Running vs Elliptical – Which is Better for Rapid Weight Loss?

It’s incredibly important when trying to lose weight to know that you aren’t wasting your time. Choosing the right exercise for your goals is the key to making them happen as quickly as possible.

In this article, I will clearly point out the advantages and disadvantages of both types of exercises.

Regardless of your ability and fitness levels, you may wish to incorporate both methods of training into your schedule. However, if your goal is pure weight loss, then where should you concentrate your efforts?

Let’s find out.

Running vs Elliptical – Which is Better for Weight Loss?

man running on bay walk during daytime

Running – The Advantages

  • Running is a wonderfully varied sport. No one run is the same. With comfortable trainers and a decent set of headphones, you can easily distract yourself from the distance you’re covering to continue running and shred those stubborn pounds.
  • Running is an excellent option for the self-conscious. Many people have reservations about going to the gym. Maybe it’s because of the notion that the gym is full of amazingly slim and toned people who make it look easy. Whatever you believe, let me tell you that it just isn’t true. However, if you feel that way, you can avoid the crowds by running outdoors. Take your training into the countryside or the local park where the routes are a little quieter, and no one is watching.
  • No equipment is required.

But we aren’t all created equally, are we?

man running into sunset

Running – The Disadvantages

  • It can be tough on the bones and joints. Especially in the beginning or after a significant break.
  • If you are a novice at running, you need to plan the route in advance. Depending on your fitness levels, you may need an escape route. Please don’t go wandering past the point of no return, deep into the wilderness, too tired to make it back. Ensure you plan a route first.
  • When running outside, the weather can be unpredictable. However, you could always use a treadmill. If you are a fair-weather trainer and hate to be caught in the rain, you’re better off in the gym. Unfortunately, it’s hard to avoid getting wet when you’re caught in the open.
  • Running is hard! The correct technique is required to make continual improvements when running. Much like swimming, you are likely to plateau at some point and become disillusioned. You may feel like your running distances and times aren’t improving at all. Without a coach, just like swimming, your technique may hold you back. You may want to quit on your heels when you have given your all, only to look down at your watch and realize you didn’t beat your PB.

If you are struggling with your running technique, take a look at this Youtube video on how to run properly for beginners.

Is Running Good for Weight Loss?

Most certainly. But it isn’t just as simple as pounding the pavement.

You need to be in a calorie deficit beforehand. Which means you need to burn more calories than you consume.

For beginners, you are compounding hunger with fatigue, muscle, and joint aches. That can all be a little bit too much.

Trying to lose weight with running requires a great deal of patience and persistence, but it can be achieved.

woman exercising on elliptical cross trainer

Elliptical – The Advantages

  • Elliptical machines are designed to be comfortable and produce helpful data to make training decisions on the fly. An elliptical is a fitness machine produced to get the most out of your body. There are two types, and they are manufactured with and without handles. By choosing an elliptical with handles, you can incorporate your core and upper body.
  • Its extremely low impact. Your body moves through a natural range of motion without contacting the ground. There is no shock applied to bones or joints.
  • Because it is a machine specifically designed for cardio, the elliptical can be programmed to suit your fitness levels. It’s easier to ensure you’re not biting off more than you can chew. An elliptical can be configured with varying incline/decline and resistance levels. You can make it as straightforward or as complicated as you want.
  • You can tailor your training program much easier to avoid injuries. If you are aware of any existing injuries and do not want to risk aggravating it further by running, then by using an elliptical you can simply have better control over what stresses you wish to apply to your body. I would strongly urge you to use an elliptical if you are carrying injury.
  • No technique is required.
  • You are out of the weather and more likely to be in a lovely modern air-conditioned gym, which will entice you to stay training for longer.

Have you made up your mind yet?

Elliptical – The Disadvantages

  • Elliptical training can be quite dull. That is a personal opinion, but I guess if you take your iPad or phone along with you, then that could help you ignore the pain, snot, and sweat. If you agree with me, then there is still hope. The market is full to the brim of quality exercise machines designed for weight loss. Just take a look here, we have a selection of the best exercise machines for weight loss for you to choose from.
  • An elliptical machine can be quite inaccurate when presenting distance and calorie burn data. There are far too many variables to account for, and therefore elliptical machines can show figures inaccurate by up to 25 %.
  • An elliptical is an expensive machine. If you do not have access to a gym, you will need to purchase one. However, we just so happen to have the perfect guide to help you choose the best elliptical machines.

And so – does an elliptical trainer work?

woman working out on an elliptical trainer in gym

Using an Elliptical for Weight Loss

Using elliptical trainers are an excellent way to burn body fat. The benefits are unquestionable.

Just don’t rely on the data the machine gives you. The composition of your body is different and will change throughout your fitness journey, and your technique is unique too.

Any cardio machine you come across in the gym will provide you with only a ballpark figure which should be taken with a pinch of salt.

Some people struggle to get started because they don’t know how to use an elliptical machine correctly. Watch this Youtube video for tips on how to use one properly.

Running vs Elliptical, Have You Made up Your Mind Yet?

Let’s make one thing clear first.

To understand if one option is better than the other for trying to lose weight, you need to consider one important factor. Your perceived level of exertion for both activities needs to be the same.

Perceived level of exertion is merely a measure of how hard you think you are working.

The time of day, diet and how much sleep you’ve had will all affect this perceived level of activity from one day to another, but to make our comparison accurate, you need to know the facts.

How to Work Out Calorie Burn When Running

My answer to this is always – How long is a piece of string? However, there are few hard and fast rules you can apply to this.

If you’re a beginner and have no data to back it up, as a general rule, an averaged size runner will burn 100 calories per mile. So if your target is to burn 300 calories, then you need to run 3 miles. That is undoubtedly a simple rule but gives you an idea.

Having said that if you know your average speed, weight, age height, and distance, you can get a more accurate figure. There are several tools online to help you figure it out. Here is one of them.

How to Work Out Calorie Burn When Using an Elliptical

As mentioned earlier, elliptical machines can overestimate calorie expenditure. Many top-end machines can be connected to 3rd party apps and heart rate monitors.

Most link directly to your phone and watch. When using an elliptical, you can use your heart rate to determine your calorie expenditure more accurately.

More than likely, your apps are already set up for this, but if not, check out this article on healthline.com about how to calculate your fat burning heart rate.

man working out on elliptical machine

So which is better, running or using an elliptical?

Running is a more efficient way of burning calories. It beats using an elliptical by approximately 100 calories per hour.

Running uses every major muscle group in the body, including muscle groups in the upper body. When running, you propel yourself into the air and between each step, your body is completely off the ground.

That requires a lot of energy and is the reason scientists attribute it to more significant calorie burning. According to a report published by the American council on exercise, running, hands down, burns more calories than a wide selection of other sports.

They even tested cycling, which is regarded as one of the best low impact sports there is. Some of the fittest individuals in the world compete in cycling.

To back up my claim here is an article from medicine.net who also found that you should run to burn more calories.

So there you have it.

Final Thoughts

Regardless of the exercise, the key to calorie burn lies in variety. The more varied your schedule, the more likely you are to stay interested.

If you go to the gym every day, you will quickly tire of riding an elliptical. If you run every day, you will start to fear the distances because you know the pain it brings.

Don’t do one single activity until you can’t stand it anymore. That is no kind of plan. Mix it up. Change up your schedule, and it will likely keep you motivated until you start to see the fruits of your labor in the mirror.

One other benefit of not going crazy on one exercise is the fact that you will lessen the odds of neglecting muscle groups or picking up injuries through overuse.

Personally, I would use all kinds of methods to suit my needs. There are no excuses either. Every year the fitness industry invents another convenient way for you to get your daily calorie burn.

For instance, did you know you could buy under desk cycling machines? You can now get a burn on in the office. Check out our buying guide for the best under desk bikes.

Are you looking for something different?

Running and elliptical training may not be your cup of tea at all. If you are interested in improving your cardiovascular endurance and would like to know your options, then read our article about the best cardio machines for home.

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