Exercise bike or elliptical? Let us help you choose the right one for you

Exercise bikes and ellipticals both work your cardio as well as your lower body. They may seem very similar at first glance, but there are real differences between these two home fitness devices, which lead users down two different training paths.

Elliptical: for a complete workout

Exercise bikes and ellipticals share a common advantage: they work your cardio and provide general fitness training, while sparing your joints from the repeated impact you experience with some other forms of exercise, such as running. But that’s where the similarities end for these two very different devices.

First big difference: the elliptical has no seat. It works your back and your abs, which are put to use to maintain your posture. The elliptical does come equipped with two movable handles, though, which are mechanically linked to the pedals. With these handles, you work your your arms and shoulders along with your lower body.

The elliptical is thus one of the most demanding pieces of fitness equipment, working nearly all your muscle groups at the same time. And because your motion on the elliptical is close to walking or running, your muscles get work in a natural, balanced manner. This helps you to tone up, providing everyday benefits to you. Finally, by toning your belly, the elliptical helps you keep your back straight for a more dynamic posture.

Exercise bike: a more specialised workout

Even if the elliptical sounds like the ideal machine, don’t discount the exercise bike. Its greatest asset: it makes you feel better! Whereas the elliptical reduces pressure variations on the joints, the exercise bike eliminates them completely, thanks to its seat, which supports your body weight while training. On an elliptical, it’s your legs that must act to cushion the impact on your joints. The exercise bike is one of the most gentle devices for joints. That’s why it’s the lower body rehab machine of choice for physical therapists.

In a way, the fact that the exercise bike works muscles less can be viewed as an asset, too. It can thus offer a more specialised training session, working your back muscles and abs, while leaving your arm muscles alone. For this reason, you should complement your bike training with something that targets your upper body (archery, javelin, etc.).

Result: 2 similar devices, 2 different uses

So, what should you choose for your home fitness workout? It depends on your goals.

Are you focusing on cardio?

Both exercise bikes and ellipticals are perfect for strengthening your heart. But if you have fragile joints or a weak back, or if you are overweight, the exercise bike is better. Exercise bikes give your arms a rest, and offer total comfort.

Want to lose weight?

The elliptical will burn more calories than the exercise bike over the same amount of time, while working your muscles more. But again if you are overweight, or just prefer cycling, then go with the exercise bike.

Aiming to get back in shape?

Do you want to get in shape or start exercising after a long layoff? The exercise bike and elliptical are both reliable, easy-to-use devices that enable you to build up to a progressively more intense training programme. So consider your weaknesses: which parts of your body do you want to tone, and which ones are more fragile? And there are other factors that might help you to make your choice. For example, your personal living space: if your home is small, you may want to go with the more compact exercise bike. Finally, let yourself be guided by a bit of whimsy: if you really like the exercise bike and don’t have any particular contraindications, go for it! If you know you’ll be more generally motivated by an elliptical, get this instead. In the end, the device you need is the device that will get you moving the most often.

To help with your decision, take a look at NordicTrack’s complete ranges of exercise bikes and ellipticals. With so many choices, you’re sure to find the model that suits you and will help you to reach your objectives. And don’t forget: whatever your equipment choice, you’ll get the best results when you train regularly.