legs. However, upright bikes may not have straps on the pedals, which could make your foot slip out.

Indoor or Spin Bikes

These bikes are modeled after outdoor road bikes, and mimic the same kind of workout. They include narrower seats, pedals right below the feet and an inclined body position (your chest will be closer to the handlebars). They also have a single knob at the front that you turn to increase or decrease resistance, emulating riding hills. 

The positioning of the seat also allows you to raise your body on and off of your seat to tackle the high resistance. Examples of spin bikes include the popular Peloton and Echelon brands.

Elliptical vs. Stationary Bike: Calorie Burn

Calorie burn and consequently, weight loss, are highly individual endeavors and depend on many factors. Therefore, it’s not guaranteed that you will burn more calories on one machine versus the other. If you choose to ride your stationary bike at high intensity, the bike tends to burn more calories. 

However, the elliptical can provide muscle toning in both the lower and upper body, and help to burn calories too (weight loss also comes from building muscle and burning more calories through new muscle growth). 

Bottom line: the amount of calories you burn while using either equipment depends on your intensity and exertion, but spin bikes could be your best option for a high calorie burn in a shorter time. However, both offer an intense workout if you put in the effort and pump up the resistance. 

Elliptical vs. Exercise Bike Pricing

The price of exercise equipment will always depend on the quality. You can get a smaller, apartment-size elliptical equipment for as low as $300. They can be a great choice for home fitness in a smaller space. You can also get larger and commercial-grade elliptical machines, but they will set you back anywhere from 1,000 to 4,000 dollars. 

The same applies to exercise bikes — the pricing depends on the quality of the machine, its additional features, and the manufacturer. 

A popular, comprehensive spin bike like a Peloton will cost you about $1,500 dollars. Many people think of this as a lifelong investment. However, with Peloton you also will pay a membership fee of around $44 a month – so it all adds up!

Elliptical vs. Exercise Bike for Runners

If you’re a runner looking for a low impact option, an elliptical trainer will likely be the better choice for you. Ellipticals work similar muscles you engage while running, and have the added benefits of working your upper body. 

While both the exercise bike and elliptical will strengthen your cardiovascular health, the truth is that neither will prepare you for any intense races. Rather, they are great options if you’re a runner looking to vary training with a low impact cardio workout.  

Exercise Bike vs. Elliptical for Seniors

Both stationary bikes and elliptical trainers are great choices for the aging body, due to their low impact nature. For many senior citizens, a recumbent bike will be the appropriate machine due to its lumbar support. 

The design tends to put the body in a more relaxed position which favors a stress-free workout. As physical ability deteriorates with old age, the elliptical trainer becomes less viable due to the coordination and balance it requires.

Pros and Cons of Exercise Bike vs Elliptical for Weight Loss

Exercise BikeElliptical
ProsVirtual classes widely availableGreater ability to multitask while ridingGreater control over resistance and effort (so more calores burned)Low impact exerciseFull-body workoutThe standing nature of the workout is attractive for sedentary lifestylesLow impact exercise
ConsPeople may find the seat uncomfortableCan require maintenanceDoesn’t really imitate any athletic event (purely ‘exercise-only’)Some people may find it difficult to balanceThe high price can be hard to swallow

Benefits of an Elliptical Machine 

Elliptical machines are popular cardio machines because they offer a high calorie burn without the impact of running on a treadmill. Here is an outline of the major attractions of an elliptical trainer: 

  • Resistance and incline: The resistance is adjustable based on your fitness level, and you can build up the resistance over time. You can also increase the incline on some machines, which aid in muscle tone for the glutes and quads.  
  • Weight loss: a 155 pound individual will burn 330 calories within a 30 minute session, which when done consistently, will help you lose weight.
  • A complete body workout: The adjustable limbs on an elliptical machine work various muscle groups: the arms, shoulders, quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings. It also can strengthen your core. Another bonus of the machine? You can cycle backwards, which provides a unique and varied workout from the classic machine.
  • The low-impact nature: An elliptical machine mimics walking but with less impact and higher calorie burn. This makes it ideal for seniors, those with arthritis, or long-distance runners who want to avoid stress fractures.
  • Standing nature: Patrons with sedentary lifestyles may be attracted to an elliptical workout as it allows you to stretch out and take a break from being seated. 

Benefits of an Exercise Bike 

One of the major benefits of a stationary bike is the intensity your workout can provide. You’ll see that they offer most of the same benefits of an elliptical machine. Here is a list of the most popular benefits a stationary bike workout can offer:

  • Resistance: On indoor spin bikes, pumping up the resistance can provide a very strenuous workout that will work many of your lower body muscles. 
  • Weight loss: Depending on your speed and resistance, you can really reap the calorie burn benefits on your bike. According to Harvard Publishing, a 155 pound adult can burn around 360 calories in thirty minutes at a rigorous speed. 
  • Low-Impact: As you aren’t clashing your joints against a hard ground, biking is a wonderful way to build muscle in your lower body without the impact on your joints. 
  • You’re Seated on the Bike: As you are sitting, many people enjoy multitasking while on their bike. You won’t be bouncing up and down, which allows you to be able to read or watch videos on a screen while biking.
  •  Versatility: One bonus that the exercise bike has over the elliptical is the capacity to join classes. Many bike brands have screens that allow you to join virtual classes, and many gyms also offer group biking classes that can help you push yourself to your limits.

Drawbacks of an Elliptical Machine

  • Price: As with all exercise equipment, if you are purchasing it for your home, the price is definitely something to consider. Exercise machines aren’t cheap, so ensure you purchase one with a good guarantee just in case. 
  • Balance and Coordination: Most patrons will have no issue with these elements of fitness, but some seniors may find the elliptical more difficult as they age. However, it can also be a positive aspect – coordination and agility are true components of physical fitness worth training.
  • Not ideal for training: As the elliptical doesn’t truly imitate any real athletic event in real life, it won’t help properly train you for any specific races. If you are training for a marathon, triathlon, bike race, or other athletic event, you’re better off with the treadmill or stationary bike at the gym.

Drawbacks of an Exercise Bike

  • The uncomfortable seat: Some people detest exercise bikes solely because of the seat. It’s true that you may get sore behind after your first couple of times riding. However, this can be relieved by adding cushioning or padding to your bike seat. You can also wear padded shorts. Working on your biking form can also ameliorate your pain.
  • Maintenance: Lots of times, stationary exercise bikes can make squeaky or rattly noises due to the loose bolts or dried out brakes and belts. The maintenance can be a nuisance and expensive at times. 

Bottom Line: Bike vs. Elliptical

Both the elliptical trainer and stationary bike are great low-impact equipment choices if you are hoping to enhance your overall fitness and health. If weight loss and burning fat are your primary goals, both machines offer similar benefits if you are willing to bring the intensity and pump the resistance. 

The cardio machine that is best catered to your goals is largely influenced by personal preferences. 

Use an Elliptical If:

  • You want to tone your upper body, core, and lower body
  • You want to remain standing while working out
  • You hope to improve your balance and coordination
  • You enjoy working out at a moderate cadence
  • You seek a low-impact workout that you can complete indoors

Use an Exercise Bike If:

  • You prefer to do virtual classes or participate in gym classes (Peloton only)
  • You want the option of more back support while working out (choose a recumbent bike) 
  • You want the option of multi-tasking when working out
  • You have balance or coordination issues 
  • You’re hoping to train for bike races

What did you think about this article? Did you get all the information you need to make your decision? Let us know below in the comments.

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