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Exercise Bike vs Treadmill: What’s Better To Train With?


Exercise bikes and treadmills are among the most common gym machines to improve your cardio fitness. Both have many useful features and functions to help target specific muscle groups, and each comes with their own separate pros and cons.

Not sure which one is right for you? Chris Collett, a PureGym personal trainer and cluster manager, outlines the pros and cons of exercise bikes and treadmills, and explains which machine is best for weight and fat loss, training strength, and improving your general fitness.

If you're new to running or cycling, we'd recommend taking a look at our beginners' guide to running and our cycling exercises guide.

Treadmill vs Exercise Bike: What's the Difference?

The main differences when comparing exercise bikes and treadmills is how they operate and the benefits and experience they offer. 

Treadmills are designed to simulate outdoor running or walking, and they allow you to adjust speed and incline to mimic different terrains. On the other hand, exercise bikes provide a seated workout, where you pedal to simulate cycling. 

Aside from how they are used, one of the main differences between the two is the impact on your body. Treadmills engage more muscles throughout the body and provide a weight-bearing workout with a greater impact on the joints, while exercise bikes offer a lower impact option, making them ideal for people with joint issues or those recovering from injuries. However, it's important to warm up first with both machines to reduce the risk of injury!

Pros and Cons of Exercise Bikes vs Treadmills

Now that we've explored the basic differences between treadmills and exercise bikes, let's look at the pros and cons of each.

Exercise Bike Pros

  • Low impact. Ideal for people with joint issues or those recovering from injuries, as it minimises stress on the joints.

  • Versatile. Suitable for both steady-state cardio and high-intensity interval training (HIIT), offering flexibility in workout routines.

  • Compact. Takes up minimal space, making it ideal for home gyms or smaller workout areas.

  • Adjustable resistance. Allows you to customise workout intensity according to your fitness level and goals.

  • Comfortable seating. Provides a comfortable riding experience, reducing discomfort during longer workout sessions.

  • Alternative for injuries. Offers a safe and effective alternative for people with injuries or mobility limitations.

Exercise Bike Cons

  • Limited muscle engagement. Exercise bikes primarily target lower body muscles, potentially lacking full-body engagement.

  • Lower calorie burn. Exercise bikes generally burns fewer calories compared to treadmill running due to limited muscle involvement.

  • Boredom factor. Some people may find long sessions monotonous.

Treadmill Pros

  • Weight-bearing exercise. Treadmills can help to improve bone density and muscle strength.

  • Easily adjustable. Treadmills can have both the speed and incline adjusted, meaning it can be used for walking, jogging, HIIT or running workouts. This can also keep workouts more interesting.

  • Higher calorie burn. Running on a treadmill engages more muscle groups, leading to increased calorie expenditure.

Treadmill Cons

  • High impact. While treadmill running can be lower impact than outdoor running, it is still a high impact exercise and may pose risks, especially for people with joint issues or prone to injury.

  • Space requirement. Treadmills typically occupy more room compared to exercise bikes, which can be a limiting factor for those with limited space at home or in a gym.

  • Injury risk. Without proper guidance or instruction, improper running technique on a treadmill may increase the risk of injury. To help you avoid injury, take a look at our running and strength training plan.

In the end, the choice between an exercise bike and a treadmill depends on your personal preferences, fitness goals, and any existing health considerations. Consider trying both to see which one suits you best!

Which is More Effective for Weight and Fat Loss?

Running on a treadmill and cycling on an exercise bike offer great, but separate advantages. 

However, when it comes to fat and weight loss, the treadmill is the winner here.

Compared to the exercise bike, treadmills recruit more muscles and have a higher intensity which burns more calories, making it more effective for helping weight loss. Running is the best way to burn calories on a treadmill, but incline treadmill workouts offer a lower impact route.  

The exercise bike is still a great option if you're looking for a lower-impact way to burn calories, but you'll likely to burn less than if you were to do the equivalent workout on the treadmill.

Treadmill vs Exercise Bike, Which is Better for Strength?

While both the treadmill and exercise bike can contribute to strength-building, the treadmill's weight-bearing nature offers slightly more benefits, especially for the lower body. 

Here's a breakdown that explains why treadmill training is better for strength.

  • Treadmill running is a weight-bearing exercise, which helps improve bone density and strengthen muscles, particularly in the lower body.

  • Running on a treadmill is specific to running itself, making it an excellent choice for people training for marathons or races.

  • The treadmill's weight-bearing nature may offer slightly more strength benefits, especially for the lower body, compared to the exercise bike.

Treadmill and Exercise Bike: Which is Better for General Fitness?

Both the treadmill and exercise bike are effective for improving cardiovascular health and overall fitness. The choice depends on personal preference and any specific considerations like joint health.

Let's take a look at how both can improve your general fitness.


  • Treadmill running provides a high-intensity cardiovascular workout that improves heart health and boosts endurance.

  • The versatility of treadmills allows people to adjust speed and incline, catering to various fitness levels and goals.

  • While high-impact, treadmill running can be adjusted to accommodate different fitness levels and preferences.

Exercise Bike

  • Exercise biking offers a low-impact cardiovascular workout, making it ideal for people with joint issues or those recovering from injuries.

  • The adjustable resistance on exercise bikes allows people to customise workout intensity, providing a challenging cardiovascular workout.

  • Exercise biking provides a comfortable and accessible option for people of all fitness levels.

Can HIIT Exercises be Combined with Exercise Bike and Treadmill Workouts?

Yes! High intensity interval training (HIIT) can be performed on both exercise bikes and treadmills. Here are two HIIT workouts created by one of our personal trainers, Chris Collett.

HIIT Treadmill Workout

  • Warm up: 5 minutes of brisk walking or light jogging.

  • Intervals: Alternate between 1 minute of sprinting and 1 minute of recovery (walking or slow jogging) for a total of 15-20 minutes.

  • Cool down: 5 minutes of walking to bring the heart rate down gradually.

HIIT Exercise Bike Workout

  • Warm up: 5 minutes of easy pedalling.

  • Intervals: Alternate between 30 seconds of maximum effort pedalling and 1 minute of moderate pedalling for a total of 15-20 minutes.

  • Cool down: 5 minutes of easy pedalling to lower heart rate and prevent dizziness.

Want some more workouts to try out? Here's 5 of the best HIIT cycling workouts, and a great HIIT treadmill workout

Ultimately, both exercise bikes and treadmills are great tools to help you improve your general fitness. Whether your goal is to lose weight, increase strength or build stamina, both offer separate, but great benefits. 

If you're still unsure of which one is best to achieve your workout goals, why not speak to one of our personal trainers? Alternatively, you can learn more about running exercises and cycling exercises to up your fitness game.

Now you know a bit more about the benefits of exercise bikes and treadmills, get started running or cycling at your nearest gym!

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