The Difference Between a Treadmill and a Recumbent Bike

Treadmill and recumbent bike


By Simon Gould

A treadmill and a recumbent bike are very different exercise machines. They work the body and legs in different ways. On one you’re sitting down and the other you’re standing. Here we look at every difference and think about what to consider if you’re tempted to buy or use either machine. Hopefully we’ll give you something to think about and make your choice a good one.


Treadmill – You have a lot more to choose from when it comes to treadmills, they are more popular and so sell more. They also come in more varieties when it comes to cost. You could get a manual treadmill for around $500 but a motorized one will be $800 and up. To pay for a decent home treadmill will be around $2,000.

Recumbent bike – You do far better on cost with a recumbent bike. They all come in at around the $500 and you can get a really good one for about $1,000. The reason thy cost less is because they have no motor. The resistance is delivered by a fan or magnetically and others. But they don’t cost as much as a motor. The console will usually be a lot more simpler.

Ease of use

Treadmill – is very easy to use you stand on it and start the motor using a quick start button and you start walking or running. The console might be a little complicated at first especially when it comes to selecting a workout routine or the incline but you get there in the end. It’s not as comfortable to use as a recumbent bike.

Recumbent bike – wins this one hands down as this must be the most comfortable piece of fitness equipment to use. You sit on a very comfortable chair and cycle. As long as you can ride a bike you can use a recumbent. Increasing and decreasing resistance should be as easy as turning a dial. The feeling is instantaneous.


Treadmill – has the most impact of any exercise equipment. It’s almost like running on a street. The belt has some give but compared to a bike this one loses. The fact that you’re landing your feet at every stride mean there are shocks going up the feet and legs that need to be absorbed. This puts stress on the lower leg.

Recumbent bike – There is no impact at all. Your feet don’t leave the pedals, you don’t even extend your legs as far as they can go. If there’s anyone who has an injury would do well to use a bike if they want to get some exercise. Also if you wan to rest your legs from running too much or want to get some exercise in a rest day then a bike is more suitable.

Weight loss

Treadmill – are kings when it comes to burning calories which is what you need to do to lose weight. You’re using the whole body to run or walk and it’s not as efficient as riding a bike. To cover the same distance is a lot harder by walking or running than riding a bike. You’ll burn around 130 calories per mile and that doesn’t include using the incline.

Recumbent bike – is a lot easier to use and so doesn’t burn the same amount of calories. You could try and turn up the resistance so the wattage on the console increases. You could almost do a comparable calorie burn but users find a treadmill is generally better for weight loss than a bike. If you have fat to burn and you’re obese go for the bike otherwise go for a treadmill.

Variety of exercise

Treadmill – beats the bike. You can walk or run and you can set the incline to an amount where you’re climbing a steep hill or jogging on a small mound. Add to this the workout routines you can get from the console which all have fancy names like calorie burn and hill climb. This means you have a variety of workouts at your finger tips you could use.

Recumbent bike – has little variety compared to the treadmill. With a bike you just select the resistance and that’s the lot as far as your variety goes. Turning up the resistance is like climbing a hill and that can be varied. You have no workout routines you just get on and go. The treadmill wins this one easily.

Assembly & location

Treadmill – is awkward when it comes to assembly. They often need two people just to bring the treadmill in from the curbside. Assembly will require two people as well and if you’ve seen the instructions then it’s not simple at all. We would always recommend, if you can afford it, to pay a professional to assemble it for you. The location needs to be near an electrical socket and treadmills are very noisy.

Recumbent bike – can also by fiddly to assemble. As with treadmills some are worse than others. You can put it in any room you wish you don’t usually need an electrical supply unless you buy an expensive one. They take up quite a lot of space due to the comfortable padded seat but they generally don’t make half as much noise as a treadmill. The bike wins this one but only just.

Maintenance & longevity

Treadmill – have a lot more of them to go wrong. If it’s not the motor it’s the belt. The console has a lot of electronics and with all that pounding on the belt you’re bound to have an electrical connection go missing. But buy a good treadmill and they can have a good long warranty. Maintenance is still needed regularly and this includes lubrication of the belt.

Recumbent bike – have less to go wrong. The fact that they are cheaper is because they use less parts and with few electronics they should last longer. The warranty is usually similar to treadmills for the more expensive bikes. They require less maintenance than treadmills where a treadmill has a belt that needs lubrication. Bikes do have a chain which needs attention every quarter and it’s advised you tighten nuts and bolts every so often.


Treadmill – If you’re looking to continue exercising from running outside then a treadmill is the way to go. You’ll be able to get on and when the weather is bad or inconvenient you can start running in doors. It’s best for exercise and weight loss. You’ll have some problems with the assembly and location but a good garage will be able to sort that out.

Recumbent bike – If you’re older and/or of a larger build and heavy then a recumbent bike would be ideal for you. If you know you’re not going to do any running, if you’re injured in anyway and you know a treadmill is not going to be good for you then a bike is great to get some exercise while sitting down. They’re easy to use and should last in your home.

Keep reading, we also covered the difference between treadmills and rowing machines.

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

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