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Choosing the right exercise routine is essential for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and both walking and using an elliptical machine offer excellent options for cardiovascular workouts. Each form of exercise has its pros and cons, and understanding these differences can help you decide which is best for you.

Table of Contents

Elliptical vs Walking: Understanding the Basics

ComparisonElliptical MachineWalking
Movement & FeaturesSimulates the motion of walking, running, or stair climbing without excessive stress on joints. Adjustable resistance levels and movable handles for a total body workout.Natural movement that improves bone density. Can be performed at varying intensities. Outdoor walks provide mental health benefits.
Muscle ActivationEngages upper body, core as well as lower body muscles including deltoids, biceps, triceps, abdominal muscles, glutes, hamstrings and calves.Primarily targets lower body muscles like hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes and calves. Upper body activation requires additional strength training exercises or equipment.
Impact on JointsLow-impact workout suitable for those with joint issues or recovering from an injury.Generates forces between 1 to 1.5 times your body weight on ankles and knees with each step which might lead to overuse injuries.
Calorie Burn RateGenerally higher due to engagement of more muscle groups and allowance for a more intense workout.Lower than elliptical but can be increased by adding hills or using dumbbells/weighted vests during the walk.
Cardiovascular BenefitsStrengthens heart muscles, improves circulation and reduces risk of heart-related problems.Maintains healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels thereby reducing risk of relevant health issues.
Versatility & AdaptabilityResistance and incline can be adjusted to challenge fitness level and target different muscle groups.Incorporation of HIIT workouts or walking on uneven terrains can increase intensity and work on balance skills respectively.
Cost & ConvenienceCan be costly if buying a personal elliptical machine. Requires space at home or gym membership but allows indoor workout regardless of weather conditions.More affordable option requiring no special equipment or gym membership but can be weather-dependent if performed outdoors.

Elliptical Machine: Movement and Features

An elliptical machine is a popular exercise equipment found in most gyms and fitness centers. It simulates the motion of walking, running, or stair climbing without putting excessive stress on your joints. While using an elliptical, your feet stay planted on the pedals, creating a low-impact workout. This is particularly beneficial if you have joint issues or are recovering from an injury.

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Elliptical machines often feature adjustable resistance levels and preset workout programs, allowing you to customize your workout to meet your fitness goals. Additionally, many ellipticals have movable handles for added upper body engagement, contributing to a total body workout.

Walking: Natural Movement and Importance

Walking, on the other hand, is a natural movement that can be performed outdoors or indoors on a treadmill. It’s a weight-bearing activity, meaning it helps improve bone density and overall bone health. Walking is easily accessible to almost anyone, regardless of fitness level, and can be performed at varying intensities.

The benefits of walking are numerous, including improved cardiovascular fitness, increased energy levels, and strengthened muscles. Whether you choose to walk outdoors or on treadmills, the activity can also offer mental health benefits, such as relieving stress and promoting a sense of well-being.

Muscle Activation and Fitness Goals

Muscle Groups Activated in Elliptical Workouts

When you use an elliptical machine, it not only engages your lower body muscles, such as the hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves, but also your upper body and core muscles. This full-body workout targets several muscle groups, including:

  • Upper body: Deltoids, biceps, and triceps are activated when using the movable handles on the elliptical.
  • Core: Abdominal and lower back muscles help maintain your posture and stabilize your body throughout the workout.
  • Lower body: Glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calf muscles are all utilized as you push and pull the pedals.

The muscle activation patterns during an elliptical workout can vary depending on the hand positions used, but are generally similar to those demonstrated during walking.

Walking: Targeting Muscles and Strength Training

Walking is an excellent form of low-impact cardio and helps target many of the same lower body muscles as an elliptical workout, including the hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, and calves. However, walking might not engage your upper body and core muscles as much.

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To intensify your walking workouts and focus on muscle strength, consider incorporating additional strength training exercises or equipment, such as:

  • Dumbbells: Holding light dumbbells while walking can help activate your upper body muscles (biceps, triceps, and shoulders) and increase the overall intensity of your workout.
  • Weighted vest: Wearing a weighted vest during your walk can challenge your muscles further and promote muscle strength gains in your lower body and core.

Remember to tailor your walking pace and intensity to your personal fitness goals and adjust your routine as needed to keep challenging your muscles and making progress.

Impact on Joints and Injury Prevention

Elliptical’s Low-Impact Nature

Using an elliptical machine provides a low-impact workout, which is beneficial for maintaining joint health and preventing injuries. It’s an excellent option if you’re recovering from an injury or dealing with joint issues like arthritis or osteoporosis.

Since your feet remain stationary on the footplates, there’s less stress placed on your ankles, knees, and hips compared to activities like walking or running. This low-impact nature can help you exercise without exacerbating existing joint pain or increasing the risk of injuries such as shin splints.

Walking’s Impact on Ankles and Knees

While walking is a generally gentle and accessible form of exercise, it can still create some impact on your joints, especially ankles and knees. When walking, each step generates forces between 1 to 1.5 times your body weight, which can add strain on your joints over time. This repetitive impact can lead to overuse injuries, particularly if you have existing joint issues or a history of joint pain.

If you suffer from arthritis, osteoporosis, or other joint-related conditions, it’s essential to be mindful of your walking patterns and monitor any discomfort that may arise during exercise.

In this case, you might consider a low-impact alternative, like using an elliptical machine, to continue exercising while minimizing the risk of further damage to your joints. Incorporating strength and balance exercises into your routine can also help protect your ankles and knees from injury during walking or other activities.

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Remember, both elliptical training and walking have their benefits and challenges. To ensure optimal joint health and injury prevention, consider a well-rounded approach to physical activity, which may include a mix of low-impact exercises.

Calorie Burn and Weight Loss

Comparing Elliptical and Walking Calorie Burn Rates

When it comes to calorie burn and weight loss, you might be curious about how ellipticals and walking compare. In general, ellipticals can provide a higher calorie burn than walking because they engage more muscle groups and allow for a more intense workout. However, the exact number of calories burned depends on your weight, the intensity of your workout, and the duration.

For example, a 155-pound person could burn approximately 335 calories per hour walking at a moderate pace, but potentially burn up to 400 calories per hour on an elliptical trainer at a moderate intensity. Keep in mind that these numbers may vary between individuals.

Tips for Maximizing Calorie Burn

To maximize calorie burn and weight loss, consider incorporating the following tips into your daily routine:

Mix up your workouts: Alternate between walking and using the elliptical to engage different muscle groups and prevent boredom. This helps keep your body challenged and improves overall calorie burn.

Increase intensity: Increase the intensity of your workout gradually, whether it’s by increasing the resistance on the elliptical or adding hills to your walking route. This will help you burn more calories during your workout.

Monitor your heart rate: Keep your heart rate in the appropriate zone for your age and fitness level during your workout. This ensures you are working at a level that will effectively burn calories.

Add interval training: Incorporate high-intensity interval training (HIIT) into your routine, alternating between short bursts of intense effort followed by periods of recovery. This type of workout has been shown to burn more calories overall.

Create a calorie deficit: To lose weight, it’s important to create a calorie deficit. This can be achieved by consuming fewer calories than you burn daily. One pound of fat equals about 3,500 calories, so plan accordingly.

Remember, it’s always important to listen to your body and choose a workout plan that suits your personal preferences and goals. Whether you prefer walking or using an elliptical, consistency and commitment are key factors in ensuring weight loss success.

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Cardiovascular and Overall Health Benefits

Elliptical and Heart Health Benefits

Using an elliptical machine can be an effective way to improve your cardiovascular and overall health. By incorporating the elliptical into your fitness routine, you can experience various heart health benefits. This low-impact workout can help by increasing your heart rate, strengthening your heart muscles, and improving circulation. Regular elliptical workouts can also help reduce stress and decrease the risk of heart-related problems.

To optimize heart health benefits, it’s important to vary your routine and gradually increase the intensity of your workouts. Some tips include:

  • Interval training: Alternate between periods of high intensity and active recovery
  • Incline and resistance: Adjust the incline and resistance settings to challenge your cardiovascular system

Walking for Healthy Blood Pressure and Cholesterol

Walking is another excellent way to maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Incorporating regular brisk walking into your daily life can go a long way toward improving your cardiovascular exercise while reducing the risk of high blood pressure and cholesterol-related issues.

When incorporating walking into your routine, consider the following:

  • Aim for at least 30 minutes of brisk walking daily
  • Try to maintain a pace that brings your heart rate into the target zone for your age (typically between 50% and 85% of your maximum heart rate)
  • Walking on an indoor track or outdoors can be equally effective

In conclusion, both elliptical workouts and walking contribute positively to your cardiovascular and overall health, helping with aspects like heart strength, blood pressure, and cholesterol management. Including these activities in your regular gym sessions or at-home fitness routine enables you to have a healthier lifestyle and a stronger heart.

Versatility and Adaptability

Adjusting Elliptical Resistance and Incline

Ellipticals can be highly versatile, as you can easily adjust the resistance and incline to match your fitness level and goals. By increasing the resistance, you challenge your muscles, making your workout more demanding. An increase in incline helps target different lower-body muscle groups, enhancing overall fitness. Incorporating changes in speed, resistance, and incline throughout your workout can result in a well-rounded training session that covers various aspects of physical fitness.

Yet, keep in mind that ellipticals have a bit of a learning curve, especially for beginners. Don’t get discouraged if it takes some time to get used to the machine. Practice will make your elliptical experience smoother and more enjoyable.

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Walking: High Intensity Interval Training and Uneven Surfaces

In contrast to the elliptical, walking offers natural variations in terrain, providing opportunities to work on balance and adaptability. You can take your walking workouts to the next level by incorporating High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). By alternating between periods of high and low-intensity walking, you’ll be effectively working on both endurance and cardiovascular health.

Achieve this by incorporating bursts of high-intensity walking or jogging and alternating them with periods of moderate or slow-paced walking. You can also integrate accessories such as resistance bands and kettlebells during your walking workouts to increase the intensity and target various muscle groups.

Walking on uneven surfaces, like hiking trails or nature paths, offers an additional element of difficulty. Your body has to adapt to different terrains, making you engage different muscles while dealing with various balance requirements. This not only enhances your physical skills but also offers mental stimulation as your mind must be present and focused to navigate the varying terrain.

In conclusion, both elliptical workouts and walking offer versatility and adaptability, catering to your preferences and health needs. With adjustable resistance and incline settings on ellipticals and the variety provided by walking workouts, you can customize your fitness experience to match your goals, ensuring an effective and engaging workout.

Practical Considerations and Personal Preferences

Cost and Convenience of Ellipticals vs Walking

When considering the cost and convenience of ellipticals versus walking, it’s important to note that walking is generally a more affordable option. You don’t need any special equipment or gym membership to go for a walk outdoors or at a nearby park. On the other hand, ellipticals can be costly, ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars for a good quality machine, and may require gym membership if you don’t have space at home.

However, ellipticals do offer some advantages in terms of convenience. For example, if the weather is unfavorable or you prefer to exercise indoors, an elliptical provides a great alternative. They also allow for a more controlled workout, which can be helpful for monitoring progress and avoiding injuries.

Pros and Cons: Choosing the Right Exercise for Your Needs

In order to choose the right exercise for your needs, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of both elliptical machines and walking workouts.

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  • Pros:
    • Low impact: Ellipticals are easier on your joints compared to walking, especially on uneven terrain.
    • Full body workout: Ellipticals often have handles that work your upper body, and emphasize muscle development in your glutes and hips.
    • Customizable Resistance: Most ellipticals have adjustable resistance levels, allowing you to increase the intensity of your workout as you progress.
  • Cons:


  • Pros:
    • Accessibility: Walking is free and can be done anywhere: outdoors, around your neighborhood or even at a local mall.
    • Mental health benefits: Walking in nature has been associated with improved mental well-being, as noted by Harvard Health Publishing.
    • Social aspect: Walking is a good way to spend time with friends or family, or even to meet new people if you join a walking group.
  • Cons:
    • Weather-dependency: Walking workouts can be impacted by weather conditions, such as rain and extreme temperatures.
    • Limited muscle engagement: Compared to ellipticals, walking primarily targets lower body muscles and may not offer a full-body workout.

Ultimately, your personal preferences and needs will dictate the best choice for you. If you’re looking for a low-impact, customizable workout with the potential for full-body muscle development, an elliptical may be a better fit. However, if you prefer the affordability, accessibility, and mental health benefits of getting outside, then walking may be the ideal choice.

Frequently Asked Questions

Weight loss: elliptical or walking?

Both elliptical machines and walking can help you achieve your weight loss goals. Choosing the right one comes down to personal preference and fitness level. Elliptical machines offer a low-impact, full-body workout, while walking is a natural movement that can be done anytime, anywhere. To maximize weight loss, focus on consistency and combining cardio workouts with a healthy diet.

Elliptical vs running benefits?

Elliptical machines provide a low-impact, full-body workout that is gentle on the joints, making it a great alternative for those who experience discomfort while running. Running, on the other hand, offers a more intense workout and helps build stronger bones due to the impact on your joints. Ultimately, the choice depends on your personal preferences and current fitness levels.

How to use elliptical?

To use an elliptical machine, follow these steps:

  1. Stand on the pedals with your feet parallel, and grasp the handles.
  2. Choose your workout program or resistance level on the digital display.
  3. Begin by pushing forward with one foot and backward with the other, creating a smooth, gliding motion.
  4. Coordinate your arm and leg movements, pushing and pulling the handles in rhythm with your strides.
  5. Maintain an upright posture, with your core engaged and shoulders relaxed throughout the workout.

Elliptical vs treadmill: which is better?

The answer depends on your individual fitness goals and preferences. Elliptical machines provide a low-impact, full-body workout that is gentle on the joints, while treadmills offer a more traditional, high-impact running or walking experience. Consider factors such as current fitness level, comfort, and desired intensity when deciding between these two cardio options.

Elliptical miles vs walking miles?

Comparing elliptical miles to walking miles can be challenging, as the two activities utilize different motions and muscle groups. One way to compare the intensity of your elliptical workout to walking is by tracking the amount of time spent exercising. The American Heart Association recommends aiming for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as walking or using an elliptical, for five days per week.

Calories burned on elliptical versus walking?

The number of calories burned during an elliptical workout or walking session depends on factors such as intensity, duration, and individual body weight. In general, elliptical workouts tend to burn more calories per hour due to the involvement of both upper and lower body muscle groups. To get a more accurate estimate of calories burned, consider using a fitness app or tracking device during your workouts.

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