Cross Trainers Or Treadmills : Which Do You Prefer?

Does the idea of running on a treadmill fill you with dread? Do you look at the treadmill with horror every time you step into the gym? Do you assume that the cross trainer can’t be helpful for weight loss because it’s too ‘easy’?

Everyone knows that the treadmill is a good way to burn calories, improve your fitness level and lose weight, so how can the cross trainer compete? Which machine should you use for the best weight loss results? Read on to find out!


Natural Movement Vs Ease Of Use

One of the treadmills biggest selling points is that it allows you to perform a natural motion, i.e. running. Machines which encourage you to support your own weight and utilise natural movements tend to be more effective than machines which isolate certain muscle groups artificially, which is why free weights, treadmills and rowing machines are normally better than isolation machines which artificially work one specific group of muscles.

The downside is that the treadmill can be harder on the joints, running can exhausting and intense if you’re not used to it, and the treadmill may turn some beginners off cardio exercise altogether if they push themselves too hard.

If you are just getting started on your fitness journey or if you are not used to running then you may find the treadmill quite unpleasant. Cross trainers, on the other hand, basically stimulate the motion of running in slow motion whilst you use your arms and legs to push against the machine’s resistance in order to keep yourself moving. You will probably find that the cross trainer is easier to use and less intimidating if you are a beginner, and this may encourage you to keep using it after the first few sessions.

Perceived Exertion

Many people still accept the ‘no pain, no gain’ rule as fact and so they will assume that the harder and more exhausting an exercise is the more effective it must be. This means that some people continue to use the treadmill even if they don’t enjoy it because they assume that it is more effective than other forms of exercise.

However, there is a difference between the actual amount of effort you are putting into an exercise and how hard you think you are working.  Studies which compared results from people using cross trainers and people using treadmills found that, whilst a number of calories burned and increased heart rate was basically the same regardless of whether the participants were using the cross trainer or the treadmill, the users felt like they were working harder on the treadmill and they assumed that they had exerted less energy on the cross trainer.

If an exercise feels harder and you get exhausted quickly then you are not going to be able to do it for a long period of time, but if an exercise doesn’t feel exhausting you will be able to do it for longer. If cross training can give you the same results at half the exhaustion then not only will you enjoy your workout more but you will also be able to do it for longer and thus burn more calories and lose more weight.

cross trainer


The cross trainer and the treadmill are both versatile machines. The treadmill is most commonly associated with running, but you can also use it to walk, jog or (if it comes with an incline option) you can also use your treadmill to train for hill or mountain climbing. Higher-end treadmills will come with a range of different speeds, inclines and programmes for you to choose from so you can use it to focus on specific goals and train for specific tasks. The treadmill is obviously ideal if you want to train for a marathon, but if you are training to climb a marathon or go hiking in the hills then the treadmill will come in handy.

The cross trainer can provide you with a full-body workout, but you can also use it to focus on your lower or upper body. Most higher-end cross trainers will come with moving arms and legs, so you can either use both at the same time for a full body workout, you can focus on your legs for a stronger core and a firmer butt, or you can just use your arms to strengthen and condition your upper half. You can also use the cross trainer to perform squats or utilise different muscles by moving backwards with your legs. Some cross trainers will also come with an incline option, and most come with various resistance levels that you can use to push yourself.


The treadmill is certainly effective, but it isn’t necessarily the safest machine in the world. Some treadmills are manual and the user controls the speed based on how fast or slow they are moving, but many treadmills (including the majority of treadmills you will find in the gym) have a moving belt.

You can normally control how fast the belt moves via control buttons, but once you have set the speed you will need to turn it down via the control buttons whilst you continue to run.  Many treadmills will come with safety rails and emergency stop buttons, but there is still a small chance that you could go flying if you turn the speed up too high and then find that you can’t keep up with it. You can, however, also use the treadmill for walking or jogging and you can set it to a lower speed until you feel comfortable, so whilst accidents are more likely on a treadmill it really does depend on how you use it.

The speed and pace of a cross trainer will be controlled by the user. The user is the one who moves the arms and legs, and if they stop the machine will stop with them. Some users may feel safer on a cross trainer than they would on a treadmill because they are in control of the motion and they can stop at any time without having to try and use control buttons whilst running at full speed.

Low VS High Impact

Cross trainers offer a relatively low impact form of exercise which is kinder on your joints. Exercising on a cross trainer is less likely to cause injury to these parts of your body and it won’t stress out your muscles so much. Cross training also allows you to balance out the workload by using both your arms and legs to push against the resistance, which means that one part of your body is less likely to be over-worked.

The treadmill can offer a lower impact form of exercise if you just use it to walk or jog, but if you use the treadmill to run then you will be engaging in a high-impact form of exercise. The good thing about treadmills is that running is a natural motion and you are holding your own weight and putting in all the effort yourself rather than relying on the machine to carry you through. This may well promote faster results and increase your fitness in real terms, but as you are putting more pressure on your body and less pressure on the machine you are more likely to injure yourself.

Calories Burned

Cross training is easier, normally less painful and less strenuous than running on a treadmill, so surely that must mean that the treadmill burns more calories and helps you lose weight faster?  Whilst there still seems to be this pervading idea that exercise has to hurt and leave you gasping and feeling like you’re about to die, it doesn’t mean that less intense forms of exercise don’t work.

The treadmill will burn an average of around 710-860 calories an hour. The cross trainer will burn an average of 773 calories. You might burn more calories with a treadmill, but you might also  burn fewer calories on a treadmill than you would on a cross trainer.

Keep in mind that the number of calories you burn depends on the average pace of your exercise and your own body weight. Just because you can burn 700-860 calories on a treadmill or cross trainer doesn’t mean you will.

It is not even imperative that you do burn that many calories in one exercise. Most people recommend that if you want to lose weight you should cut down on around 500 calories a day. Even if you just burned an extra 300 calories on your exercise machine, you could cut down on one sugary drink or substitute a packet of crisps for an apple to cut the remaining calories.


The cross trainer and the treadmill are both versatile machines which can help you lose weight as well as promote fitness, body conditioning and muscle gain, so the machine that you choose will depend on the goals that you have and what you feel more comfortable with.

The treadmill will allow you to perform natural running motions which is effective for weight loss. The treadmill has adjustable speeds, it can be used to perform a variety of functions including walking and hill training, and you will certainly feel like you have worked out at the end of it!

The cross trainer allows you to work your whole body or specific parts of your body depending on what your goals are. The cross trainer will probably feel easier than the treadmill, but you are still burning calories and working your various muscle groups.

The cross trainer feels safer than the treadmill, but the treadmill is more natural than the cross trainer. The cross trainer is better for beginners for people with joint problems as it offers a low-impact form of exercise, but it’s not like you have to use the treadmill to run and many treadmills have a range of options which could suit someone who wants to avoid putting too much pressure on their joints.

Ultimately, the machine that you choose will depend on what you enjoy and what you feel comfortable with. Some people love running and they enjoy their time on the treadmill, whilst others start jogging for about thirty seconds and feel like they are going to die. Both machines can give you similar weight loss results, so the machine that you choose has more to do with your preference than which one is better or worse for weight loss.



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