Informational Guide

Comparing Exercise Bikes Vs Ellipticals

Are you going to burn more calories on a stationary bike or an elliptical machine? We compare exercise bikes vs ellipticals to see which is best and why.


We have all been there; you get the itch to shed some extra pounds and wonder where you should start. After focusing on how you can change your diet, you will have to take baby steps towards burning some calories.

Are you going to burn those on a stationary bike or an elliptical machine? Which will work better? Let’s take a look at both to see which is the best and why.

Exercise bikes have been around for decades. The low-impact, stationary bike means users can get their workout without causing extra damage to joints or muscles.

Adjustable settings and resistance levels make the bikes very versatile for all sorts of body types and workout routines. There are tons of benefits specific to exercise bikes, here are just a few.

  • Weight Loss 
    Exercise bikes are a great way to kickstart your road to better health. Riding a stationary bike for about 30 minutes can burn between 200-500 calories.
  • Toning 
    Repetitive, low resistance exercise is not great for building huge muscles. What it is great for is toning existing muscles.
  • Muscle Strengthening 
    Stationary bikes have adjustable resistance. This feature gives users the ability to build strength over time. As a user becomes more comfortable with the bike, they are able to raise the resistance and strengthen muscle.
  • Ease Of Joints 
    The low impact of a stationary bike is great for older individuals, new users, or rehabilitation after an injury. The ability to sit while exercising is also a unique aspect of the bike that makes it easier on the user’s body.
  • Convenience 
    Light and mobile, the stationary bike can be tucked anywhere in a residential home or apartment. This means users can get a short workout right in the comfort of their home, no commute to the gym and back.
  • Cardio 
    Cardiovascular health and keeping your heart healthy are vital for longevity. When using a stationary bike, blood flow and heart rate are safely increased. Blood flow brings enriches muscles with oxygen. This process promotes mobility and elasticity, which prevents injury.
  • Energy Boosting 
    Moving oxygen through the body is a great energy boost. For this reason, many top-level athletes use a stationary bike as a "warm-up" for their more serious workouts.
Exercise Bike Vs Elliptical

Benefits Of Elliptical Machines

If you have ever been to a busy gym at rush hour, you will quickly notice the huge lineup to use an elliptical machine. Why are they in such high demand? Is everyone getting shredded on an elliptical machine? Not necessarily; it can be a whole-body workout if used properly, though.

Increased cardiovascular health

Getting your heart pumping and sending oxygen to all parts of the body is undoubtedly the best way to stay healthy and active. Using an elliptical machine forces you to rapidly move your appendages, requiring your heart to pump extra oxygen-rich blood all over your body, enriching your muscles.

Low-impact exercise

The elliptical machine is considered a low-impact form of exercise, but that is only partially true. With an elliptical, you are still standing and applying force to your joints against resistance. Moving your larger joints like hips and knees rapidly for extended periods could still have the potential for developing injuries.

Get both an upper and lower body workout

The best part of an elliptical machine is the ability to get an upper body workout at the same time as you are working out your lower half. The handlebars on an elliptical are attached to the foot pedals, so the harder you work with your upper body, the easier you need to work with your lower body.

Target specific leg muscles

To specifically target certain muscle groups with an elliptical machine, you can remove your arms, focusing on your lower body. You can raise resistance levels to focus on larger muscle groups like glutes and hamstrings. Even lessening the resistance levels will help to tone smaller muscle groups.

Improve your balance

Removing your hands from the bars will help improve your balance because the foot pedals on an elliptical machine are not stationary. Your body will have to adapt to walking on floating pedals which strengthen your core, which in turn reinforces balance.

Maintain fitness after injury

Elliptical machines are a great form of physical therapy. Because you can focus on specific muscle groups, users are able to maintain the fitness levels of some muscles without impacting others. These machines have a lower impact level than running and lifting weights, so if you wanted to work your way back up to either of those activities from an injury, an elliptical is a perfect place to start.

Enjoy a variety of options

Because these machines are so adjustable and variable, they give users the ability to have almost endless options for exercise routines. You can adjust the resistance to very little and get a fat-burning cardio workout that resembles cross country skiing, or adjust it very heavy and focus on the upper body alone to mimic lifting weights

Stationary Bike Vs Elliptical For Cardio

Exercise Bike Vs. Elliptical: What’s The Difference?

While these two machines will probably be located in close proximity within a gym, they are far from the same. The exercise bike is great for long endurance rides to develop stamina and endurance in a low-impact setting. It burns fat and tones existing muscle.

The elliptical machine is for burning calories with high-intensity full-body workouts but can also be for low-impact cardio work. It has flexibility and is a bit more beneficial than a bike.

Burning Calories/Fat Loss

Fat loss is a major reason any individual gets into working out on a bike or an elliptical. From my experience, a bike is great for shedding those first 10 pounds, but once your body loses those low-hanging fruit, the bike has done its job and will not do much more. After that initial 10 pound loss on an elliptical, you can change up your routine and take at least 10 more from other problem areas.


Cardio from a bike is going to be better than an elliptical. This is simply because you can comfortably work on a bike for longer than an elliptical without fatiguing. A 30-minute bike ride at low resistance will be a great warm-up and cardio workout, whereas 30 minutes on an elliptical could cause joint pain and keep you from continuing.

Tone Muscles

Elliptical wins this battle. Slightly higher impact and full-body resistance will tone muscles better than a legs only resistance that a bike provides. The elliptical has a unique ability to be spun in reverse to tone additional muscles. This gives it the absolute advantage in the toning category of our comparison.

People with Bad Knees

Bad knees can stem from all sorts of injuries or overuse. Low impact training is great to build up the muscles that surround the knees, which in turn make them stronger and more stable.

A bike is a perfect way to rehab for this ailment. The ability to be seated while exercising these muscles relieves them of your body weight. The bike can be used with low resistance in a seated position until muscles become strong enough to add resistance and eventually leave the saddle.

Injury Rate

There are not too many ways to be injured on a stationary bike. Unless you fall off or hit your shin with a pedal, you will not have many exercise bike-related injuries. The elliptical is a bit different. With the long duration of constant joint movement on an elliptical machine, users can sometimes develop pain or injuries.

Workout Variability

There are thousands of bicycle workouts one can choose from online, but at the end of the day, you are still just riding a stationary bike. The elliptical allows you to work legs, arms, core, back, and a combination of any few at a time. Elliptical takes the point for workout variability.

Machine Durability

The durability of a machine is important if you are going to own one. Because an exercise bike does not require electricity or a ton of space, it wins the durability category. Elliptical machines have a ton of moving parts, and the resistance is controlled electronically. This is the reason gym owners keep those "out of order" signs handy.


Chalk up another hash mark for the exercise bike! I keep mine right in my bedroom, and it takes up about 4 feet of space. Bikes can be kept almost anywhere and rolled out for use. Elliptical machines are large and heavy. This factor alone keeps many individuals from having one in their homes or apartments.

Ease of Use

While neither of these machines takes rocket science to operate, I would give the nod to the stationary bike here. People learn to ride an actual bike when they are just a few years old because they are so easy to operate. An elliptical machine is easy to work as well, just not as easy to operate as a bike.

People Also Ask (FAQs)

Is 30 minutes of elliptical enough?

A 30-minute elliptical session is plenty for any sort of workout. I would even suggest less time on an elliptical, especially when starting out. The repetitive motion with a load of body weight and the machine's resistance can stress joints that are not used to prolonged exercise.

Is 30 minutes on a stationary bike enough?

A 30-minute ride on an exercise bike is enough to get the heart pumping. Increasing resistance will make 30 minutes more than enough.

How many times a week should I use an elliptical machine to lose weight?

To lose weight, you could jump on an elliptical every day. The resistance is low enough that your muscles should not need a break or rest day. The elliptical may be harmful to joints after prolonged use, but not if use is broken up into daily sessions.

Is it OK to ride a stationary bike every day?

You can absolutely ride the stationary bike every day. You could ride the stationary bike all day, every day, and it would be great for your body with little to no detriment. You may not lose a ton of weight or build a ton of muscle, but your endurance and stamina will be unparalleled.


If I were forced to buy only one of these machines, the decision would be pretty easy. I would choose an exercise bike every time. The reason I say that is because while the elliptical does provide a great workout and vast variability, doing some other exercises that do not require a machine could take the place of that. 

A bike provides cardio training with a low impact which is why you are buying a machine. You can buy just the bike and implement pushups, situps, pullups, etc., to accomplish everything an elliptical provides and more.

Josh is a trained HVAC and Plumbing specialist who loves all things DIY. He has been featured in Forbes, USNews, Homes & Gardens, Family Handyman and several other leading publications.