The Difference Between a Treadmill and a Spin Bike

Treadmill and spin bike

By Simon Gould

Spin biking or spinning is becoming more and more popular. I’ve seen many classes and companies now offering a spin experience. They often feature loud music, disco lights and an instructor yelling at us to ride with the music. They can be very fun and give a great workout. But how do they compare to the humble old treadmill? Here I find out.

Weight loss

This always seems the most important metric for people and cardio machines. I see many websites say that a treadmill burns more calories than the bike. This is simply not true. Using the resistance on the bike you can burn more or less however many calories you like. That’s the same with the treadmill, you simply make it faster, slower or add some incline.

Where calorie burn is concerned, the treadmill is the one for long workouts at the same speed. The spin bike, however, you are encouraged to change the resistance and stand and sit on the bike regularly. The instructor, along with the music, makes this a natural way to use the bike. This makes the bike far more like interval training.

Where weight loss is concerned you can achieve great results if you combine the spin bike with the treadmill. You use them how they’re meant to be used. What I’m saying is, for example, if you exercised 4 times a week on the treadmill. Make one of those a spin class instead.

The combination of long slow running on a treadmill and the interval nature of the slow and fast spin class, will do wonders for your weight loss and health overall. I’ve done this before and it was amazing how much quicker I could do my treadmill runs. And I had the energy to do so.

The fun factor

It had to be said. Where fun is concerned the treadmill does NOT spring to mind. Treadmill and boredom have millions of results on Google, they go together. New technology is making a treadmill run far more enjoyable. I’m talking about Zwift. This is where you can run against and with other people. You earn rewards as you progress.

Running in a gym you are generally on your own. This is all different with a good spin class. You are joined by any number of people doing the exact same routine as you. You make it easy or hard as you like with the resistance. You stand on the pedals and sit on the saddle, riding along in time with the music. The lights swirl around you as you go. It really is a great experience.

Impact on the body

This is where the most obvious difference is. The treadmill is high impact while, the bike is low. I am testament to this. I started over doing the treadmill. I am 44 and can’t run 5 times a week for 30 minutes like I used to. I tried and got “runners knee”. This is an overuse injury and needs about 4 weeks of rest. I was even hobbling while walking.

I had to stop running but wanted to continue exercising to maintain my fitness. The exercise bike (or spin bike) didn’t hurt my knee at all and allowed it to recover. I was doing 30 minutes per day on the bike and my knee healed while I was doing all that exercise. After 4 weeks I was able to get back to running but I was building up slowly.

Final thoughts

At the top I asked, which is better? Both the treadmill and spin bike are very different. The treadmill isn’t fun but then I don’t find it boring. It’s like an investment in my fitness and I feel so good after a run. A spin class is very addictive. It brings my youth back of going to night clubs and I get a good workout from it.

My conclusion is to do both. You can do interval training on a treadmill but I’d rather do it on a spin bike. And as said it does wonders for your normal runs. They feel so much easier after a few spin classes. If you have access to a spin class or one of the new Peloton bikes then I would advise you take advantage of it. Exercise is to be enjoyed, as well as done for the great health benefits that are there, and both can be done on the treadmill and spin bike.

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

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