Treadmills burn the most energy of all cardio machines, according to research

Why the humble treadmill outruns all the other gym machines in terms of energy expenditure

Woman running on a treadmill
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Treadmills are among some of the best exercise machines you can get, either at home or the gym. With all the benefits of running, including more developed legs, increased exercise endurance, calorie burning or better heart health, you have the option to uniquely tweak your workout with speed and gradient. You can't get that tailored experienced in an outdoor run. 

It's no wonder the best treadmills were in such high demand over lockdown. Many of the latest treadmill models are able to be folded up and wheeled away for easy storage, making them perfect to park in the front room as a collapsible home gym, allowing you to watch your favourite streaming service and still get a good workout in. 

They're even more appealing when taking into account a study from researchers at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. The researchers, published in the International Journal of Research in Exercise Physiology, looked at the exercise machines which caused people to expend the most energy. 

Examining participants on the elliptical machines, exercise bike, rower, recumbent bike and loads more, the scientists found energy expenditure on the treadmill and step mill was "significantly higher than all of the other machines".

Woman running on a treadmill

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Energy expenditure loosely translates into calories burned, so it's clear the treadmill and step-mill are great for weight loss. Even 10 minutes of running a day, at slow speeds under six miles per hour, can reduce all-cause and cardiovascular mortality risk by a significant amount, according to research. Persistent runners can lower their risk of early death by up to 50% – a huge margin.   

However, depending on your training needs and goals, you might not opt for a treadmill. The best elliptical machines, or best rowing machines, pull double duty by offering resistance training for the arms, back and core through the use of handles and increased resistance. If building muscle as well as losing fat is on your to-do-list, these machines might be a better bet. 

They're also low-impact, so if you struggle with the repetitive impact of your feet on the pavement or treadmill belt, a stepper, elliptical or rower may be the better choice. The additional resistance training also strengthens the muscle around your joints, preparing you for impact as you get fitter and stronger. 

If you're looking at ditching the treadmill and opting for the great outdoors for the first time, you might want to check out our best running watch guide. 

Matt Evans
Matt Evans

Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and Channel Editor at Fit&Well. He's previously written for titles like Men's Health and Red Bull, and covers all things exercise and nutrition on the Fit&Well website. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen kickboxer and runner. His top fitness tip? Stretch.