Elliptical vs Treadmill for Seniors

As we get older, staying active becomes increasingly important for maintaining health and wellbeing. Low-impact cardio exercise, like using an elliptical machine or treadmill, is an excellent way for seniors to improve cardiovascular health while minimizing stress on the joints. Both ellipticals and treadmills provide a host of benefits, but they each have advantages and disadvantages as well.

Elliptical machines and treadmills both offer low-impact exercise options for seniors. Ellipticals provide a joint-friendly workout, engaging both upper and lower body muscles, ideal for weight loss and cardiovascular health. Treadmills focus on lower body exercise, beneficial for cardiovascular health and endurance. The choice between the two depends on individual health conditions, fitness goals, and personal preference.

This article will compare ellipticals versus treadmills to help determine which may be a better fit for seniors looking to get in shape.

What Are the Benefits of Low-Impact Exercise for Seniors?

Low-impact cardiovascular exercise is ideal for seniors because it allows you to raise your heart rate and burn calories without putting excessive strain on your joints. As we age, impact-related injuries become more common due to general wear and tear, arthritis, osteoporosis, and other age-related conditions. Elliptical machines and treadmills are two pieces of gym equipment that provide an effective low-impact cardio workout. Using an elliptical or treadmill can lead to numerous health perks for seniors, including:

  • Improved cardiovascular health and endurance
  • Weight loss and fat burning 
  • Building and maintaining muscle mass
  • Increased mobility and balance
  • Reduced risk of injury
  • Faster recovery from illness or surgery
  • Better mood and reduced anxiety/depression

Incorporating low-impact elliptical or treadmill sessions into your weekly workout routine can allow seniors to actively pursue fitness goals without risking undue strain on vulnerable joints.

How Does an Elliptical Machine Benefit Seniors?

Elliptical trainers provide seniors with a host of potential health and fitness benefits, including:

Joint Health: Ellipticals are low-impact, meaning they place less stress on joints than exercises like running. The smooth, elliptical motion reduces jarring impacts, making ellipticals ideal for seniors with arthritis, joint injuries, or conditions like osteoporosis. The total-body motion engages all the major muscle groups while minimizing joint strain.

Weight Loss: Ellipticals allow seniors to burn significant calories and fat without harsh impacts. The cross-trainer motion engages both the upper and lower body continuously, allowing you to torch calories efficiently. Ellipticals allow you to customize the resistance and ramp incline to tailor the workout intensity to your fitness level and goals.

Cardiovascular Health: The continuous motion of ellipticals elevates the heart rate for sustained cardio exercise that enhances heart health. Seniors can train at an appropriate intensity level to boost endurance, lung capacity, and circulation.

Muscle Strength: The total-body motion of ellipticals engages all the major muscle groups, increasing muscle strength in the legs, glutes, core, chest, back, and arms. The arm handles allow you to incorporate upper body exercise.

Endurance: Ellipticals provide aerobic exercise that improves overall endurance. You can train for extended periods at a comfortable intensity to enhance your stamina without the bounds and starts of exercises like running.

Low Impact: The smooth, circular pedaling motion minimizes harsh impacts, reducing strain on joints. This makes ellipticals ideal for seniors recovering from injuries or managing conditions like arthritis or osteoporosis.

Overall, ellipticals give seniors an effective cardiovascular workout that burns calories, strengthens muscles, and enhances endurance with minimal impact on the joints.

How Does a Treadmill Benefit Seniors?

Treadmills offer a host of potential advantages for senior exercisers, including:

Joint Health: Treadmills provide a low-impact form of exercise when used appropriately. Walking or light jogging on the treadmill reduces jarring impacts on the knees, ankles, and hips compared to outdoor running. The consistent indoor surface also avoids hazards from uneven outdoor terrain.

Weight Loss: Walking on the treadmill at an incline allows seniors to burn significant calories. The machine allows you to easily control the intensity through speed and ramp settings to achieve your weight loss goals.

Cardiovascular Health: Treadmills improve heart and lung capacity as you walk or jog at a consistent pace. Adjustable settings allow you to dial in an appropriate intensity level based on your fitness.

Muscle Strength: Treadmills engage the major lower body muscle groups including calves, quads, hamstrings, and glutes. Holding handrails also activates the upper body.

Endurance: Treadmills allow seniors to walk or jog continuously to boost endurance. Features like interval training enhance fitness by incorporating short bursts of high intensity.

Versatility: Treadmills accommodate different fitness levels and goals. Seniors can walk or jog at various speeds and intensities. The machine inclines to provide low-impact resistance training.

Treadmills enable seniors to improve cardiovascular health, build strength, and boost endurance through walking, jogging, or interval training in a joint-friendly manner.

Which Is Better for Joint Pain: Elliptical or Treadmill?

For seniors dealing with chronic joint pain and arthritis, choosing low-impact cardio exercise is key. Both elliptical trainers and treadmills provide joint-friendly workouts, but comparing the two can help determine the better choice for joint issues:

  • Total Body Motion: Ellipticals engage both upper and lower body while treadmills concentrate impact on the lower body. The cross-trainer motion and arm handles reduce strain on any single joint.
  • Impact Reduction: Ellipticals virtually eliminate jarring impacts that can exacerbate joint issues. Treadmills still involve a degree of pounding, especially at higher intensities.
  • Weight Bearing: Ellipticals involve no weight bearing while treadmills require supporting your full body weight. This makes ellipticals better for pain issues like osteoporosis.
  • Muscle Activation: The smooth elliptical motion engages muscles while minimizing compression. Treadmills involve more muscle exertion that can stress tender joints.
  • Intensity Control: Ellipticals allow easy control of resistance and ramp for a customized intensity level. This allows seniors to avoid overexertion that can aggravate joints.

Overall, elliptical trainers tend to provide a more joint-friendly workout for seniors dealing with arthritis, injuries, or chronic pain issues. The low to zero impact cross-training motion minimizes discomfort and enables longer training periods.

Which Is Better for Weight Loss: Elliptical or Treadmill?

Both ellipticals and treadmills can help seniors effectively shed excess pounds and body fat. But certain factors make one machine potentially more effective than the other for weight loss:

  • Total Body Motion: The combined upper and lower body motion of ellipticals allows you to burn more total calories per session than treadmills. More activated muscle mass equals greater calorie burn.
  • Intensity Control: Ellipticals enable you to easily customize resistance level for a tailored calorie burn. This allows you to maximize fat burning potential at an appropriate level.
  • Continuous Motion: The consistent pedaling of ellipticals involves no breaks in motion needed for treadmill walking or jogging. This constant activity burns calories efficiently. 
  • Arm Involvement: Elliptical arm handles incorporate the upper body muscles for added calorie expenditure versus the lower-body focus of treadmills.
  • Muscle Activation: The smooth elliptical motion engages muscles through a fuller range of motion for greater calorie burn compared to the more jarring motion of treadmills.

For seniors seeking to lose excess weight, the elliptical machine provides full-body exercise, easier customization of intensity, and overall greater calorie expenditure during workouts.

Which Is Better for Cardio Health: Elliptical or Treadmill?

Improving cardiovascular health and fitness is a key goal for many seniors adding regular cardio workouts. Both the elliptical and treadmill provide effective options, with some key differences:

  • Continuous Motion: Ellipticals allow smooth, continuous exercise ideal for sustained heart rate elevation. The stop/start nature of treadmills periodically lowers heart rate.
  • Full-Body Engagement: Ellipticals provide cardiovascular training for both upper and lower body muscle groups. Treadmills concentrate on the lower body.
  • Adjustable Intensity: Ellipticals enable you to easily customize resistance level to achieve target heart rate zones for optimal cardio gains without overexertion.
  • Impact Reduction: The very low-impact motion of ellipticals avoids strain on joints and muscles that can hinder extended cardio workouts.
  • Weight Bearing: Using an elliptical involves no weight bearing, reducing strain on joints and bones that allows longer cardio training sessions.

For improving cardiovascular endurance and function, elliptical trainers tend to provide a superior overall workout for seniors by enabling longer, full-body training sessions with adjustable resistance to stay in ideal heart rate zones.

Which Is Better for Muscle Strength: Elliptical or Treadmill?

Building and maintaining muscle mass helps seniors stay active and independent, so choosing the best machine for strength training is key:

  • Total-Body Training: Ellipticals thoroughly work all the major upper and lower muscle groups in a smooth motion. Treadmills concentrate mainly on lower body strength.
  • Resistance Options: Ellipticals allow you to easily increase resistance levels to build strength in specific muscle groups in a controlled manner not possible on treadmills.
  • Range of Motion: The elliptical trainer motion engages muscles through a fuller range of motion for enhanced strength development versus the motion of walking/running on a treadmill.
  • Weight Bearing: Ellipticals involve no weight bearing while treadmills require supporting body weight, leading to some lower body strengthening.
  • Arm/Upper Body: Elliptical arm handles enable targeted strengthening of the upper body. Treadmill arm involvement is minimal unless intentionally holding handrails.

For seniors seeking to build and maintain overall muscle strength and function, elliptical machines provide superior total-body resistance training capabilities versus treadmills.

Which Is Better for Endurance: Elliptical or Treadmill?

Boosting cardiovascular endurance is an important goal for senior exercisers. Comparing ellipticals and treadmills:

  • Continuous Motion: The smooth, consistent pedaling of ellipticals allows longer training durations ideal for endurance building versus the stop/start nature of treadmills.
  • Adjustable Intensity: Elliptical resistance is easily customized for sustained training at an optimal heart rate for enhancing endurance. Treadmill intensity adjustments are more limited.
  • Low Impact: The very low-impact motion of ellipticals enables extended training periods. The higher impacts of treadmills can shorten workouts.
  • Muscle Activation: The elliptical motion engages muscles more completely to increase endurance benefits. The motion of treadmill walking/running is more constrained.
  • Upper/Lower Body: Ellipticals build endurance in both upper and lower body muscle groups while treadmills focus mainly on lower body endurance.

For seniors, the customizable intensity, reduced joint impact, and full-body training capabilities make elliptical trainers the better choice for building overall cardiovascular endurance.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Using an Elliptical Machine for Seniors?

Elliptical trainers provide senior exercisers with a host of benefits, but also have some potential drawbacks to consider:


  • Very low impact and joint-friendly
  • Smooth, continuous motion for sustained cardio training
  • Natural elliptical movement pattern
  • Total-body exercise engages all major muscle groups
  • Adjustable resistance to customize workout intensity
  • Movable arms enable upper body training
  • Allows sustained exercise for endurance building
  • Burns calories to aid weight loss
  • Low risk for injury due to low impact


  • Limited muscle strengthening compared to strength training
  • Upper body motion may cause shoulder strain
  • Poor posture can develop muscle imbalances
  • Not suitable for explosive/HIIT-style training 
  • Weight bearing for bone density only through standing on pedals
  • May aggravate knee injuries if pain onset occurs
  • Poor monitor placement can cause neck strain

Overall, ellipticals provide an extremely joint-friendly and customizable workout but require proper posture and positioning to maximize benefits and avoid potential issues.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Using a Treadmill for Seniors?

For senior exercisers, treadmills offer numerous benefits but also some drawbacks to keep in mind:


  • Familiar walking/running motion
  • Adjustable speed and incline settings 
  • Lower impact than outdoor running 
  • Allows interval training by changing intensity
  • Sustained cardio training by maintaining pace
  • Engages mainly lower body muscle groups
  • Weight-bearing provides bone density benefits
  • Helps build lower body endurance
  • Calorie burning aids weight loss goals


  • Higher impact than ellipticals can strain joints
  • Limited upper body muscular engagement
  • Holding handrails reduces cardio benefits
  • Stopping/changing speeds interrupts training flow
  • Fixed belt surface unlike variable outdoor terrain
  • Less muscle activation than elliptical motion 
  • Risk of slips/falls if treadmill speed exceeds abilities
  • Difficulty exercising at target heart rate zones

Treadmills can provide seniors a customizable walking/running workout but present more joint impact and training limitations versus elliptical options.

What Are Some Tips for Using an Elliptical or Treadmill Safely for Seniors?

To maximize the benefits of ellipticals and treadmills while exercising safely, seniors should:

  • Start slowly and gradually increase duration and intensity 
  • Wear supportive walking/running shoes with good traction
  • Maintain proper posture and body positioning
  • Hold onto handlebars for stability if needed
  • Keep upper body relaxed during elliptical workouts
  • Stay hydrated and cool during cardio sessions
  • Know how to safely stop the machine if needed
  • Avoid overexertion or high-impact activities if you have injuries
  • Consult a doctor about any health concerns before starting a new exercise program
  • Listen to your body and don’t push through joint or muscle pain
  • Ensure the machine is on a flat, even surface that is non-slip 
  • Only use equipment that you are comfortable operating

Focusing on safety, proper form, and a gradual progression under your doctor’s guidance lets seniors maximize the benefits from ellipticals and treadmills injury-free.

What Are Some Things to Consider When Choosing an Elliptical or Treadmill for Seniors?

For seniors looking to purchase home gym equipment, key factors in choosing an elliptical or treadmill include:

  • Joint Health: Select low-impact, smooth motion machines if managing arthritis, prior injuries, etc. 
  • Price: Treadmills tend to be more budget friendly, with ellipticals costing more for their advanced designs.
  • Space: Measure room dimensions to ensure space requirements are met for the machine.
  • Noise: Ellipticals tend to be quieter while belt treadmills can be noisy, especially at higher speeds.
  • Console Interface: Choose easy-to-read displays with simple controls/programming options for the selected workout programs.
  • Heart Rate Monitoring: Look for integrated pulse grip monitors on ellipticals and treadmills to track exercise intensity.
  • Safety Features: Ensure the machine has an emergency stop button within easy reach and non-slip surfaces.
  • Weight Capacity: Select equipment with a weight capacity that exceeds your needs.
  • Warranty: Compare warranties to determine which parts/labor coverage provides the greatest long-term value. 

Prioritizing critical factors like joint health, ease of use, and safety will help seniors choose the best elliptical or treadmill for their fitness needs and budget.

What Are Some of the Best Ellipticals and Treadmills for Seniors?

Some top-rated ellipticals and treadmills suited for senior exercisers include:


  • Schwinn 470 – Dual track LCD, goal tracking, 20 levels of resistance
  • Nautilus E616 – Dual track display, 25 resistance levels, smooth stride
  • Sole E35 – Adjustable pedals and console, integrated speakers
  • ProForm Hybrid Trainer – Low impact incline and elliptical motions
  • NordicTrack C 7.5 – 18-20” adjustable stride, 32 workout apps


  • Horizon Fitness T101 – Bluetooth connectivity, tablet holder
  • Sole F80 – CushionFlex Whisper Deck to absorb impact
  • ProForm Pro 2000 – -3% decline to -15% incline range 
  • NordicTrack Commercial 1750 – OneTouchTM controls, FlexSelectTM cushioning
  • LifeSpan TR1200i – 21 exercise programs, 2.5 HP motor

Researching the range of features and customization options will help seniors find the ideal elliptical or treadmill model tailored to their fitness goals and mobility needs.


For senior exercisers, elliptical trainers and treadmills both provide tremendous fitness benefits with minimal impact on aging joints. Ellipticals excel at providing full-body cardio and strength training by engaging both upper and lower muscle groups with their cross-trainer motion. Treadmills are better for familiar walking/running training focused mainly on the lower body. Key factors like existing health conditions, fitness goals, and budget will help determine whether an elliptical or treadmill presents the best low-impact workout option for seniors seeking to boost their activity levels and improve health. With proper guidance from medical providers, seniors can safely take advantage of these machines to gain cardiovascular endurance, strengthen muscles, and meet their exercise goals.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is a treadmill or elliptical better for seniors?

An elliptical is a more effective exercise than the treadmill. It is a better choice for older people with joint pain and arthritis. For runners, the elliptical can also be used as a cross training tool.

  • How long should a 70 year old woman exercise?

If you’re already active, aim to do 150 minutes or more of moderate activity per week. 75 minutes or more of vigorous intensity exercise if possible. Reduce the amount of time you spend sitting down or lying down, and replace long periods of inactivity with something.

  • How much exercise should 70 year old get?

Adults 65 years and over need to exercise at least 150 minutes per week. This could be 30 minutes each day or 5 days a weeks of moderate activity like walking. They also need to do 75 minutes per week of intense activity like running, jogging or hiking. A minimum of 2 days per week should be spent engaging in activities that help strengthen the muscles.

  • How many steps should a 77 year old woman take?

Normal data suggests that healthy seniors average between 2,000 and 9,000 steps per day, while special populations go on average from 1,200 to 8,800 steps per day.

  • What happens to a woman’s body at 70?

What’s happening. As we age, our bones shrink in size, density and strength, making them less susceptible to breaking. Your height might drop. Your coordination, stability, balance, and strength can be affected by muscle weakness, endurance, and flexibility.

  • What is the best piece of exercise equipment for weight loss?

Treadmill A treadmill can be used for cardiovascular training and weight loss. The treadmill is versatile and can be used for both low-impact training or high intensity workouts. You can run, jog or perform interval training, which will increase your calorie burning.

  • Is an exercise bike better than a treadmill?

You must consider how intense and long you train when comparing calories burned by stationary bikes and treadmills. Research suggests that stationary cycling can burn 7.9810.48 calories/minute while running on a treadmill is 8.1810.78 calories/minute ( 10).

  • Is a treadmill or bike better for seniors?

Camargo states that the exercise bike can be used by older people due to its ability to sit while still exerting energy. A traditional treadmill, on the other hand, is a better choice for those with mobility or injuries and who want a harder workout.

  • Can a 70 year old woman build muscle?

With iron, seniors can still bulk up their muscles. As we age our muscle mass drops at alarming rates. Researchers found that lifting weights can help people over 50 not only preserve but even increase muscle mass.

  • What size weights should a 70 year old woman use?

She says that most older adults are able to start with weights of 15 pounds for lower-body exercise and dumbbells of 5- or 7.5 pounds for the upper-body. You can then gauge your ability from there.

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