Which Cardio Machine is Better? Elliptical vs. Stationary Bike

Gym goers doing the elliptical.
Image via lunamarina/depositphotos

When it comes to cardio machines, the elliptical and stationary bike are some of the most popular options. With both machines, you can decide the speed, cadence, and resistance. While both are great options for cardio, each machine has slightly different fitness benefits. So, which is better for meeting your goals?


The elliptical is a low-impact, easy on your joints workout. It’s a bit like cross-country skiing and stair climbing, which makes the workout a lot of fun. It can even be a full-body workout if you hold onto the moving handles and pump your arms and engage your core. Your glutes, hamstrings, quads, triceps, and deltoids will feel the workout the most.

One drawback to the elliptical is that it isn’t functional—the machine’s movement doesn’t replicate what you deal with in the real world. If you’re looking to be able to run for longer periods of time, you’re better off using the treadmill.

Stationary Bike

The stationary bike is also low-impact and joint-friendly. This is more of a lower-body workout as your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves are engaged throughout the exercise. To get some upper body in, get off the saddle and engage your core.

A con of the bike is that it isn’t the most comfortable piece of equipment. The seated position takes time to get used to. An easy solution to this problem is to get padded bike shorts.