How to Choose the Best Cardio Workout: Treadmill vs. Exercise Bike

Both, the treadmill and exercise bike offer an advantage when you choose not to exercise outdoors. Depending on your fitness level, goals, and lifestyle, one of these pieces of equipment may be more ideal for you than the other.

For cardiovascular exercise, the stationary exercise bike and treadmill are the most popular equipment. Always present in fitness studios, commercial gyms, and home workout areas, both exercise bikes and treadmills provide a great way to get your aerobic training indoors

This article discusses everything you need to know about exercise bikes and treadmills so you can decide which piece of cardio equipment to choose for your fitness routine. Let’s start with the pros and cons of each.

Pros and cons of Exercise Bikes

1. Pros

  • Considerably boosts most fitness metrics.
  • Fairly low-impact and joint-friendly
  • Can enhance pace and balance
  • You’re not restricted by environmental factors such as the weather
  • Easy to track, measure, and adjust the intensity

2. Cons

  • Provides less major improvements in bone mineral density (BMD) compared to weight-bearing exercises
  • Doesn’t build considerable muscle
  • Less exciting for individuals who like outdoor exercise

Pros and cons of Treadmill

1. Pros

  • Enables you to run and walk in a comfortable indoor environment
  • Adjustable incline and speed provide great control of the intensity
  • Supports accurate data tracking
  • Allows the setup of digital experiences such as TV to improve the workout
  • Helpful as a rehabilitation balance tool and other pace-related abilities

2. Cons

  • Movement patterns are changed compared with running on standard surfaces
  • If you don’t use the safety leash you risk being thrown off the back 
  • You need to spend more energy to run the same speed on a treadmill compared with running on normal ground
  • You won’t experience nature and outdoors during your workout

Which Is Better: Exercise Bike or Treadmill?

To determine which is a better piece of exercise equipment between exercise bikes and treadmills, we compared them on the following factors ‒ workout difficulty, their versatility, the muscles worked on, the calories burned and losing body fat.

1. Workout Difficulty

It’s difficult to compare the workout intensity of an exercise bike versus a treadmill since it is majorly dependent on the settings utilized. For instance, doing an intense HIIT workout on an indoor cycle or spin bike with the cadence high and resistance cranked up will be more rigorous than leisurely walking on a treadmill at no incline. However, in general, treadmill workouts can be more demanding than exercise bike workouts.

To raise the intensity on an exercise bike, the cadence (pedaling speed) and resistance can be increased. On the other hand, on a treadmill, the incline and pace can be increased. Typically, most athletes notice their heart rate gets higher at a matching level of effort on a treadmill since walking and running are weight-bearing activities and need almost all important muscles of the body, while cycling is non-weight bearing and is nearly just a lower-body workout.

2. Versatility

To determine the versatility of exercise bikes versus treadmills, treadmills win over exercise bikes regarding the variety and range of workouts you can do. While you can plan your efforts on either exercise equipment such as a HIIT or interval workout, the fact that you can run or walk on a treadmill, and even have an incline, offers you a broad range of workouts and exercises. This can prevent you from getting bored and let you work different muscles for more fitness improvements.

3. Muscles Worked

Stationary bikes mainly work the hamstrings, quads, and calves, with the glutes to a lesser degree. Spin bikes also build up the core, shoulders, and back to some extent. A spin bike offers a total-body exercise. Running and walking work every muscle in the lower body, also the arms and core, if you don’t hold onto the handrails. Increasing the incline focuses more on the glutes, calves, and hamstrings.

4. Burning calories

Burning calories is the main reason why numerous people do cardio. When comparing the calorie burn from exercise bikes versus treadmills, you must consider the duration and intensity of your training.

Studies say that you burn 8.2–10.8 calories per minute on a treadmill, while you burn 7.9–10.5 calories per minute on stationary cycling.

For a 30–60-minute duration, these small differences can apparently add up. Still, if you increase the intensity on the bike just a little or add some more minutes of training, you could effortlessly be burning more calories with stationary cycling than with treadmill running.

5. Losing Belly Fat

Treadmills and exercise bikes can both support burning fat and losing weight. The more calories you burn, the more caloric deficit you will produce, which then converts to more weight loss. However, research proves that HIIT training is the most effective method to burn belly fat and promote weight loss because it enhances your metabolic rate even after you have completed your workout.

Forming lean body mass is also an effective method to lose body fat since muscle tissue is extra metabolically active than fat tissue. Therefore, crank up the incline on a treadmill or the resistance on an exercise bike to help build muscle.


To conclude, the benefits of doing any type of regular exercise rather than being seated always exceed any difference between specific exercise methods. This may be especially right for aerobic training.

If you’re choosing between an exercise bike or treadmill, select the option you prefer and are more likely to be consistent with. If you have specific injuries or your goals are sport-specific, you might choose a bike over a treadmill or the other way around.

Overall, both exercise bikes and treadmills are great pieces of aerobic equipment and provide numerous scientifically proven benefits to your fitness and health. Keep in mind, it’s never too late to begin when considering exercise.

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