The Difference Between a Treadmill and an Exercise Bike

Treadmill and exercise bike

Dean Drobot/

By Simon Gould

Treadmills and exercise bikes are both good cardio machines. They are both designed to get you fit and healthy and help you lose weight. One is essentially cycling and the other running. We’ll explore how they compare for a number of factors and decide at the end which is better for each category and conclusion.


Treadmill – These are quite costly and you need to buy a good one for the home, one that will last and has the features you want. You can expect to pay $1,000 and upwards for a decent one. We would always recommend buying the best you can afford up to $3,000. There’s no need to go over that amount despite the treadmills on offer.

Exercise bike – These are generally more reasonable because they don’t require a motor. A treadmill has the belt which moves whereas on a bike you do the moving of the chain and wheels. They are a fraction of the price and you could pay up to $1,000 for a good one. This is one that will last and has a console which gives you all the information you want to know about your workout.


Treadmill – These are hard on the knees and the lower leg and joints in particular. You land hard on the belt and while there is some shock absorption going on with the cushioned belt, it’s still a big impact exercise. It’s not the sort of exercise you should do if you’re injured or very over weight.

Exercise bike – There is very little impact on an exercise bike. Injured footballers will often use a bike to keep their fitness up going while injured. You can exercise a lot and with confidence that you have zero impact. The act of cycling is something we can all do so the exercise bike wins with this one.

Weight loss

Treadmill – These are fantastic for weight loss because you use so much effort to advance yourself along. Using the incline you can even make a walk burn a significant amount of calories. Running takes it to another level, you can expect to burn around 130 calories every 10 minutes depending on your speed and how heavy you are.

Exercise bike – Because you can modify the resistance on a bike it does quite well for weight loss. If you’re doing a spin class you can really burn a lot of calories. The trouble is you can cheat a bit. You can ride with little resistance and make it easy. Whereas running burns calories from the outset without putting an incline on it. However the bike does well here.

Muscles worked

Treadmill – Depending on how fast you’re running the whole body can get a workout. Yes the lower body is definitely the one when it comes to muscles used. But the arms get a workout to if you’re sprinting. The muscles worked are the quadriceps, hamstring and calves. The glutes get a look in too especially if you use the incline.

Exercise bike – This works out your hip flexors mainly which is what helps your hips rotate and forming the circle as you ride. The usual leg muscles get a look in. The quadriceps, hamstrings and calves also get worked out but not as much as on a treadmill. They both work out the abdominals to some degree in that you have to stabilize yourself on each of the pieces of fitness equipment.

Assembly & location

Treadmill – We would always recommend you pay for assembly. That way it’s taken to the room you want it and a professional who’s done it many times before assembles it for you. It will cost you but we think it’s worth it. The location you need to think about, they say you shouldn’t place a treadmill in the garage because of the moisture.

Exercise bike – Depending on the type you buy an exercise bike can go nearly anywhere. They don’t take up much room and are nearly assembled when bought from a store. If it’s a recumbent bike it may need more thought as these have seats and require power sometimes. Exercise bikes are small and don’t take up much room, some are foldable to a very small size.

Maintenance & longevity

Treadmill – These require regular maintenance. Every month you should tighten the nuts and bolts that hold it together. You should lubricate the belt on a regular basis as well. They last quite long because if you get a treadmill we recommend, you’ll have a good warranty which means you’re protected if you’re treadmill fails before it should.

Exercise bike – These have similar warranties to treadmills. But they generally last longer. Without that motor that can go wrong your bike will stand the test of time. You need to maintain your bike as well, but it doesn’t need the attention that a treadmill does. However you pay a lot for both pieces of fitness equipment so the maintenance is easily doable for both.


Both the treadmill and exercise bike are cardio machines so they both do well as they are meant to. They both lose you weight and get fit. However I think the treadmill does better for weight loss. The fact that as running you burn a good amount of calories however fast you go is what wins it for me. And the fact that we prefer treadmills :).

An exercise bike is very reasonable in price and requires little maintenance. If you’re struggling for money then you can buy a bike with just the pedals for a very low price. This won’t have any resistance controls so if you’re set on a bike go for one with more features. The bike wins in assembly and location but for a good workout the treadmill has this one.

Thinking of buying a treadmill? Here’s my favorite, I always recommend it when asked.

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