Cycling vs. treadmill: benefits, disadvantages, similarities and differences

Cycling versus treadmill exercises, encompassing forms like road cycling, mountain biking, stationary bikes, air bikes, smart trainers, and treadmills including manual, motorized, foldable, and hybrid models, both offer adjustable cardiovascular workouts suited for various fitness levels and goals. Cycling and treadmill workouts both improve cardiovascular health, aid in weight loss, and enhance mood through endorphin release, but they can have disadvantages such as monotony in indoor settings and potential strain on joints in high-intensity sessions.

Cycling typically burns fewer calories than running on a treadmill, targets lower body muscles more intensely while offering lower impact on bones and joints, and has varied intensity options for heart health; it poses a lower injury risk compared to treadmills, which offer more versatile workouts but at a higher cost and space requirement.

According to research published in 2012 in the International Journal of Sports Medicine by Professor Catarina Abrantes from the Research Center for Sports, University of Trás-os-Montes & Alto Douro, Portugal, a study comparing treadmill and cycle ergometer exercises found higher oxygen uptake and heart rate values in treadmill exercises at various intensities, while respiratory exchange ratio, blood lactate concentrations, and perceived exertion showed no significant difference or were higher on the cycle ergometer, indicating a more pronounced cardio-respiratory response in treadmill workouts.

Cycling vs treadmill, which is better? In this article, we explain the health benefits and disadvantages of both biking and treadmill running or walking, compare the similarities and differences between burned calories, muscles used and toned in each activity, bones and joints impact, cardio workout intensity, heart health, versatility, injury risk, cost, maintenance and space requirement for each workout. Then we deep into how to choose between cycling and the treadmill, including outdoor and indoor cycling, running or walking on the treadmill, incline treadmill, and which one is better for elderly and younger people.

Table of Contents

Benefits of cycling vs treadmill

The benefits of cycling versus treadmill are distinct; cycling, both indoor and outdoor, primarily enhances lower body strength and offers a lower impact on joints, whereas treadmill workouts, including running and walking, provide a more significant impact on cardiovascular fitness and calorie burn. Common benefits of both include improved cardiovascular health, weight management, muscle toning, enhanced mood through endorphin release, and increased overall physical fitness. 

Dr. Xiaolei Zhang MD, Ph.D. from the Pulmonary and Critical Care Department, Beijing Chao-Yang Hospital, Capital Medical University, China, in an original research mentioned that patients with Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) showed greater improvements in exercise endurance and breathlessness relief during treadmill walking compared to cycling with bronchodilator therapy, suggesting treadmill walking’s potential superiority in aiding patients with respiratory conditions.

Biking and treadmills offer special benefits because they cater to diverse fitness preferences and environments, with cycling allowing for outdoor exploration and varied terrain, and treadmills offering convenient, weather-independent options for walking or running, adaptable to any fitness level.

Common benefits of cycling and treadmill

The five most common benefits of both cycling and treadmill exercises include improved cardiovascular health, effective weight management, muscle toning, enhanced mood through endorphin release, and increased overall physical fitness.

  1. Improved Cardiovascular Health: Both cycling and treadmill exercises strengthen the heart, enhance blood circulation, and lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases by consistently elevating heart rate and improving heart muscle efficiency.
  2. Effective Weight Management: Engaging in cycling or treadmill workouts aids in burning calories, boosting metabolism, and plays a crucial role in weight loss and obesity management, contributing to effective weight control.
  3. Muscle Toning: Cycling tones the lower body muscles like the quadriceps and hamstrings, while treadmill use strengthens leg muscles and, with an incline, targets the glutes and core, leading to well-defined muscle development.
  4. Enhanced Mood through Endorphin Release: Both activities trigger endorphin release, acting as natural mood enhancers, reducing stress and anxiety, and improving mental health, making them beneficial for emotional well-being.
  5. Increased Overall Physical Fitness: Regular cycling and treadmill exercises enhance overall stamina, endurance, and lung capacity, promoting a healthier lifestyle and improved physical performance in everyday activities.

Special cycling benefits compared to treadmills

Special cycling benefits compared to treadmills include better joint health due to lower impact, enhanced balance and coordination, and outdoor versatility for varied terrain and scenery.

  1. Better Joint Health: Cycling, particularly less impactful on the knees and joints than treadmill running, significantly reduces the risk of joint-related injuries and is highly beneficial for individuals with arthritis or joint pain.
  2. Enhanced Balance and Coordination: Engaging in cycling, unlike treadmill workouts, necessitates constant balance and coordination, thereby enhancing these crucial motor skills, which are essential for daily activities and reducing the risk of falls.
  3. Outdoor Versatility: Outdoor cycling, in contrast to indoor treadmill exercise, offers the opportunity to traverse diverse terrains and environments, providing not only physical but also mental stimulation and a greater sense of adventure and exploration.

Special treadmill benefits compared to cycling

Special treadmill benefits compared to cycling include higher calorie burn per session, a controlled environment for consistent training, and versatility in workout types such as incline and speed variations.

  1. Higher Calorie Burn: Treadmill workouts typically result in a higher calorie burn compared to cycling for the same duration, as running engages more muscle groups and requires more energy, making it highly effective for weight loss and cardiovascular fitness.
  2. Controlled Environment for Consistent Training: Treadmills provide a controlled and predictable training environment, unaffected by weather or outdoor conditions, allowing for consistent workout routines and progress tracking, especially beneficial for training in adverse weather conditions or when outdoor space is limited.
  3. Versatility in Workout Types: The treadmill offers a range of workout options, including varying inclines and speeds, which can simulate different terrain types and intensify the workout, allowing users to customize their training to specific goals such as endurance, speed, or hill training.

Common benefits of cycling and treadmill

Cycling vs treadmill for health benefits

Cycling versus treadmill for health benefits encompasses key areas such as endurance, stamina, sciatica, heart health, lung function, diabetes management, back pain, and knee pain, with each exercise offering distinct advantages.

Here’s a comparison table of cycling versus treadmill for these health benefits.

Health BenefitCyclingTreadmill
EnduranceBuilds endurance primarily in lower body muscles.Enhances overall cardiovascular endurance more effectively.
StaminaIncreases stamina with lower impact on joints.Boosts cardiovascular stamina and overall physical endurance.
SciaticaCan be beneficial if done with proper posture; less jarring for the spine.Might exacerbate sciatica pain due to the high-impact nature of running.
Heart HealthImproves cardiovascular health with reduced heart strain.More intensive cardiovascular workouts, are beneficial for heart health.
LungBoosts lung capacity through prolonged, sustained effort.Improves lung function and capacity due to higher aerobic demand.
DiabetesHelps in managing diabetes by improving metabolism and glucose utilization.Effective for blood sugar control due to higher intensity workouts.
Back PainLow impact on the back, but posture needs to be monitored.Running might aggravate back pain; walking is a safer option.
Knee PainGenerally safer for knees due to its low-impact nature.Running can be hard on the knees; walking is less impactful.

Cycling vs treadmill for health benefits

Exercise Physiology Professor Gregoire P. Millet from the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, in a 2012 study, found significant physiological differences between cycling and running, including higher VO2max in runners on treadmills compared to cyclists on ergometers, specific muscle adaptations to each exercise, and more physiological training transfer from running to cycling.

Disadvantages of cycling vs treadmill

The disadvantages of cycling versus treadmills are rooted in their distinct exercise modalities: cycling, particularly outdoors, can pose risks such as traffic hazards and weather dependency, while treadmills may lead to a repetitive and less stimulating workout experience. Common disadvantages of both include the potential for joint stress, limited upper body engagement, the need for specialized equipment, the risk of overuse injuries, and the requirement for a dedicated workout space. 

Associate Director John Abt from the Neuromuscular Research Laboratory, University of Pittsburgh, USA, in an original research published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research mentioned that while core stability is crucial in cycling for reducing injury risk and maintaining proper mechanics, particularly in the knee joint, treadmill workouts, typically not engaging the core as intensively, might not present the same risk of altered mechanics due to core fatigue.

Biking’s disadvantages include safety concerns in outdoor environments, weather dependence, and the cost of maintenance and equipment, while treadmill disadvantages encompass the monotony of stationary exercise, the potential strain on the knees and lower back, and higher energy costs for motorized models.

Common disadvantages of cycling and treadmill

The five most common disadvantages of both cycling and treadmill include joint stress, limited upper body engagement, the need for specialized equipment, risk of overuse injuries, and space requirements for equipment.

  1. Joint Stress: Both cycling and treadmill exercises can lead to joint stress; cycling can cause knee and hip stress from repetitive motion, while treadmill running may impact knee and ankle joints due to the high-impact nature of running.
  2. Limited Upper Body Engagement: Cycling mainly focuses on the lower body, providing limited upper body workout, and while treadmill use engages the core more, it still does not provide a comprehensive upper body exercise.
  3. Need for Specialized Equipment: Both activities require specific equipment – a bike for cycling and a treadmill for running – which can be a significant investment and may need regular maintenance.
  4. Risk of Overuse Injuries: Prolonged or intense sessions on a bike or treadmill can lead to overuse injuries, such as cyclist’s knee or runner’s knee, especially without proper form or equipment adjustment.
  5. Space Requirements for Equipment: Both a stationary bike and a treadmill require dedicated space, which can be a constraint in smaller living areas or require a specific set-up in a home environment.

Special cycling disadvantages compared to treadmill

Special cycling disadvantages compared to treadmills include a higher risk of outdoor accidents, weather dependency for outdoor cycling, and the potential for higher maintenance costs.

  1. Higher Risk of Outdoor Accidents: Cycling outdoors exposes riders to potential road hazards and accidents, including traffic collisions and terrain-related injuries, which is not a concern with indoor treadmill use.
  2. Weather Dependency: Outdoor cycling is heavily dependent on weather conditions, limiting its feasibility during adverse weather, unlike treadmill workouts that can be performed indoors regardless of external conditions.
  3. Higher Maintenance Costs: Bicycles, especially those used for outdoor cycling, require regular maintenance such as tire changes, brake adjustments, and gear tuning, which can incur higher costs over time compared to the typically lower maintenance needs of a treadmill.

Special treadmill disadvantages compared to cycling

Special treadmill-only disadvantages compared to cycling include a higher impact on joints, monotony of stationary exercise, and higher energy consumption of motorized models.

  1. Higher Impact on Joints: Treadmill running, particularly at high speeds or on an incline, creates a higher impact on joints such as the knees and ankles compared to the low-impact nature of cycling, potentially leading to joint-related issues over time.
  2. Monotony of Stationary Exercise: The stationary nature of treadmill workouts can lead to a lack of stimulation and monotony, as it lacks the changing scenery and varied environments that outdoor cycling offers, potentially affecting long-term motivation and engagement.
  3. Higher Energy Consumption of Motorized Models: Motorized treadmills require electricity, leading to ongoing energy costs, whereas cycling, especially outdoor, does not incur additional energy expenses and even non-motorized indoor cycling equipment typically requires minimal or no power.

Common disadvantages of cycling and treadmill

Cycling vs treadmill injuries

Cycling commonly leads to injuries like neck pain, knee pain, lower back discomfort, groin pain, and wrist strain due to repetitive motion and posture during long rides, while treadmill use often results in injuries such as shin splints, runner’s knee, and foot pain, largely due to the high-impact nature of running. In cycling, the repetitive pedaling motion and sustained positioning can put a strain on specific joints and muscles, whereas the impact from each foot strike on a treadmill can lead to stress on the lower body joints and muscles, particularly if running form is improper or if the treadmill’s surface is too hard.

Dr. John P. Cole, MD from the Memorial Hospital Medical Center, Department of Clinical Physiology, Long Beach, USA, in a clinical study found that angina during treadmill exercise testing was a significant indicator of coronary events, with patients experiencing angina at lighter workloads having a notably higher risk of subsequent coronary issues compared to those who only had S-T segment depression, highlighting the importance of monitoring cardiac responses during treadmill exercises.

Cycling vs treadmill

Cycling and treadmill are both effective cardiovascular workouts, offering distinct benefits from sports, medical, and recreational perspectives, with cycling focusing on lower body strength and treadmill activities providing broader cardiovascular training.

From a sports perspective, both cycling and treadmill exercises offer excellent cardiovascular workouts, with cycling (indoor and outdoor) focusing more on lower body strength and endurance, while treadmill activities (running and walking) provide a broader range of cardiovascular training and higher calorie burn. Medically, cycling is often recommended for joint health due to its low-impact nature, beneficial for individuals with knee or hip issues, whereas treadmills, especially when used for running, can offer a more rigorous cardiovascular workout but may pose higher risks of joint impact injuries. 

Recreationally, outdoor cycling offers the advantage of exploring varied terrains and scenery, contributing to mental well-being, while treadmills provide the convenience of a consistent and controlled environment for exercise, regardless of outdoor weather conditions.

Cycling vs treadmill burned calories

Treadmill running burns more calories than cycling and treadmill walking for the same intensities because it engages more muscle groups simultaneously and demands greater cardiovascular effort, requiring the body to expend more energy to sustain the activity, especially at higher speeds which significantly increases metabolic rate. This increased exertion level in treadmill running, combining both aerobic and weight-bearing aspects, leads to higher caloric expenditure compared to the more localized muscle usage and lower overall body engagement in cycling and walking.

For example, a 175 lb (79.38 kg) person burned calories at the same intensity for each activity as below.

  • Treadmill running at a fast pace (7-8 mph, 12.5 METs) burns approximately 521.21 calories in 30 minutes.
  • Cycling at a fast pace (14-15.9 mph, 10.0 METs) burns around 416.74 calories in 30 minutes.
  • Stationary bicycling at a vigorous effort (101-160 watts, 8.8 METs) burns about 366.73 calories in 30 minutes.
  • Treadmill walking at a brisk pace (4 mph, 4.5 METs) burns approximately 187.53 calories in 30 minutes.

Cycling vs treadmill burned calories

Below are the 30 minutes burned calories for treadmills and cycling for detailed intensity levels.

Activity150 lbs / 68.04 kg175 lbs / 79.38 kg200 lbs / 90.72 kg
The treadmill burned calories in 30 minutes
Treadmill Walking, 2 mph (2.5 METs)89.30104.18119.07
Treadmill Walking, 3 mph (3.5 METs)125.02145.86166.70
Treadmill Walking, 4 mph (4.5 METs)160.74187.53214.32
Treadmill Walking, 3 mph 5% incline (7 METs)250.04291.72333.39
Treadmill Walking, 4 mph 5% incline (9 METs)321.48375.06428.64
Treadmill Running, 5 mph (8.5 METs)303.62354.23404.83
Treadmill Running, 6 mph (9.5 METs)339.34395.90452.46
Treadmill Running, 7-8 mph (12.5 METs)446.75521.21595.67
Treadmill Running, 6 mph 5% incline (13 METs)464.36541.76619.15
Treadmill Running, 7-8 mph 5% incline (15 METs)535.81625.11714.41
Cycling burned calories in 30 minutes
Bicycling, general267.90312.55357.20
Bicycling, 10-11.9 mph, leisure, slow, light effort242.90283.38323.86
Bicycling, 12-13.9 mph, leisure, moderate effort285.76333.39381.02
Bicycling, 14-15.9 mph, racing or leisure, fast, vigorous effort357.20416.74476.27
Bicycling, 16-19 mph, racing/not drafting or > 19 mph drafting, very fast, racing general428.64500.09571.53
Bicycling, > 20 mph, racing, not drafting564.38658.45752.51
Stationary bicycling, general250.04291.72333.39
Stationary bicycling, 30-50 watts, very light to light effort125.02145.86166.70
Stationary bicycling, 51-89 watts, light-to-moderate effort171.46200.03228.61
Stationary bicycling, 90-100 watts, moderate to vigorous effort242.90283.38323.86
Stationary bicycling, 101-160 watts, vigorous effort314.34366.73419.12
Stationary bicycling, 161-200 watts, vigorous effort392.73458.18523.63
Stationary bicycling, 201-270 watts, very vigorous effort500.09583.43666.78
Stationary bicycling, RPM/Spin bike class303.62354.23404.83

30 minutes burned calories for treadmills and cycling

Does a treadmill or biking burn more calories?

Treadmill running burns more calories than outdoor and indoor cycling at the same intensity level because running involves greater full-body engagement and cardiovascular effort. For example, at a vigorous intensity level, a person weighing 175 lbs (79.38 kg) running on a treadmill at 7-8 mph (12.5 METs) burns approximately 521.21 calories in 30 minutes, which is more than outdoor cycling at 14-15.9 mph (10.0 METs) burning around 416.74 calories, and more than indoor cycling at a vigorous effort (101-160 watts, 8.8 METs) burning about 366.73 calories in the same duration. Treadmill walking, while also effective, burns significantly less at this intensity level compared to running.

What lose more weight cycling or treadmill?

Cycling and treadmill exercises both effectively contribute to weight loss, fat loss, and reduction of belly fat; however, treadmill running tends to be more effective due to its higher intensity and full-body engagement, leading to greater calorie expenditure and cardiovascular benefits, which are crucial for fat burning including belly fat. Cycling, while excellent for building leg muscle and cardiovascular health, generally burns fewer calories at comparable intensity levels. Both cycling and treadmill running are beneficial for overall health, but for faster results in weight loss and fat reduction, particularly in the abdominal area, treadmill exercises usually have the edge. 

Comparison AspectCyclingTreadmill
Weight LossGood for weight loss, especially when done at higher intensities. Builds lower body strength, aiding in overall metabolism.Typically more effective for weight loss due to higher calorie burn and full-body workout at similar intensity levels.
Fat LossEffective, especially in high-intensity intervals; with more focus on the lower body.Generally more effective due to higher overall calorie expenditure and cardiovascular engagement.
Belly Fat ReductionContributes to overall fat loss, but is less targeted on belly fat specifically.More efficient in targeting belly fat due to the involvement of core muscles and higher intensity cardiovascular workout.

 Associate Professor Dr. Tom J. Hazell’s study from the University of Lethbridge highlights that treadmill running, specifically Sprint Interval Training (SIT), is a highly effective and time-efficient strategy for reducing body fat, increasing aerobic capacity, peak running speed, and fat-free mass in healthy young women, compared to cycling exercises which are often less intense and focus more on the lower body.

Cycling muscles vs treadmill muscles

Cycling primarily works the lower body muscles including the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves, while treadmill running engages these lower body muscles along with a more significant activation of the core muscles, and to some extent, the upper body for balance and posture.

Dr. Helen Carter’s 2000 study from the University of Surrey Roehampton and the University of Brighton, UK, suggests that while oxygen uptake kinetics in treadmill running and cycling are generally similar, muscle engagement differs significantly, with cycling involving more type II muscle fiber recruitment due to increased isometric upper body contraction and higher muscle tension, compared to running which utilizes more stretch-shortening activity and thus may engage muscles differently.

Here’s a comparison table for a clearer understanding of the muscles involved in each activity.

MusclesCyclingTreadmill Running
QuadricepsHeavily engaged in pedaling.Engaged in leg extension during running.
HamstringsActivated during the upstroke in cycling.Heavily involved in running for leg curls.
GlutesMajor muscle group used in cycling.Engaged in running, especially uphill.
CalvesWorked during the pedal stroke.Highly activated for propulsion in running.
Core MusclesLightly engaged for stability.Significantly engaged for stability and posture.
Upper Body MusclesLess engaged, more for balance.More engaged than in cycling for balance and arm movement.
Back MusclesEngaged in posture, especially in aggressive cycling positions.More actively engaged in running for posture and stability.

Cycling muscles vs treadmill muscles

This comparison highlights that while both cycling and treadmill running effectively work the lower body muscles, running provides a more balanced workout that includes significant engagement of the core and upper body muscles.

Cycling legs vs treadmill legs

Cycling primarily targets the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves with repetitive concentric and eccentric movements that build muscular endurance and strength, especially in the quadriceps, while treadmill running engages these same leg muscles but with a greater emphasis on the hamstrings and glutes due to the stretch-shortening cycle of running gait, providing a more balanced leg muscle development and higher impact on joint health and bone density, illustrating the complementary nature of these exercises from both a sports performance and medical perspective.

Cycling vs treadmill for muscle building

Cycling vs treadmill for muscle building: Cycling focuses more on building strength and endurance in the lower body muscles, especially the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves, through resistance-based, repetitive leg motions, ideal for muscular toning and strengthening. In contrast, treadmill running emphasizes cardiovascular fitness and endurance rather than targeted muscle building; while it engages the same muscle groups, its impact on muscle hypertrophy is less pronounced than cycling, offering more balanced muscle development and better enhancement of bone density due to its high-impact nature.

Cycling vs treadmill bones and joint impact

Cycling versus treadmill bones and joint impact are distinctly different; cycling is a low-impact activity that places minimal stress on the joints, making it suitable for those with joint concerns or arthritis, as it avoids excessive pressure on knees, hips, foot, hand and ankles. In contrast, treadmill running is a high-impact exercise that can improve bone density and strengthen joints through weight-bearing movements. Still, it also increases the risk of joint-related injuries and strain due to the greater impact experienced during running.

Dr. Richard Willy’s 2016 research at East Carolina University, published in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, concludes that treadmill running compared to overground running results in greater Achilles tendon loading, highlighting its potential for increased mechanical stress on certain lower extremity structures, which may indirectly suggest a higher impact on bone density due to the weight-bearing nature and ground reaction forces involved in treadmill running.

Treadmill vs cycling for bone density

Treadmill running, as a weight-bearing exercise, is more effective than cycling for improving bone density because it involves ground reaction forces and mechanical loading, which stimulate osteoblastic activity and bone remodeling – key processes in increasing bone mineral density, whereas cycling, being a non-weight-bearing activity, exerts less mechanical stress on the skeletal system, making it less impactful for bone density enhancement despite its cardiovascular and muscular benefits.

Cycling vs treadmill cardio workout intensity

Cycling and treadmill cardio workouts vary in intensity levels due to differences in biomechanical and physiological demands; cycling typically focuses on lower body endurance and strength, primarily engaging quadriceps, hamstrings, and calf muscles with less cardiovascular strain, whereas treadmill running, being a weight-bearing exercise, involves more comprehensive cardiovascular engagement due to increased demand on the heart and lungs to supply oxygen to numerous working muscles, including core and upper body, leading to potentially higher intensity levels and greater aerobic benefits. This distinction in workout intensity is rooted in the distinct muscular activation and systemic cardiovascular responses required by each activity.

In Mgr. David Marko’s study from the University of South Bohemia České Budějovice, Czech, “Vo2peak Comparison of a Treadmill Vs. Cycling Protocol in Elite Teenage Competitive Runners, Cyclists, and Swimmers,” found that treadmill running typically results in higher Vo2peak, heart rate peak, and breathing frequency compared to cycling in elite youth athletes, indicating that treadmill exercises can elicit more intense cardiovascular responses than cycling, which is crucial for exercise prescription and athletic performance monitoring.

What are the comparable speeds of treadmill vs cycling?

The comparable speeds of treadmill running and cycling, based on METs values and intensity, is that a moderate-intensity run on the treadmill at about 6 mph (9-10 METs) is roughly equivalent to cycling at 14-15.9 mph (10.0 METs) in terms of energy expenditure and cardiovascular effort, primarily because running inherently demands more full-body exertion and weight-bearing effort, leading to higher energy consumption even at slightly lower METs compared to the more focused lower body effort in cycling.

What is the average treadmill speed vs average cycling speed?

The average treadmill speed typically ranges around 5 to 6 mph (8 to 9.7 kph) for most casual runners, while the average cycling speed for recreational cyclists is usually between 12 to 14 mph (19.3 to 22.5 kph), reflecting the differing biomechanical and resistance factors of each activity – running requires more energy per stride due to weight-bearing impact, while cycling allows for higher speeds due to mechanical assistance and lower body-focused exertion.

Cycle vs treadmill vo2 max

Cycling typically results in a slightly lower VO2 max compared to treadmill running due to the specific demands of weight-bearing and full-body engagement in running, which require more oxygen uptake and energy expenditure, as running engages more muscle groups, including the core and upper body, and places greater stress on the cardiovascular system, whereas cycling’s seated position and focus on lower body exertion distribute the workload differently, often leading to a marginally lower VO2 max.

Which is better for high-intensity interval training (HIIT), cycling or treadmill?

Cycling is often better for high-intensity interval training (HIIT) than a treadmill because it allows for rapid variation in intensity with less impact on the joints, accommodating a wider range of fitness levels and providing a safer option for reaching near-maximal or maximal effort levels without the high-impact stress of running, making it more versatile and accessible for varying HIIT protocols and fitness abilities.

Cycling vs treadmill for heart health

Cycling versus treadmill for heart health are both highly beneficial; cycling provides sustained aerobic conditioning with lower impact, improving cardiovascular endurance and efficiency, while treadmill running, with its weight-bearing nature and higher intensity, demands more from the cardiovascular system, potentially leading to greater improvements in heart strength, cardiac output, and overall cardiovascular fitness, both utilizing key concepts of cardiac physiology and exercise kinesiology.

Assistant Professor Dr. Stephanie Gerlach from the Missouri Western State University, USA, in her 2020 systematic review published in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, found that in cardiac rehabilitation, cycling as the primary mode of exercise led to a larger improvement in functional capacity (FC) compared to treadmill exercise, particularly benefiting patients with coronary artery disease (CAD), while chronic heart failure (CHF) patients showed more significant gains in FC from treadmill-based programs, indicating that both activities contribute differently to heart health depending on specific cardiac conditions.

Cycling or treadmill which is better for the heart?

Cycling is better for the heart than treadmill running for individuals with coronary artery disease (CAD) as it leads to larger improvements in functional capacity, a key indicator of cardiac health, due to its efficient cardiovascular conditioning with lower physical impact, while treadmill running shows more benefit for patients with chronic heart failure (CHF) by providing higher intensity cardiovascular exercise, as indicated in Dr. Stephanie Gerlach’s research.

Cycling vs treadmill Versatility

Cycling vs treadmill versatility are distinct in their applications; cycling, both outdoor and stationary, offers varied terrain and resistance options, making it adaptable for different fitness levels and goals, while treadmills provide controlled, consistent conditions with adjustable incline and speed settings, making them better for targeted training regimens. However, treadmills edge out slightly in versatility as they can cater to a broader range of cardio exercises from walking to sprinting, along with specific workout programming, thus accommodating a wider spectrum of fitness enthusiasts from beginners to advanced runners.

Cycling vs treadmill Injury risk

Cycling vs treadmill injury risk primarily involves lower body injuries; cycling commonly leads to knee and lower back pain due to repetitive motion and posture, while treadmill use increases the risk of knee, ankle, and hip injuries, as well as stress fractures due to the high-impact nature of running. The differing biomechanics and impact levels of each activity contribute to these specific injury risks.

Dr. Nicholle E. Lewis from the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Duke University, USA, in a 2022 study published in Neurospine suggests that for spinal cord injury rehabilitation, cycling presents a favorable risk-benefit ratio compared to treadmill training, which, when initiated within the first 3 days post-injury, may worsen outcomes; this indicates that in rehabilitation contexts, cycling’s low-impact nature poses less injury risk and is more beneficial in early recovery phases than the high-impact treadmill exercise.

Injury RiskCyclingTreadmill Running
Knee InjuriesCommon due to repetitive pedaling motion and possible incorrect bike fit.Common due to impact forces and potential overuse.
Lower Back PainCan occur from prolonged riding posture and lack of core engagement.Less common unless due to poor running form or pre-existing conditions.
Ankle InjuriesLess common, mostly related to accidents or improper foot positioning.More common due to impact forces and potential missteps.
Hip InjuriesCan be affected by cycling posture and saddle position.More likely due to repetitive impact and strain on hip joints.
Stress FracturesRare, as cycling is low-impact.Higher risk due to the continuous weight-bearing impact.
Muscle ImbalancesCan develop from overemphasis on certain leg muscles.More balanced muscle use, but can still occur with improper form.

Cycling vs treadmill Injury risk

This table illustrates how the unique mechanics of cycling and treadmill running contribute to different injury risks, with cycling posing a higher risk for knee and lower back issues, and treadmill running potentially leading to more impact-related injuries like stress fractures and joint strains.

Cycling vs treadmill Cost

Cycling and treadmill use differ in terms of price, time investment, maintenance, and space requirements, with each having its unique cost implications. The comparison table below shows that while cycling may be more space-efficient and potentially less expensive initially, it requires more maintenance and can involve additional time for setup or travel, whereas treadmills, though possibly costlier and more space-consuming, offer consistent and convenient workout conditions with less frequent maintenance needs.

Price$500 – $2000 for road bikes; indoor bikes are often cheaper$500 – $3000, depending on features and quality
TimeSimilar for workouts; extra for setup/travel in outdoor cyclingSimilar for workouts; no extra for setup/travel
MaintenanceRequires periodic servicing, part replacements, and repairsNeeds regular lubrication, belt adjustments, and occasional repairs
Space RequirementMore compact storage; can be hung on wallsFixed, larger footprint; requires dedicated space


Which is better, the treadmill vs cycling for busy people?

The treadmill is better for busy people than cycling because it offers greater convenience and time efficiency, allowing for quick and controlled workouts indoors regardless of weather conditions, with minimal preparation time and less frequent maintenance needs, making it more suitable for individuals with tight schedules seeking consistent and efficient exercise routines.

Cycling vs Treadmill: How to choose?

To choose between cycling and treadmill, consider your fitness goals, physical health, injury history, and available time for workouts; cycling, both indoor and outdoor, is ideal for those seeking low-impact exercise, beneficial for joint health and suitable for rehabilitation or those with injury concerns, while offering flexibility in intensity and environment. 

Treadmill running and walking cater to a range of fitness goals from weight loss to cardiovascular health, with walking being an excellent low-impact option for beginners or those with physical limitations, and running providing a high-intensity workout ideal for advanced fitness enthusiasts. 

Ultimately, your choice should align with personal preferences, fitness objectives, and any existing health considerations, ensuring a sustainable and enjoyable exercise routine.

Is biking better than the treadmill?

Yes, biking is better than the treadmill for some individuals because it offers a lower-impact alternative with comparable calorie burn and cardio intensity, making it more suitable for joint health and versatility in workouts, while still effectively supporting weight loss and cardiovascular fitness goals.

Cycling vs treadmill running, which is better?

Treadmill running is better than cycling in terms of calorie burn, weight loss, and cardio intensity because it generally requires more energy expenditure due to the full-body engagement and higher impact, making it more effective for intense cardiovascular workouts and rapid calorie burning, though cycling offers greater versatility with lower joint impact.

Cycling vs treadmill walking, which is better?

Cycling is better than treadmill walking for those seeking higher calorie burn, weight loss, and cardio intensity because it typically involves more vigorous exertion leading to greater energy expenditure, though treadmill walking offers the advantage of being a low-impact, versatile option suitable for a wider range of fitness levels.

Outdoor cycling vs treadmill

Outdoor cycling and treadmill are different in terms of environment, impact, and training dynamics: outdoor cycling offers varied road traffic, terrain (road cycling and mountain biking) and scenery, engaging different muscle groups and promoting balance and coordination, while indoor treadmill running provides a controlled environment for consistent, high-impact cardiovascular training, making each suitable for different fitness preferences and goals.

Indoor cycling vs treadmill

Indoor cycling vs treadmill are distinct in their approach to indoor fitness; indoor cycling, often lower impact, focus on leg strength and endurance with adjustable resistance levels, suitable for sustained cardiovascular workouts with less joint strain, while treadmills offer a broader range of intensity from walking to running, providing more versatility in cardio workouts and higher calorie expenditure, making them each ideal for different fitness objectives and preferences.

Incline treadmill vs cycling, which is better?

Incline treadmill, both running and walking, is better than general intensity cycling for enhanced calorie burn and cardiovascular challenge because the incline significantly increases workout intensity, engages more muscle groups, and boosts the metabolic rate more effectively than standard cycling, offering a more strenuous cardiovascular and strength-building workout.

Running on a treadmill vs indoor cycling, which is better?

Running on a treadmill is better than indoor cycling because it generally has a higher MET value, indicating greater intensity and energy expenditure, and it engages more muscle groups including the core and upper body, leading to a more comprehensive workout that enhances both cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength.

Peloton vs treadmill, which is better?

Peloton is better than a treadmill for those seeking an interactive, community-driven workout experience with smart training plans and a robust online platform, although it may come at a higher cost, providing a comprehensive cycling experience that combines high-quality equipment with extensive digital connectivity and personalized guidance.

Spin bike vs treadmill, which is better?

A spin bike is better than a treadmill for those seeking a lower-impact, cost-effective workout that can still offer high intensity and fun, especially in a group or virtual class setting, providing an engaging cardio experience with less strain on the joints compared to running.

Air bike vs treadmill, which is better?

An air bike is better than a treadmill for those seeking a full-body workout, as it engages both the upper and lower body, offering varying intensity levels that can be easily adjusted by the user’s effort, and typically comes at a lower cost, making it a more versatile and budget-friendly option for comprehensive fitness indoor training

Indoor cycling trainer vs treadmill, which is better?

An indoor cycling trainer is better than a treadmill for cyclists seeking specific training plans and interactive platforms like Zwift, providing a focused, high-intensity workout with the potential for lower cost and greater convenience in training customization, making it ideal for those committed to cycling-specific fitness goals.

Cycle ergometer vs treadmill test

Cycle ergometer vs treadmill test differ in the primary muscle groups targeted and the impact level on the body; the ergometer test focuses on leg strength and endurance with low joint impact, ideal for assessing cycling-specific fitness and cardiovascular health, whereas the treadmill test, involving running or walking, offers a full-body cardiovascular assessment with higher impact, suitable for a more comprehensive evaluation of overall fitness and endurance.

Elliptical vs treadmill vs cycling

Elliptical, treadmill, and cycling differ in terms of intensity, calorie burn, muscle engagement, and impact on the body, each offering unique benefits based on these factors. The comparison table below indicates that while ellipticals offer a balanced, low-impact workout suitable for various fitness levels, treadmills provide higher intensity and calorie burn, particularly beneficial for cardio and endurance, and cycling focuses more on lower body strength and endurance, with a low-impact profile ideal for joint health.

IntensityAdjustable; can be moderate to highWide range; walking to high-intensity runningGenerally moderate; varies with resistance
Calorie BurnModerate to high; dependent on intensityHigh; especially with running or inclineModerate; increases with resistance
Muscle EngagementFull body; focuses on legs, arms, and coreLower body; especially legs and coreLower body; mainly quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes
ImpactLow; good for joint healthHigh for running, low for walkingLow; suitable for people with joint issues
VersatilityGood for cross-trainingExcellent for cardio and endurance trainingExcellent for endurance, less for strength
SuitabilityGood for all fitness levelsWide range; from beginners to athletesGood for those focusing on leg strength and endurance
Equipment CostModerateModerate to highVaries; can be low for basic models to high for advanced ones


Cross trainer vs treadmill vs cycling

Cross trainer, treadmill, and cycling offer distinct experiences in terms of intensity, calorie burn, muscle engagement, health impact, versatality, sutability and equipment costs. The table below illustrates that while cross trainers provide a balanced, low-impact workout suitable for a variety of fitness levels, treadmills offer a broader range of intensities and are particularly beneficial for cardio and endurance. In contrast, cycling focuses more on lower body strength and endurance and is ideal for those with joint issues due to its low-impact nature.

FactorCross TrainerTreadmillCycling
IntensityAdjustable; can be moderate to highWide range; walking to high-intensity runningGenerally moderate; varies with resistance
Calorie BurnModerate to high; dependent on intensityHigh; especially with running or inclineModerate; increases with resistance
Muscle EngagementFull body; focuses on legs, arms, and coreLower body; especially legs and coreLower body; mainly quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes
ImpactLow; good for joint healthHigh for running, low for walkingLow; suitable for people with joint issues
VersatilityGood for cross-trainingExcellent for cardio and endurance trainingExcellent for endurance, less for strength
SuitabilityGood for all fitness levelsWide range; from beginners to athletesGood for those focusing on leg strength and endurance
Equipment CostModerateModerate to highVaries; can be low for basic models to high for advanced ones


Which is better a treadmill or a stationary bike?

A treadmill is better than a stationary bike for those prioritizing weight loss and comprehensive cardiovascular conditioning, as it typically burns more calories and offers a wider range of workout intensities, from walking to high-speed running, despite often being higher in cost and requiring more space, making it a more efficient choice for intense full-body workouts.

Is riding a recumbent bike as good as a treadmill?

Yes, riding a recumbent bike is as good as a treadmill for certain fitness goals like cardiovascular health, weight management, and muscle toning because it offers a low-impact, heart-rate elevating workout that aids in burning calories effectively, strengthens lower body muscles, and improves overall endurance, while being gentler on joints compared to the high-impact nature of treadmill running.

Is treadmill or cycling better for the elderly?

Cycling is better than a treadmill for the elderly because it provides a safer, low-impact cardiovascular workout that reduces the risk of injury, particularly beneficial for maintaining bone density, lung function, and blood pressure regulation, while minimizing the strain on joints and the potential for falls, making it a more suitable exercise option considering the physical limitations often associated with aging.

Is treadmill or cycling better for younger people?

A treadmill is often better than cycling for younger people because it offers a high-impact exercise that is crucial for building bone density, as well as providing a more intense cardiovascular workout and greater muscle engagement, particularly beneficial for developing overall physical fitness and endurance in a younger, typically more injury-resilient demographic.

Is treadmill or cycling better for pregnancy?

Cycling is better than a treadmill for pregnancy because it offers a safer, low-impact exercise option with reduced injury risk, essential for accommodating the physical changes and balance challenges experienced during pregnancy; cycling, especially stationary, provides a controlled environment for cardiovascular fitness while minimizing the risk of falls and undue stress on the joints, making it a more suitable and secure choice for expectant mothers.