Treadmill vs. Cross Trainer – Who’s the Winner?

Are you struggling to choose between a treadmill and a cross-trainer?

If so, you’re in the right place. We’ve put together an extensive article that will take you through what each of these pieces of fitness equipment has to offer you.

By the end, you’ll have a deeper insight into their benefits and drawbacks. You’ll even leave with a better understanding of which one you gravitate towards the most too.

Do you feel confused about which ones work out more muscles, which burns more fat, or the one that’s best for dealing with injuries?

We’re about to put all your questions to rest – simply take a look below.

Treadmill vs Cross Trainer Comparison

Treadmill vs. Cross Trainer (Overall comparison)

  • Treadmills essentially provide you with a platform that you can walk, jog, and run on. Depending on the type, you can alter the incline angle so that it feels like you’re going up or down a hill.
  • Cross trainers create a motion of running while placing your feet on platforms. You also have the chance to hold onto the handle which allows you to use your arms to carry on the movement.

Treadmill vs. Cross Trainer (Detailed comparison)

Work Principle

Did you know that using a cross trainer feels easier than a treadmill?

You’d think that means you benefit less from the cross trainer, however, that isn’t necessarily the case.

People have found that spending the same amount of time on a cross trainer and treadmill results in more calories being burned, without feeling as exhausted.

When you’re on a treadmill, you’re given the chance to lift your feet off the floor completely. As a result, you end up engaging your core to keep your body stable. This requires more effort.

Joint Effects

Which one causes more stress on the joints?

Without a doubt, jogging and running on a treadmill causes a lot more joint impact compared to using a cross trainer.

The impact shock waves that get sent through the body on a treadmill mostly affect the knees. However, they can also negatively affect the ankles and hips.

Using a cross trainer, however, doesn’t result in any joint impact. Therefore, it’s a lot safer on the joints. It feels a lot gentler compared to a treadmill and it is one of the main reasons why we recommend it for elderly people, as well as those with injuries.

While running on a treadmill can impact the joints, it is still a lot better than running on the pavement. This is because many treadmills nowadays are equipped with shock absorption tech. It doesn’t completely remove the shock factor, but it does reduce it significantly.

Calories Burned

Did you know that walking on a treadmill enables you to burn just 300 calories per hour?

However, if you were to use something like a Bowflex Max Cross Trainer, you could be burning twice as many calories within a much shorter period of time.

Running on a treadmill would burn more calories quicker. These cross trainers allow you to burn more calories within just 14 minutes.

Having said that, both can be effective for burning calories. A lot of it comes down to the amount of effort that you put into the exercise. As we mentioned above, cross trainers feel like less effort while burning the same number of calories compared to a treadmill.

Therefore, you can typically work harder and for longer which enables you to burn more calories. This is especially the case with the Bowflex Max Trainer.

Target Muscle

Treadmills and cross trainers aren’t pieces of equipment you use if your primary goal is to build muscle. Lifting weights are the best form of exercise for that.

However, using these machines can help you to define your muscles more. Your glutes, thighs, and legs are the areas that will be targeted the most.

Cross trainers have the advantage over the treadmill in this case because they involve the upper and lower body. when you hold onto the bars, your ads, biceps, triceps, shoulders, and chest are all involved.

While your core gets activated more on a treadmill, the rest of your upper body isn’t being activated as much in comparison to the cross trainer.

The treadmill allows you to zero in on your legs as they are being worked harder on a treadmill.

But when it comes to which ones target the most muscles, the cross trainer comes out on top.


The safety of both a treadmill and cross trainer will mostly depend on the individual and how they’re using it. However, a cross trainer is considered to be a little safer than a treadmill.

This is because your feet are firmly placed on the platforms and you can hold onto the bars for extra stability.

While there are side rails to hold onto on a treadmill, there’s still a higher risk of a misstep. Therefore, you’re more likely to fall or lose your balance on a treadmill.


Cross trainers tend to produce minimal noise because your feet stay on the platforms at all times.

When you’re exercising on a treadmill, however, you are constantly pounding the surface. This can create a lot of noise disturbance, especially if you’re heavy-footed.


Treadmills and cross trainers may take up a similar amount of space while full setup. However, you can purchase many treadmills or under desk ellipticals that come with a folding feature.

This lets you easily fold the treadmill up to a more compact size while it’s not being used. There are often wheels on the bottom too which mean you can roll it to a more suitable storage space to save room.

Furthermore, using a cross trainer causes you to move up and down in height. Therefore, you’ll need a significant amount of ceiling height available to properly use it at home.

Value for Money

When it comes to purchasing a high-quality treadmill, you’re going to have to spend over $1,000. These kinds of treadmills come with more workout programs, speed, and incline settings for a better exercise experience.

However, you can pick up great cross trainers for lower prices than treadmills.

The cheaper treadmills tend to be slower in speed and have fewer workout options, which leaves you more limited.

How do you choose between the Treadmill and Cross Trainer?

How do you choose between the Treadmill and Cross Trainer

Take into consideration all the points mentioned above to help you decide which one is best for you. for example, if you like the natural feeling of running, a treadmill would be best.

On the other hand, if you have knee problems and need a way to exercise quietly, a cross trainer would be the most suitable choice.

You will love the Treadmill if you:

  • Like to use incline and decline settings
  • Prefer to walk, jog, or run
  • Want to work out the muscles primarily in your lower body
  • Have a desire to build up your core strength
  • Don’t have a lot of space to workout in at home

You will love the Cross Trainer if you:

  • Have or want to avoid joint issues
  • Are looking to workout on a smaller budget
  • Want to work out the muscles in your entire body
  • Need a piece of equipment that lets you workout quietly
  • Want to burn more calories faster

Things To Know Before You Buy

Budget Set yourself a budget before committing to a purchase. This will help you narrow down your search significantly as you’ll only be choosing the ones you can afford.
SpaceConsidering the amount of space you have is crucial. If you have a smaller area, looking at folding treadmills or Bowflex Max Trainers would suit you best.
But if you have a large enough space, you can be more open to both treadmills and cross trainers.
InjuriesIf you have any injuries that involve your knees, ankles, or hips, you may want to consider going with a cross trainer. The impact from a treadmill will often make those injuries worse.
Noise tolerationMany people live in a home with other people. In which case, being considerate of how much noise you make while working out may be a big factor for you to consider. If you need to workout without disturbing other people, we recommend using a cross trainer.

However, those of you who don’t have any noise restraints can keep their search broader by including treadmills and cross trainers.


At the end of the day, both treadmills and cross trainers are fantastic pieces of equipment for getting fitter and losing weight.

However, certain people will definitely prefer one over the other.

If you weren’t quite sure about which side of the fence you were on, hopefully, you now have a much clearer understanding.

Be sure to take into account all of the points mentioned in this article to help guide your decision-making process. Hopefully, we have provided you with all the information you need to make the best choice possible.

Hey there, I'm Chris Jordan! I'm a certified personal trainer and dietician with over 11 years of experience in the fitness industry. I've helped thousands of people achieve better physical and mental health. When I'm not working, I love spending time with my dog.