Stationary Bike vs Elliptical Trainer

I’m thinking about buying a piece of home exercise equipment, and it seems like my best bet is either a stationary bike or an elliptical trainer.

Treadmills and stair steppers are out, because I tend to have knee issues: while my knee problems might eventually go away with continued exercise, I don’t want to be discouraged at the very start. Maybe I can work my way up to a treadmill someday. grin I’ve done my Consumer Reports research and have identified my preferred traditional stationary bike, recumbent bike (I really like the idea of having back support), and elliptical trainer. But, I can only afford one of them. :slight_smile:

My main question is that I don’t understand the difference between a stationary bike and an elliptical trainer: it seems like the motions are similar (Consumers only compares ellipticals to treadmills). What are the particular benefits of each? My secondary question is: which type of equipment would you recommend? Since my goal at this point is just to have some cardio activity (I’m currently overweight and sedentary), does it not really matter which one I pick?

My knees are bad, so both are out, but I like a “strider.” It is different from an elliptical, in that your knees don’t bend, you just keep legs straight and move back and forth.

You might be able to go to a gym, pay for one day, and try out the various machines.

An elliptical will definitely be more of a total body work out. The arms move in tandem with the legs. For the most part, the more expensive the elliptical, the better and smoother the movement. Some can be still a bit jarring or rough on the knees, so try it before you buy it.

I just bought a recumbent exercise bike which, for me, was a much better choice. I am sacrificing burning calories and only working out the legs, but I use it for times when I’m not at the gym, so it’s not a complete either/or position. The best part of the recumbent is the ability to comfortably watch TV or play video games while exercising. I played Bioshock 2 from start to finish and made a deal with myself that the only time I could play it was when I was working out. It was great motivation.

My bit of recommendation would be to get a no-risk trial membership at a local gym and try out both and see which one you like better.

I’d definitely try both if you can. In my experience, some people love the elliptical, and some people hate it. I’m one of the ones who love it, but be warned: if you’re not used to it, it will probably take you a while to build up to doing 30 minutes on it. Don’t get discouraged, though. You’ll get there. I actually started out on a stationary bike at the gym and began adding the elliptical a bit at a time until I could build up my time. I still do the stationary bike now and then to mix it up, but feel I get a better workout from the elliptical. I have troublesome knees as well, and don’t have trouble using either the elliptical or the bike. If you get the elliptical, you’ll likely have to invest in new shoes more often. I just said this in the thread about joining a gym, but if my knees start to hurt, that’s my cue to buy new shoes ASAP.

I can’t stand ellipticals. The movements just don’t feel natural. So if I were the one buying the equipment, I’d definitely go with the bike because it’d be easier for me to put my headphones in and just pedal all my stress away.

However, it’s worth pointing out that you burn more calories per minute doing the elliptical than you do riding the bike. It’s also worth reasserting what stpauler said, that the elliptical will be more of a total body workout.

To summarize: If you’re looking the one that will give you the better workout, go with the elliptical. But if you’re looking for the one that is less of a chore to do on a daily basis, go with the stationary bike.

I’ve used stationary bikes before, but trying out an elliptical somewhere is great advice – thanks, everyone! Just an example of how stuck in “research everything online” mode I am that it didn’t even occur to me. :slight_smile: I like the idea of a full-body workout vs just my legs, but it does sound like I should try an elliptical before spending $1300 on the one I’ve picked out.

I’m open to more comments/suggestions if anyone has 'em…

I have become a big elliptical fan over the past couple of years. I was always a runner, but I don’t really have much of a chance to run outside with my schedule (the only time I can reliably work out is by taking a long lunch, and I don’t work in a outdoor-running-friendly area). I was starting to have some knee issues when running on the treadmills at my gym, so I started trying out all of the other cardio machines. I like the stationary bikes, but I was having a lot of trouble getting a satisfying workout on them and maintaining my heart rate in the range I wanted it. We have a few different types of ellipticals, and I found one that lets me get a sufficiently “running-like” stride without the knee impact. I am able to control the effort of my workout very much like I could when I was running - long jogs, sprint intervals, etc - and my body feels generally great after a workout. Wholeheartedly recommend.

I never feel like I’m getting a good workout with ellipticals. I like to torque up the resistance on the recumbent bike, which you can do in a seated position without compromising your knees because it’s a pushing motion.

The second best thing about the recumbent bike, too, is (as stpauler mentioned) the ability to read and immerse yourself in something so that the time passes quicker.

You can get a decent workout on any kind of machine providing it has multi level resistance. I agree that you should go to a gym and try out various machines for a week or so. Most gyms have free weekly memeberships for you.

I guess this is as good a place as any to ask a question I’ve been wondering about the ellipticals, as it relates to the quoted sentence. I started going to the gym in January (not for any kind of resolution thing, btw, let me just say that. My roommate had a free membership he gave me.)
Anyway, each day I do an hour on one of the machines, rotating between the various ellipticals (the Precor 100i & 576i) and the recumbent bike. But hearing that it takes a while to get used to doing just 30 minutes makes me wonder if I’m not doing the right resistance? Cause while I feel like it’s a good workout (and I burn between 700-800 calories per hour) I was able to do an hour the very first time I tried it. What is the recommended resistance/incline? Usually I do incline 10, resistance 6 on the 576i and 14 on the 100i.

We currently own a Precor elliptical and we really like it. Prior to that, I worked out in various gyms using ellipticals (mostly Precor and Life Fitness) and several kinds of bikes (including recumbent and upright). They each have their pros and cons. Even different brands of the same basic thing can be dramatically different. When we were shopping for our elliptical, we tried a lot of different brands in different stores, and there was a ton of variation.

Both my wife and I like ellipticals a lot better than any types of bikes we’ve tried, but obviously YMMV. We also (thankfully) agreed on which brand and model we liked – not to say that the one we got is the “best”. Just the best for us. I think it’s really crucial to actually go and try the machines you’re thinking of buying. I would strongly recommend against buying any machine without giving it a significant test drive, unless the place you’re buying from has a very good return policy.

These things are all different enough that if I had the room and money, I’d want to have an elliptical, a bike (probably recumbent) and a treadmill all at home. They each provide a unique workout, and changing around helps prevent boredom. I loathe working out (and, truth be told, I haven’t been doing it consistently for a long time – my wife is much better than I am). I’ll take any excuse to not do it. When I was going to the gym, the drive was ample excuse (especially if it was raining, or it was peak time so parking would be a pain, or I was tired, or a TV show I wanted to see was on, or I was waiting for a phone call, or… you get the idea). Having the machine at home is a huge win in that respect. However, I do find that I miss the variety the gym offers. It’s really nice to be able to use different machines (or even the same machine in a different room) when you’re bored.

I love my Livestrong elliptical, and I’ll repeat the advice about trying one out before you buy.

My main issue was finding one that wasn’t too “steppy,” as one salesperson called it. Many of them have more up-and-down motion, more like a stepper. I hate steppers. The elliptical at my former gym had a nice flat motion – but those machines brand new were something like $3000, and the only used one I could find was a wreck. My Livestrong (from Dick’s) was $800. I used it nearly every day all winter, and now that spring is coming I’ll start using it on bad-weather days only.

Shopping tip: My wife loves the thrift stores. Now and then I go in one with her instead of sitting in the truck and reading.

Thrift stores are overflowing with barely used exercise equipment! I guess a lot of people either buy those items or get them as gifts and then quickly lose enthusiasm for the exercise process.

Anyway, we got a nearly new recumbent bike for $50 and a “rowing machine”, virtually new, for $30.

It may take a little patience, maybe several trips to several different thrift stores, but eventually you should find what you want at 1/10 or less of the new price.

Thanks, everyone! :slight_smile: I think I’m leaning toward an elliptical, but I need to figure out the best way to try one out for a while first. Time to go remind myself of the equipment my office gym has. grin

Exactly. The aforementioned office gym is ridiculously convenient – not to mention free – but I’d never get up early enough to go before work, I don’t want to get sweaty/have to shower in the middle of the day, and after work I need to get home to my dog (who has been alone and “holding it” all day). I may wind up ignoring a home machine more than I should, just because I am quite lazy at heart, but at least it will get rid of that last excuse: I picture myself doing 30 minutes in the basement each morning while the dog is out doing her thing. Maybe more after work/on weekends. Which isn’t much, probably barely enough to get my heartrate raised, but is better than the nothing I’m doing now. :slight_smile: Plus I finally have the room for it: I’m renting a place with a finished basement that I’m not using for anything else, and I’m hoping to stay here for a while.

Thanks for the suggestion! But, (a) there are some things I just don’t want to buy used, and exercise equipment is one of 'em, (b) I’d have to borrow a truck/SUV from someone, and (c) some of the assembled weights I’ve seen are up around 100 lbs, so I’d never be able to get the thing into a vehicle and into the house by myself. All of which – for me – adds up to “buy new and get it delivered.” :smiley:

I’m a huge fan of indoor cycling trainers. I have a Computrainer myself, and while it’s definitely a bit spendy, I’ve spent way more time on it than I ever would at a gym, so in that sense it’s probably already paid for itself. Plus, it’s built like a tank; it’s gone three numerous trans-ocean moves (I’ve used it in New York, Tokyo, and London) with nary a problem.

Downside, of course, is that you need to buy a bike. Upside is, you can use the bike out on the road when the weather is nice!

There are many kinds of indoor cycling/turbo trainers. Nearly all of them display heart rate, wattage (i.e, how much power you’re producing), speed, distance, etc. If you’re a data geek like I am, you’ll love having lots of data collected automatically - sometimes knowing that I need ‘x miles to get a milestone’, it even helps keep the motivation up.

The better trainers ‘mimic’ the feel of riding outdoors - if you cycle up a hill in the virutal world the motor applies a load factor that simulates the effect of having to pedal up a hill. You can get in a very good workout - more efficient than being outdoors, and you don’t have to worry about dogs chasing you or cars trying to run you off the road (or worse). One thing I like about cycling trainers is that it mimics an actual sport, so I can watch videos of Tour de France stages and pretend I’m chasing Lance up the Tourmalet or something <g>. month or two; it would feel too much like having to go to the gym.

The Computrainer hooks up to my PC, and the software controls the workout load. There are hundreds of pre-set workouts - either actual courses (i.e., one of my favorite workouts is to do two-three ‘cyber laps’ around Central Park, or interval training (i.e., 5 intervals of 5 minutes on, 1 minute rest etc). And of course you can create your own.

Some trainers have better software than others. I don’t care about the software visual effects that much: since I’m in front of my PC I tend to either throw in a movie or TV show, or listen to podcasts etc during my workouts.

Computrainer linkage. A list of some reasonably priced indoor trainers here.

I use a bike trainer at home. Way, waaaay cheaper than buying a stationary bike. If you already have a decent bicycle, get an elliptical trainer and a bike trainer. :slight_smile: I’ve seen them as low as $200, and they fold and disappear under the bed.

ETA: Or maybe get the bike trainer for awhile and see if you’re going to actually use it. If you hate it, better to have spent only $200, than the larger amount of cabbage you’d have spent on a stationary bike. If you love it, you can get something better and Craig’s List the trainer.

No bike, or plans to get one. :slight_smile: When it’s nice outside I’d rather be walking/hiking with my dog, or at the dog park with my dog.

(I know that some/many people bike with their dogs. That wouldn’t work for either of us, for various reasons.)

My dog thinks it’s a game and if you try to cycle next to him outdoors, he tries to catch your ankles. That doesn’t work out well for anybody.

I was on the same situation when i first started on this, i looked everywhere for decent training stuff such as bikes. You may be interested on some Recumbent Exercise Bike Reviews, i found them useful for me…and its a good place to start!