Exercise Bike vs Treadmill: Which Is Better?

Exercise bikes in a gym

One of the most common decisions you’ll need to make in your fitness journey is exercise bike vs treadmill. Treadmills and stationary bikes are some of the most popular exercise machines available for home and gym use. Both machine types are great for aerobic exercise, helping to improve your overall fitness. But which of these two is best for your needs?

What Is The Best Exercise Equipment For Your Needs?

Exercise Bike – Pros

Lower Impact Than Running

Using a stationary bike is a low-impact form of exercise. Since you’re in a seated position, you will not be exerting pressure or jarring movements on your elbow, knee, hip, or back.


Exercise bikes are usually less expensive than treadmills – the best treadmills can cost well over $2000.

Suitable For Many People

Since using an exercise bike is not a weight-bearing workout (meaning you don’t need to support your body weight), it’s the best option for those who maybe aren’t as fit as they could be. If you are looking for a way to get started on your fitness journey, a stationary bike may be the best choice for you.

Anyone recovering from injury, excessively overweight, who has arthritis, or is otherwise in less-than-ideal shape would most likely be better off with an exercise bike (make sure you consult your doctor before commencing any exercise program).


If you get bored quickly on cardio machines, it’s much easier to read a book or magazine while sitting than when running on a treadmill.

Exercise Bike – Cons

The most significant disadvantage of a stationary bike is the lower effort needed. For example, using our research-based treadmill calculator, even jogging on a treadmill for 30 minutes uses around two times the calories of gentle cycling for the same length of time. As you increase the difficulty of the exercise, the difference remains – you simply don’t burn as many calories per minute as you would on a treadmill.

However, it’s also important to note that most people (perhaps excluding ultramarathoners!) can cycle for longer than they can run.

Treadmill – Pros

Although non-load-bearing exercises such as cycling have some advantages, it’s not quite that simple – there are some advantages to load-bearing exercise (apart from the faster calorie burn noted above). For example, according to this study, load-bearing exercise significantly increased bone mineral density in 40 seniors living with osteoporosis.

Treadmill – Cons

As described above, the treadmill is a high impact exercise machine. The higher impact of running may cause or increase joint pain. The increased difficulty & calorie burn of running compared to cycling means the treadmill can be a poor choice if you’re recovering from injury or are just starting out on your fitness journey.

Exercise Bike Vs. Treadmill For Your Goals

Burning Calories

If you simply want help to burn more calories, treadmills are better if you want fast, intense short-term workouts. Nonetheless, exercise bikes are a great help if you have more time.

Have a look at our research-based calorie calculator for treadmills and exercise bikes to see the difference for yourself.

Calorie consumption on exercise bikes depends on how much resistance you use and how hard you pedal. On a treadmill, to burn more calories per minute, you would either increase the belt speed, increase the incline (depending on your treadmill model), run for a longer time, or combine all three.

Interval Training

If you are interested in high intensity interval training (HIIT), either an exercise bike or a treadmill would be a good choice. It’s easier to vary the intensity on a bike by changing the resistance level (you can’t change the resistance of a treadmill), however, working out on a treadmill is already higher-intensity than on a bike.

Weight Loss

The success of any plan to lose weight depends on the balance of calories in vs. calories out. While calorie consumption is beyond this article’s scope, both treadmills and stationary bikes offer aerobic exercise, increasing your heart rate, which is known to burn calories, which helps you to lose weight (for example, see this article).

Treadmills use more body muscle groups and increase exertion. However, an exercise bike may be a safer choice for people with some medical conditions. When choosing a treadmill or a stationary bike, discuss your current health and weight loss goals with a doctor or trainer.

Bad Knees

Whether you’re exercising indoors on a treadmill, or in the great outdoors, the nature of the exercise means there will be a jarring motion on your knees with every step. The treadmill is slightly easier on your joints than a hard surface outside, as the belt you run on is marginally more flexible and forgiving. You can, of course, offset these disadvantages by walking on a treadmill instead of running – however, walking will reduce the other benefits of more intense exercise.

Nevertheless, in contrast, riding an exercise bike is a low-impact activity that doesn’t strain your joints, but also offers an excellent workout for your leg muscles. Hopefully, it makes your workouts more enjoyable and helps you get good results for longer.

Exercise Bike Vs. Treadmill vs Other Exercise Machines

Other exercise machines can also deliver intense cardio workouts.

Elliptical machines simulate running motion without straining your joints, meaning you can work your muscles harder and longer than a treadmill. An elliptical machine works both your upper and lower body.

Rowing machines give your body a more thorough workout. Like an exercise bike, a rowing machine can help give you a low-impact aerobic workout, which is ideal if you want to avoid your exercise causing or increasing joint pain. A rowing machine also exercises your upper body, unlike a stationary bike or treadmill, which only exercise your legs. Rowing machines can take up more space than other fitness equipment options, and they can be noisy. There is also a certain amount of ability required for rowing, and using the machine poorly, e.g., having poor balance may result in injury, more so than other exercise choices.

Varying your workout is always useful, just to make your workout plan enjoyable. When you can select only one form of exercise equipment, choose a machine with several settings to help keep you challenged and inspired. Far better, one with built-in apps to keep your workouts interesting.

Other Factors To Consider

Check The Weight Capacity

Before buying any home exercise equipment, check the machine’s maximum capacity – make sure the treadmill or exercise bike is suitable and safe for you, and also suitable for anyone else in your household who’s likely to use the machine. There are many different makes and models available, be sure you get one that fits your needs.

How Much Time Do You Have?

If you are pressed for time, the treadmill may be more help, due to the higher effort required, which will burn more calories and give your muscles more of a workout than an exercise bike, in the same amount of time.

How Much Space Do You Have?

Generally, a treadmill will take up significantly more space in your home than an exercise bike – this may be an issue for you. Check the specifications of the machine you choose before you buy.

Treadmill vs Exercise Bike – Who Is Each Best For?

More people can use exercise bikes than treadmills. Unlike treadmills, complete beginners, the disabled, or those with various physical disabilities or injuries can still get the benefits of exercise using a stationary bike (after consulting with a doctor). They’re also suitable for those trying to enhance hip and knee mobility after injuries or surgery.

Treadmills may be better for those with some level of fitness, who want to see faster results, or have less free time to exercise.