Treadmill vs. elliptical, motor vs. momentum

Mon Oct 18, 2010 1:44pm EDT
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By Dorene Internicola

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - In the battle of the cardio machines, the treadmill reigns supreme, but the elliptical cross trainer could be a contender.

Experts say treadmills give your workout the extra oomph of a motor, while ellipticals promise a smoother ride, and both have their champions.

"Both have advantages and disadvantages," said Dr. Henry Williford of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). "Treadmills are more stimulating for running, while ellipticals are non-impact, if you don't want to jar."

Williford, a physical education and exercise science professor at Auburn University in Montgomery, Alabama, said as a runner he favors the treadmill.

"If you're training to do a 5K (run), obviously the treadmill is the preferred mode of exercise because it's similar," he said. "But my brother has arthritis. He can't run but he can exercise on an elliptical because there's no impact. You're not picking your body up and down."

In terms of popularity, treadmills rule. They accounted for 56 per cent of all fitness sales in 2009, according to the latest National Sporting Goods Association report. Ellipticals were a distant second at 8.4 percent.

But they're gaining. Ellipticals posted a 27 percent growth in sales in 2007.

One reason may be the so-called "silver tsunami" of 78 million baby boomers, the oldest of whom turn 65 on January 1.   Continued...