Which is better for weight loss: walking or an elliptical?

Heather Campbell
 min read

Walking and the elliptical are a few of the most popular low-impact cardio types. But which is better for weight loss: walking or an elliptical?

which is better for weight loss walking or ellipticalThey are both very light on the joints, burn calories and help you build muscle.

The elliptical and strolling differ slightly on calorie burn and cost.

Still, both can be great if you are able to get the most out of your exercises.

But what if you have to choose? Which is a much better workout: the elliptical or walking?

It depends on your fitness dreams and what goals you want to achieve.

Here’s what you need to think about when comparing the elliptical to walking…

Which one is better for the joints?

Strolling / walking is by no means a high-impact activity.

But by lifting up one foot at a time and making contact with the ground with each step, your joints do soak up some impact.

This can weigh on the joints with time, especially if you’re strolling on slopes, uneven surface areas, or at different speeds.

When you’re working out on an elliptical fitness device, your feet never lift off the surface, so your joints will not take in any impact from landing.

The elliptical has a lower impact because you have less differing ground contact, so there’s less force absorption by the body and joints.

This is especially interesting if you suffer from obesity!

Discover our guide Best elliptical for a heavy person for some particularly interesting elliptical machines for plus-size users.

Which one helps you burn the most calories?

Strolling and the elliptical are both cardio workouts, so naturally, they burn calories.

But exercising on an elliptical generally burns more calories than walking.

A 165-pound person can burn around 370 calories after 35 minutes of working out on the elliptical.

The same person only burns about 158 calories after 35 minutes of walking.

That being said, you can increase your calorie burn from walking if you pick up the speed or add some resistance on your path, like walking up a hill.

If you want to know how you’re doing, evaluate your efforts.

Are you breathing heavily? Are you sweating? You can spice up your workout up if the response is no.

However, it is essential to keep in mind that many elements decide how many calories you’ll finally burn during your workout:

  • your basal metabolic rate, also known as the number of calories you burn at rest
  • non-exercise activity thermogenesis, also known as NEAT, is the energy used up during fundamental motions and strolling around
  • the thermic impact of food, also known as the rate at which you burn calories after eating

All these things can contribute to the number of calories you’ll burn while walking or exercising on the elliptical.

Non-exercise basic motion is one of the largest sources of calorie burn.

So when you’re considering which activity is better for burning calories, you have to do a lot more than what you’re doing in that single exercise.

Which is better for weight loss: walking or an elliptical?

If your goal is to only lose weight, the workout you’ll do more consistently is best for you.

If you’re able to hop on the elliptical, work out an hour and burn a load, that’s perfect!

But if you can’t, then walking is still a better choice since it’s a lot easier to do during the day.

So you can do it with or without a device and divide the workout throughout the day.

NEAT is also one of the most significant ways of total calorie burn.

Still, there are other factors that play an important role in weight loss, like:

  • diet plan
  • de-stressing
  • recovery
  • rest

So if you didn’t notice already, it’s a bit of a tricky situation.

But in any case, the best workout for weight loss is the one you will do most regularly.

And obviously, the more fun you have while working out, the more frequently you’ll do it.

Which one is perfect for a full-body exercise?

Both the elliptical and walking are mainly lower-body exercises. But on the elliptical you can train your upper body too!

When you use an elliptical, you can use the moving handlebars on the device to pull and press against the resistance.

By doing this, you’re including your arms, shoulders, back, and core to push the movement together with your legs.

For this reason, the elliptical is better suited for a full-body burn. You can include arms and abs in your walking workout as well.

You can do this by engaging your core, forming a fist, and holding your arms at 90-degree angles.

If this is too much of a hassle to remember, you can also use walking poles.

Avoid strolling with hand weights because they can put additional stress on your shoulders and elbow joints. Instead, try walking with a weighted vest.

These options can increase general calorie burn by 10 or 20 percent of your body weight because you’re including more muscle groups in your workout.

But always be sure to consult your medical professional or a certified fitness instructor before including a weighted vest into your walking exercises.

You absolutely want to avoid creating certain conditions, like:

  • arthritis
  • low-back discomfort
  • osteoporosis

So is the elliptical better than walking? Or is it the other way around?

Using the elliptical and walking are both fantastic cardio exercises.

But the best choice for you is the one you enjoy the most, so you will do it regularly to reach your dream physique!

For example, if you dream of running long distances, then walking is a better exercise for you.

But if you’d like to get a full-body, low-impact workout, the elliptical is the way to go!

Tip: Read How do I choose an elliptical for my home? if you are interested in practical buying tips and tricks.

Which is better for weight loss: walking or an elliptical? Additional points of attention

Here are three other things to bear in mind when you’re choosing between an elliptical and a treadmill:

Your current health and level of fitness

Suppose you have injuries and medical concerns that will be impacted by the effect of a treadmill.

In that case, an elliptical is highly recommended.

Who else might use your workout device?

Think about others in your household and how they might influence your buying decision as well.

Would they rather go for a walk or use an elliptical machine?

How much variation would you like? Which is better for weight loss: walking or an elliptical?

You are somewhat limited with an elliptical in comparison to a treadmill.

On a treadmill, you can start off by walking 20 minutes every day, and a few months later, you can be sprinting for half an hour.

Incline, time, speed, and overall resistance are all things you can better manipulate with a treadmill.

And if you’re strolling outside, you can track your development by determining range, speed, and time.

Still, it’s easier to get injured with a treadmill compared to an elliptical.

Tip: Read our related article Elliptical vs treadmill for weight loss goals: Which is better? for more detailed information!

About Heather Campbell

As a nutritionist, my field of specialization is science-based nutritional advice but more importantly, it is my goal to share capturing and inspiring stories, examples and solutions which can help plus-size individuals overcome their specific difficulties. Read More