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September 2, 2022  |  Sports & Fitness

How does an elliptical compare to walking?

When working toward a fitness or health goal, everyone wants to be efficient and ensure their workout is effective. From weight lifting to cardio, it can be challenging to determine which exercise will help you achieve your goals. An elliptical and walking are two of the most popular workouts for good reasons. They are both low impact and burn calories. But how does an elliptical compare to walking?

In this article: Schwinn Fitness 411 Compact Elliptical Machine, Xterra Fitness TR150 Folding Treadmill and Brooks Women’s Adrenaline GTS 21 Running Shoes

What you should consider when choosing an elliptical vs. walking

The elliptical and walking both have several health benefits. However, deciding which one for you depends primarily on your goals. Are you trying to lose weight, build muscle or stay active with the least amount of stress on your joints?

Burning calories

Since they’re both cardio workouts, using the elliptical and walking burn calories. When compared head to head, the elliptical burns slightly more calories than walking. According to Harvard Health, a person who weighs 155 pounds burns 324 calories during a 30-minute elliptical workout and only 175 calories when walking at 4 miles per hour. However, calories burned also depend on intensity, and a person will burn more calories when walking up an incline than on a flat surface.

Joint impact

While using an elliptical and walking are both considered low-impact exercises, the elliptical is slightly better on your joints since your foot never leaves the elliptical’s surface. Walking isn’t terrible on your joints, but continually lifting your foot and making contact with the ground forces your joints to absorb the impact. However, the surface you walk on also affects joint impact. For instance, concrete is harder on the joints than grass.

Complete body workout

The elliptical and walking are both considered lower body exercises. However, using the machine's arm handles to push and pull will engage your shoulders, back and core. While the elliptical is slightly better for a complete body workout when compared to walking on a flat surface, you can get a full-body workout if you walk on a trail with varying terrains.

Building muscle

Neither the elliptical nor walking are the top choice if your goal is to increase muscle mass significantly. However, they both will build some muscle strength at about the same level. To build muscle, you need resistance. For example, a person can build muscle on an elliptical by adjusting the resistance levels. For walking, a person can choose an incline or an area with various terrains. It’s important to note that most people are likely to build slightly more muscle walking outside than on a treadmill due to varying terrain and wind resistance.


Q: Is an elliptical or walking better for heart health?

A: Since all aerobic training is beneficial for heart health, walking and using an elliptical are both ideal for heart health. However, you need to ensure you’re raising your heart rate for optimal cardiovascular health. For instance, you can jog for a few minutes in the middle of your walk or increase the resistance level on the elliptical. 

Q: Is it healthy to walk or use the elliptical every day?

A: Rest should be an important component of any fitness regimen. So, if you’re doing a hard workout on the elliptical every morning, it’s not healthy to do it every day. However, it’s completely fine to take a leisurely walk every day. Just make sure you’re not overworking your body.

What you need to buy for walking or elliptical

Brooks Women’s Adrenaline GTS 21 Running Shoes

Whether walking or using an elliptical, this shoe provides support with soft and smooth cushioning. Those concerned about joint impact will appreciate the holistic guide rails, which keep excess movement in check to protect the knees.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Dick’s Sporting Goods

Brooks Men's Adrenaline GTS 21 Running Shoes

With a streamlined mesh upper with 3D fit print saddle, this shoe pulls from the heel and wraps around the midfoot for a secure fit, making it ideal for various terrains. Plus, it is designed to accommodate any impact and provide a smooth heel-to-toe transition.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Dick’s Sporting Goods

Xterra Fitness TR150 Folding Treadmill

Those looking for an affordable way to run indoors during inclement weather should consider this treadmill. It features an easy pull knob to fold the treadmill, making it ideal for compact areas with limited storage.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

NordicTrack Commercial 2450 Treadmill

This top-of-the-line treadmill features auto-adjusting speed and incline or decline terrain matching, making it ideal for those who want to walk indoors while still getting strength training.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Sunny Health & Fitness Elliptical Exercise Machine

With pulse sensors, a performance monitor and a bottle holder, this elliptical is ideal for home workouts. It also features programmable magnetic resistance to control the intensity level of any exercise.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Schwinn Fitness 411 Compact Elliptical Machine

This elliptical is ideal for those who want to exercise at home but have limited space. It includes all the features of a larger machine, including an 18-inch stride and a large console that doesn’t take up additional space.

Where to buy: Sold by Schwinn and Amazon


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Bre Richey writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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