Elliptical vs Walking

When it comes to exercising and maintaining an active lifestyle, the choice of workouts can often be overwhelming. Two popular forms of cardiovascular exercise are using an elliptical machine and walking. Both of these activities offer various health benefits, but they also have their differences, making it important to understand which one might be more suitable for your personal fitness goals and preferences.

Elliptical machines are stationary exercise equipment designed to simulate the motion of walking, running, or stair climbing without causing excessive pressure on the joints. This low-impact form of exercise is ideal for individuals looking to avoid stress on their knees, hips, and ankles. On the other hand, walking is a natural, functional movement that can be done virtually anywhere, providing numerous health benefits, such as improved cardiovascular fitness, reduced risk of chronic diseases, and enhanced mental well-being.

While both elliptical machines and walking provide a full-body workout and can help with weight loss, they differ in terms of muscle activation and overall efficiency. Elliptical machines tend to burn more calories per minute than walking as they engage the entire body and offer resistance through the use of pedals (Torokhtiy) . However, walking is better for balance and preventing falls, making it the preferred choice for some individuals (Positive Choice) . Understanding these distinct advantages is crucial in determining which workout is best suited for your needs and objectives.

Elliptical Machines: An Overview

Elliptical machines are a popular choice for many people looking to improve their cardiovascular fitness, burn calories, and build muscle strength. They offer a low-impact exercise option that is easier on the joints compared to activities like running or walking. The elliptical machine mimics the natural motion of walking or running while eliminating the impact on the joints, making it a suitable option for people with joint issues or those recovering from injuries.

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One of the main advantages of using an elliptical machine is its ability to provide a full-body workout. Most ellipticals come equipped with movable handlebars, allowing users to engage their upper body muscles while simultaneously working the lower body. This results in a more balanced and efficient workout.

Another benefit of ellipticals is the ability to adjust resistance and incline levels, allowing users to customize the intensity of their workouts. This makes it suitable for individuals with varying fitness levels and can provide a challenging workout as users progress in their fitness journey. The versatility of ellipticals also allows for targeting specific muscle groups by changing the pedaling direction from forward to reverse, which can help improve muscle imbalances.

While elliptical machines can be a significant investment, particularly for high-quality models, they can also provide a time-efficient and effective workout option for people who prefer exercising at home. In addition, elliptical trainers offer a convenient alternative to outdoor walking or running, especially in adverse weather conditions or when personal safety is a concern.

Walking: An Overview

Walking is a natural, low-impact, and accessible form of cardiovascular exercise. It can be easily incorporated into daily routines and is suitable for all age groups and fitness levels. Consistently engaging in walking sessions has numerous health benefits, such as improving heart health, boosting mental well-being, and strengthening muscles and bones.

One of the primary advantages of walking is its convenience. Not only can you walk virtually anywhere, but you also don’t need any special equipment beyond comfortable shoes. Additionally, walking can be a social activity, allowing you to exercise while also spending time with friends and family.

Calorie burning is another factor to consider when comparing walking to elliptical training. While walking might not burn as many calories per minute as using an elliptical machine (source), it’s still an effective way to manage weight and promote a healthy lifestyle.

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Variations and walking techniques can be incorporated into your routine to further increase the intensity or efficiency of your walking workout. These may include:

  • Speed walking
  • Incline walking (uphill)
  • Weighted walking (using a weighted vest or ankle weights)
  • Interval training (alternating fast and slow walking segments)

In summary, walking is a versatile and easily accessible form of exercise that offers numerous health benefits. However, it is essential to recognize that individual preferences, fitness levels, and goals will ultimately determine which form of exercise, such as walking or using an elliptical, is more suitable for you.

Comparing Elliptical and Walking Workouts

Cardiovascular Benefits

Both elliptical and walking workouts offer cardiovascular benefits. They help improve heart health, stamina, and overall fitness levels. Elliptical machines engage the upper and lower body simultaneously, leading to a more comprehensive workout, while walking is a low-impact exercise accessible to almost everyone, regardless of fitness levels.

Calorie Burn

Elliptical machines typically burn more calories per minute compared to walking. This is because they provide resistance through the pedals, engaging more muscle groups and increasing calorie expenditure. Factors such as speed, duration, and individual weight and fitness levels also affect the number of calories burned.

For example, a 150-pound individual might burn:

  • 135 calories per 30 minutes of moderate walking
  • 270 calories per 30 minutes on the elliptical

Impact on Joints

One of the primary differences between elliptical and walking workouts is the impact on joints. Elliptical machines put less stress on joints compared to walking, making it a more suitable option for those with joint issues or injuries. In contrast, walking provides a better workout for hamstrings, calves, and small muscles around the ankles and feet, as mentioned by The New York Times.

Pros and Cons of Elliptical Training

Elliptical training offers a variety of benefits for those looking to engage in a low-impact cardiovascular workout. One advantage of elliptical machines is that they provide a lower-impact workout compared to walking, making them suitable for individuals with joint issues or those recovering from an injury. The smooth, gliding motion of an elliptical reduces the stress on your knees, hips, and lower back (Cleveland Clinic).

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Additionally, elliptical training also offers adjustable resistance levels, allowing users to customize their workouts depending on their fitness goals and needs. This adaptability makes elliptical machines a versatile option for both beginners and advanced exercisers (Cleveland Clinic).

Another benefit of using an elliptical machine is the ability to target multiple muscle groups. Unlike walking, which primarily targets the leg muscles, hip flexors, and glutes, elliptical machines engage both the upper and lower body, resulting in a more comprehensive workout (Healthline).

However, there are also some drawbacks to elliptical training. One potential downside is the lack of weight-bearing exercise, which is important for maintaining bone density and overall bone health. Walking, for example, is a weight-bearing exercise that promotes better bone health compared to elliptical training (MyFitnessPal).

Another con is that the motion of elliptical machines can feel unnatural to some people, potentially leading to discomfort or difficulty in maintaining proper form (Verywell Fit). Moreover, ellipticals may not provide the same level of outdoor enjoyment and variety in scenery as walking outdoors.

Pros and Cons of Walking

Walking is a popular and accessible form of exercise that offers various health benefits. The following paragraphs outline some of the pros and cons of walking.



  • Slower progress: Since walking is a low-intensity exercise, it might take longer to see significant improvements in fitness and weight loss compared to other exercises like using an elliptical.
  • Weather dependency: Walking is an outdoor activity, and bad weather conditions can affect your routine and motivation.
  • Limits on intensity: While you can increase the speed and incline during a walk, the intensity level may not be as high as with other forms of exercise, like using the elliptical machine.
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Understanding the pros and cons of walking can help you make an informed decision about whether it’s the right exercise for your fitness routine. Remember that everyone’s fitness journey is different, and the most effective workouts are those that you enjoy and can stick to consistently.

Choosing the Right Exercise for You

Both elliptical training and walking offer valuable cardiovascular benefits, but selecting the right exercise for you depends on factors such as personal preference, fitness goals, and joint health. Let’s explore some key differences between these two workouts to help you make an informed decision.

Elliptical machines provide a low-impact, full-body workout that is easier on your joints, making it a great option for those with joint pain or limited mobility (source). On the other hand, walking is a weight-bearing exercise that strengthens your bones and muscles, which may be beneficial for those seeking to improve long-term bone health (source).

When it comes to calorie burning, the elliptical can potentially burn more calories in less time due to the full-body engagement and resistance settings (source). However, walking can be more enjoyable and natural for some individuals, especially when done outdoors, and is an accessible form of exercise with no need for equipment (source).

Consider your personal preferences and limitations when deciding between these two activities. Factors to bear in mind may include:

  • Equipment availability and access
  • Joint health and comfort
  • Time constraints
  • Preference for indoor or outdoor activities
  • Desire for full-body movement versus lower body focus

Incorporating Both Elliptical and Walking into Your Workout Routine

Elliptical and walking exercises provide different benefits and can complement each other when included in your workout routine. The elliptical machine offers a low-impact, full-body workout, while walking serves as an accessible, natural form of physical activity. Incorporating both into your fitness plan will not only help prevent workout boredom but also challenge your body in various ways.

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Start by gradually integrating both activities into your weekly workout schedule. You might consider dedicating certain days to the elliptical, and others to walking. For example, you could use the elliptical on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and engage in walking exercises on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

Vary the intensity of your workouts to further maximize their effectiveness. When using the elliptical machine, you can adjust the resistance and incline levels to create a more challenging session. Similarly, you can boost the intensity of your walking workouts by:

  • Increasing your pace
  • Incorporating intervals (alternating between fast and slow walking)
  • Tackling hills or stairs

Additionally, you can combine both exercises into a single workout session for a balanced training routine. For instance, perform 20 minutes on the elliptical machine, followed by a 20-minute walk outdoors or on a treadmill. This approach allows you to reap the benefits of both exercises while keeping your workout sessions fresh and engaging.

Remember to listen to your body and adjust your routine as needed. Balancing elliptical and walking exercises allows you to customize your workouts, taking full advantage of the unique benefits each activity provides for your overall health and fitness goals.

Final Thoughts

When comparing elliptical workouts and walking, both forms of exercise offer unique benefits. Elliptical machines tend to burn more calories per minute and put less stress on joints than walking. This can make them an excellent choice for those who want a more intense workout or have joint issues.

However, walking also provides valuable cardiovascular exercise that many people find enjoyable and accessible. The versatility of walking allows for a wider variety of workout formats including outdoor strolls, treadmill sessions, and even uphill climbing for those who want to challenge themselves.

Ultimately, the choice between an elliptical and walking boils down to personal preference, fitness goals, and any specific health considerations. Both types of exercise can be seamlessly incorporated into a varied fitness routine, allowing individuals to prevent boredom and continually challenge themselves. By diversifying workout experiences, individuals can optimize the overall physical and mental health benefits of their chosen exercise endeavors.

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