Elliptical or Stationary Bike?

Sometimes getting to the gym is the hardest part of working out. Waking up early, getting dressed and then driving all the way to the gym can be a daunting task, especially if you’re facing Hawaii traffic to do so. Then you finally get to the gym, walk into the gym to see 15 different cardio machines staring back at you. The ellipticals may look like they’re the most popular, but should you go with the stationary bike instead? Cardio equipment can be confusing, and often you may be wasting your time without even realizing it. So, is the elliptical or the stationary bike better for YOU?


The elliptical might as well be known as the “comfort blanket” of the gym. Generally during peak workout hours, every elliptical in site is taken. Now not that the elliptical is a bad idea, but it may not be the BEST idea for your cardio every day. Not only do ellipticals force you to change your natural stride and movements, but they aren’t the best bang for your buck. If you notice, very few people are pushing hard to hit their target heart rates during a cardio session on the elliptical. It’s MORE difficult to do a “sprint” on an elliptical because the strides are nowhere near the same length and timing of your usual pattern.

Ellipticals are a great cardiovascular workout and they also provide less knee and joint impact than a treadmill or other popular machines. If you suffer from knee pain, a knee injury or hip pain, the elliptical may be a good choice for you! If you are not of average height and weight, you may have a harder time getting a good workout in on the elliptical due to the machine’s automatic stride. Is the elliptical better than doing no cardio at all? Yes, of course.


Upright/Recumbent/Spin Bikes:

Biking/Cycling is one of the best workouts you can do for your joints. Not only is it extremely low impact, but it also provides a full lower body workout. There are three different kinds of stationary bikes that are found at most gyms. The upright bike, where you are sitting on a high seat, a spin bike which is used for spin classes, and a recumbent bike which is the bike that looks more like a “laying down” bike.

These three bikes effect your body in three completely different ways. The upright bike is probably the worst option of the three because of the bike build. Unless you have a very strong core and perfect posture, this bike may end up giving you a back ache and effecting your posture. A recumbent bike would be the second most productive bike of them all. This bike has almost the same exact workout on your lower bike as an upright bike, but without the posture issue.  Also, if you pump up the intensity, this bike can work your glutes more than almost any other machine! A spin bike is your best cycling option! It’s the closest thing that you will get to an actual outdoor bike because it is designed to change hill-climbing and speed areas as close to the real thing as possible.

What kind of people are biking? Well, biking is a great low impact option for patients who are suffering from a concussion or have had a recent surgical procedure. A stationary bike is also generally an athlete’s first step back to training after a serious injury. If you’re looking for cardio to assist in weight loss, a great interval hill bike ride can help while not leaving your joints inflamed.

Which cardio machine are you going to pick next time you go to the gym? Here at Oahu Spine & Rehab in Kailua, we utilize recumbent stationary bikes as a part of our warm-up treatment plans! All cardio machines are not equal! Make sure if you are suffering from chronic pain, you ask one of our physical therapists here at OSR what cardio machine would be the best for your condition at the gym. If you have felt pinching or numbness after using any sort of cardio machine at the gym, make sure you call your PCP as soon as possible! If you are suffering from chronic pain or know someone that is, give us a call today at 488-5555!



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