Treadmill vs. bike: Which should I buy?
What’s the difference between treadmills and bicycles?
If you’re interested in getting more active, you might be wondering whether walking or biking better aligns with your fitness goals.
Walking and biking are both forms of aerobic — or cardiovascular — exercise. These low-impact activities elevate your heart rate to improve circulation throughout the body. While they can both achieve this, there are pros and cons to consider for walking on a treadmill and biking, whether you’re looking for ways to lose weight, build endurance or simply get moving.
To help you find the right type of exercise for your fitness goals, we put together this guide comparing the benefits of walking on a treadmill versus biking.
A treadmill is considered universally friendly, meaning it can be used by virtually anyone, including individuals managing mobility concerns. A treadmill offers a customizable exercise experience through a variety of speed settings and inclines.
Treadmills are as low-impact as you can get, and they’re one of the safest exercise machines to use. They operate at low speeds and have side handles to help you keep your balance. In fact, the Mayo Clinic states that walking aids in balance and coordination development.
High-tech treadmills with touchscreens and interactive apps elevate your walking experience. Depending on the app, you can enjoy sightseeing, hiking or group walks with a class. Many of these screens can be used to stream media as well.
Out of all home exercise machines, you have the greatest chance of finding a folding or portable model in a treadmill. They’re convenient for small or mixed-use spaces. Depending on their designs, these treadmills either have wheels for easy moving or folding mechanisms to tuck behind or under furniture.
Walking on a treadmill doesn’t give you the same high-calorie burn as other equipment used at similar paces, such as ellipticals or bikes. As a result, you might find a treadmill somewhat limiting unless you’re prepared to start jogging or running on it.
Some home treadmills operate loudly, which may be problematic for households with sleeping children, remote learners or work-from-home professionals. In addition, the “pounding” on a treadmill can bother downstairs neighbors if you’re in an apartment.
Folding treadmills seem convenient, but they typically lack the construction quality and high-tech features seen in regular treadmills. Some of these treadmills still have large footprints when they’re folded.
NordicTrack Commercial X32i: $3,799 at NordicTrackThis top-of-the-line treadmill features a 32-inch HD smart touchscreen and comes with one-year access to iFit, an interactive personal training app. The gym-quality machine has Reflex Cushioning to absorb impact, making your walks and runs easier on joints.
Sunny Health & Fitness Asuna Space-Saving Treadmill: $699.99 at AmazonThe right size for apartment living, this folding treadmill is no stranger to premium features. It has a device dock, built-in speakers and media ports. The base of the treadmill has a floor stabilizer for noise reduction. Also available at Dick’s Sporting Goods
ProGear 190 Manual Treadmill: $129 at AmazonSimple yet solid, this affordable manual treadmill offers two-level incline and twin flywheels. The oversized belt rollers offer a smooth, consistent walk. Users praise the extended side rails for their optimal positioning.
Biking holds strong as a popular activity and pastime. There are indoor cycling options, including recumbent and upright bikes, as well as outdoor options. Like treadmills, a bike lets you adjust settings like resistance to customize your ride.
Biking can be enjoyed as either an individual or group activity. Cycling groups often train for triathlons and races together. Many people swear by the energy of spin classes. Interactive cycling classes are available on exercise bikes like Peloton, MYX and Schwinn.
Many active individuals attribute their strong, solid core to biking. According to the Mayo Clinic, improved core strength aids in better posture and greater range of motion in other activities, like golf or softball. Biking helps build the core by working abdominal muscles as well as major muscle groups in the lower back and legs.
Recumbent bikes are recommended for individuals who’d like a low-impact workout without the added stress of standing. These machines are perfect for working on lower body strength, particularly the quads and glutes.
Outdoor biking isn’t a year-round option unless you live in a temperate climate. While some outdoor cyclists use bike trainers indoors during poor weather conditions, they don’t offer the outdoor expedition experience.
An indoor exercise bike can be expensive, particularly if you’re interested in high-tech perks like live-streamed classes. Indoor bikes have large footprints, and not every consumer has room in their home to accommodate one.
Studio cycle classes often require pricey memberships, and they involve a commute to the studio. It can be difficult to snag a spot in classes led by popular instructors. There’s also the hassle of trying to reserve a bike on apps, which aren’t always reliable.
Schwinn IC4 Indoor Cycling Bike: $899 at Schwinn FitnessThis compact yet capable indoor bike has a Bluetooth LCD touchscreen that works with popular cycling apps, including Peloton, Zwift and Explore the World. Its smooth, magnetic resistance offers a comfortable riding experience.
Nautilus R618 Recumbent Exercise Bike: $799 at NautilusThis Bluetooth-enabled recumbent bike delivers a gym-quality ride and works with app-based tracking tools such as Explore the World. It offers 29 Nautilus Training programs with customizable options. The contoured gel seat and seat back offer adjustable support. Also available at Amazon
Marcy Exercise Upright Fan Bike: $349.99 at AmazonThis economical option doesn’t compromise on construction given its premium steel frame. Users appreciate the dual exercise arms, which deliver a true full-body workout. The front of the bike is equipped with transport wheels for easy portability.
Should I get a treadmill or a bike?
A treadmill is a smart choice for individuals who prefer simple, low-impact cardio workouts that can be enjoyed year-round. An outdoor or indoor bike is a better option for people who prefer a bit more versatility and customization when it comes to intensity.
Sian Babish is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.