Exercise Bikes vs. Treadmills
By Michael Walker
You’ve decided you want to exercise at home. There are hundreds of pieces of home cardio equipment available. The most popular are treadmills and exercise bikes. In deciding between the two, you should compare long-term sustainability, the effectiveness of the workouts, and safety.
The biggest obstacle to a home exercise routine is sticking with it. You don’t have to drive to a gym, so your home fitness equipment is more convenient. The problem is that other distractions are just as convenient at home. The key is to make your routine fun. You want to look forward to your daily workout. You have to be realistic. Playing with the heart rate monitor or watching the calorie counter go up will only be fun the first couple of times you exercise.
• Treadmill vs. Boredom
On a treadmill, you walk. Walking isn’t that fun. You can walk at different speeds, but that isn’t really much more fun. If you get a treadmill that offers an incline, that keeps it a bit more interesting. Walking uphill isn’t exactly fun, but it’s different. It presents a challenge.
You can’t really read on a treadmill because you are bouncing up and down. You can’t keep your eyes on the same sentence, and you usually end up with a headache. Basically, the only thing fun to do on a treadmill is watch television or movies. If you are really into TV or movies and are able to put your treadmill in front of a television, you can probably keep your treadmill workout from becoming too boring. Problems consist of commercials, the noise coming from the machine, and again, the bouncing.
• Exercise Bikes vs. Boredom
Exercise bikes are unique in that many of them come programmed with various biking routines. You simulate different courses that require you to sprint, pedal uphill, and perform at different levels within one workout without having to keep pressing buttons and changing everything. You can even select random programs so you don’t know what’s coming, which really keeps you on your toes. Some exercise bikes can even be plugged into televisions and video games to let you interactively pedal through visual courses.
On upright exercise bikes, you run into some of the same problems as treadmills as far as reading is concerned. Recumbent bikes, however, allow your hands to be free to hold a book or magazine, video game controller, or phone. Multi-tasking during an exercise bike workout keeps it from becoming boring and allows your workout to more easily fit into a busy schedule.
Defeating boredom to successfully keep up a long-term exercise routine is much easier with an exercise bike than a treadmill.
The Calorie Factor
In a study conducted by Nordic Track, young, healthy people used various exercise machines and did cardio workouts. Although they felt they used the same intensity on all machines, they burned the most calories on treadmills and ski machines.
On average, most people burn about 750 calories per hour on a treadmill. The same people are likely to burn about 550 calories per hour on an exercise bike. So it’s a no-brainer, right? You should get a treadmill because they burn more calories.
Well, not exactly. You can’t get so caught up in which machine burns the most calories. You have to take a lot of other factors into consideration. How likely are you to sustain a treadmill routine as opposed to an exercise bike routine?
Because exercise bikes are usually more fun than treadmills, you are much more likely to stick with it long-term. This means that even though you can burn more calories on a treadmill, you are also more likely to stop using it altogether.
You might also find it difficult to use it long enough per workout session to get the full benefits. Most people find it easier to workout for 20 minutes on an exercise bike than 20 minutes on a treadmill. You have to think about that. If you are likely to only do 10 minutes on a treadmill but can easily do 20 minutes on an exercise bike, you will burn more calories per session on an exercise bike.
So just going strictly by the numbers, treadmills burn more calories. If you easily get bored or have tried and failed to stick with exercise routines in the past, you might want to consider burning less calories per hour in favor of a sustainable long-term exercise bike regimen.
The biggest difference between exercise bikes and treadmills is overall safety to your body.
The first case of safety is the most basic. You can fall off of a treadmill. It’s very difficult, however, to fall off of an exercise bike. In fact, you would probably have to try to fall when riding an exercise bike. While you might be thinking you’d have to be pretty clumsy to fall while walking, it happens more than you’d think. People get involved with watching television or the beat of music. One wrong step and you can seriously injure yourself. It’s also possible to spill water or sweat on the treadmill track, causing a safety hazard you might not notice until after you’ve slipped.
Another safety hazard is injury from the activity itself. A treadmill puts quite a bit of stress on your joints, especially your knees and ankles. Even if you invest in a treadmill with some degree of shock absorption, when you eventually get to a jogging or running point, you can put severe orthopedic stress on your body, even up to three times your body weight. People with existing conditions such as arthritis will find a treadmill painful at times due to this stress. Otherwise healthy individuals can sustain injury and possible long-term damage over time.
Exercise bikes put much less stress on your joints. A properly positioned exercise bike supports your weight and still allows you to receive the benefits of a higher impact cardio workout. Upright bikes can sometimes stress your back in the way you have to bend to reach the handlebars. Recumbent exercise bikes, however, can actually improve existing back pain by forcing proper posture and giving support as you exercise. On any exercise bike properly used, your knees and ankles are not stressed as they are on a treadmill.
The less you stress joints, the less likely you are to sustain an injury during your workout. You are also less likely to be sore afterwards. Most importantly, a non-workout injury doesn’t always have to halt your exercise routine on an exercise bike. If you hurt your back or neck, you will find the support of a recumbent exercise bike will keep you from having to stop your exercise regimen altogether. Let’s face it – if you have to stop, you are less likely to start again.
An Exercise Bike is Better for Your Health than a Treadmill
As you can see, both pieces of home fitness equipment have advantages. While the treadmill continues to be the most popular piece of home gym equipment, most people are more likely to faithfully use an exercise bike. This means you’re more likely to have to dust a treadmill until it gets the garage sale sticker.
Michael Walker is a freelance author providing useful information about stationary bikes, recumbent fitness bikes and portable exercise pedals. His numerous articles offer comprehensive tips and solutions for the fitness enthusiast.
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