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Exercise Bike Or Treadmill?

Updated on June 28, 2016

Whether it is better to take one's exercise while walking briskly on a moving synthetic rubber belt or could it be more desirable to work oneself to a frazzle furiously pedaling away on a bicycle to nowhere, that is the question!

Seriously, are there advantages to an exercise bike or treadmill? Or are they about the same?

I've spent countless hours on each over the last 30 or so years and these are my thoughts.

Calories Burned

A 150-pound person will burn roughly 8 to 10 calories per minute whether you're reading or pedaling. Depends on the machine you have plus your body variation plus how fast you go plus a bunch of other stuff. But the calories burned is just about the same for either machine. A dual action bike like the Schwinn Airdyne exercise bike may result in a little more energy consumed than an exercise bike workout with a recumbent bike but not much if any...

Muscles Used

A great way to reduce body fat is to increase your "at rest" or basal metabolism. Just burning calories isn't all there is to reduce fat. You want to work your muscles and add muscle mass which is the key to increasing metabolism. Walking is good since it involves so many different muscles. It's mainly a lower body workout, but with all the arm swinging and swaying and just maintaining your balance there is a good bit of workout for the whole body. Pedaling an exercise bike is also mainly a lower body exercise but some bikes have features that work the upper body too. The fan resistance bikes like the Schwinn Airdyne work the arms and shoulders too.

Of course, the muscles of the lower body are the large muscles that can do hard work for a long time. That's the muscles you must use to do heavy work over a sustained time. Don't fear too much that working the lower muscles like the thighs will make them bigger. That can happen but usually, working muscles that are surrounded by fat will burn fat and make the overall size of your leg smaller even if the muscle itself is larger.

So either the exercise bike or treadmill is mostly a lower body exercise and that's a good thing.


It's hard to fall off an exercise bike. I'm not saying you can't do it. But it's difficult. Treadmills scare me. Especially if you get cranking along at a good clip. If you stumble, you are going to get smashed. I've got this "trick ankle" with permanently torn ligaments that just flips over from time to time. That won't happen on a bike but is very likely on a treadmill, especially at high speed. Of course, treadmills have safety features, but especially with anyone with a disability an exercise bike is safer. Or it seems so to me anyway.

Exercise Bike Or Treadmill Durability Contrast

Both machines have several moving parts subject to wear. The main work on an exercise bike is done by the rider. The resistance system is the key component subject to failure. Make sure of your warranty. A mechanical resistance like the fan resistance exercise bikes should be trouble free for a long time.

The key system on a treadmill subject to fail is the electric belt drive. Cheaper machines use smaller motors not up to maintaining the constant speed with heavy users and may fail under hard use. Also, belts wear since there is slipping of the belt against the bed of the treadmill.


For rehabilitation of injuries or for disabled folks, the exercise bike is better. The load on joints is less with the bike and even feeble people can use a bike if the right model is chosen. A treadmill demands good balance plus close attention to prevent falls.

What About Both?

If you're in good condition, why not use both. There are pluses to weight-bearing exercises, like walking. Apparently, low impact pounding is good for joints, makes them stronger. And the alternating machine is a good tool to fight boredom. Especially for exercise during bad weather, having more than one machine is a real plus. I'm convinced that variety in a fitness program is a key to long-term success. Boring exercise makes you want to quit. Really want to quit!!!

So both exercise bikes and treadmills have a place in fitness programs. As do the folding elliptical trainer or any number of other options in fitness equipment. Exercise bike or treadmill? Personally, I prefer my Schwinn Airdyne Upright Exercise Bike!


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