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Walking vs. Elliptical Machines: Which Is More Effective?

If you’re trying to decide between walking vs elliptical machines for your workouts, you might be wondering which one is better for you. Both walking outside or on a treadmill and elliptical machines can provide a great cardiovascular workout, but they have some key differences that may make one more suitable for your fitness goals and preferences. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at walking and ellipticals to help you decide which one is the best fit for you.

Walking vs Elliptical? Walking is a more natural exercise that can be done both indoors and outdoors but it tends to be a bit harder on your joints and take up more time. Ellipticals offer low-impact, full-body workouts that are easier on joints, but with less natural movements.

Walking vs. Elliptical Machines

Walking vs Elliptical

1. Surface

The surface you walk on can greatly affect the difficulty and benefits of your workout. Walking outside on natural terrain such as grass, dirt, or pavement can be challenging for your joints and muscles as the unevenness and texture can affect the balance and traction. This kind of walking can also be beneficial for your feet and overall balance and stability, and can prevent injuries such as shin splints. 

On the other hand, using an elliptical machine offers a smooth and consistent surface that can be easier on the joints, but it may not provide the same variety and benefits to your body as walking on natural terrain. Elliptical machine surface is also more consistent and unchanging, which can make it easier to maintain a steady pace and rhythm, particularly for cardiovascular fitness. However, lack of variety in the surface can cause your body to adapt quickly, which can lead to a plateau in fitness level.

2. Impact

“Impact” refers to the amount of force exerted on joints when exercising. Walking outside on uneven terrain or navigating obstacles can increase the impact on joints, especially on the ankles, knees, and hips, leading to increased wear and tear over time. Additionally, if the terrain is particularly hard or bumpy, the impact can be greater. 

On the other hand, using an elliptical vs walking machine has less impact as the feet never leave the pedals. The pedals are typically suspended above the surface, reducing the amount of force on the joints. Additionally, many elliptical machines have a built-in suspension system that reduces the impact even further. This makes elliptical machines a good option for people who want to get a cardio workout without putting extra stress on their joints. However, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional if you have any concerns.

3. Resistance

Resistance is the amount of force that needs to be overcome during an exercise. Walking outside on different terrains and inclines can vary the resistance experienced, leading to muscle adaptation and strength. However, it can also make it harder to track progress as the resistance varies.

On the other hand, with an elliptical machine, you can control the resistance level, making it easier to track progress and reach specific fitness goals. Additionally, the elliptical machine allows for consistency in resistance level which enables tracking progress over time, but the lack of natural variability may not simulate real life activities as well.

4. Weather

Weather can be a significant factor when walking outside, as inclement weather such as extreme heat, cold, rain or snow, can make it difficult and dangerous to exercise, and also can make it unpleasant, decreasing motivation. 

Exercising indoors with an elliptical machine, on the other hand, eliminates the influence of the weather, providing a comfortable and controlled environment. It allows for consistency in exercise routine and reduces the risk of accidents or injuries caused by the weather.

5. Environment

When walking outside, you have to be aware of your environment for safety reasons such as crossing streets and avoiding obstacles, this can require a lot of mental focus and attention and make it more difficult to relax and focus on your workout. The environment itself can also be a source of distraction which can be difficult to avoid. 

On the other hand, when using an elliptical machine, you are typically in a controlled environment inside a gym or home which allows you to focus on your workout without distractions, and eliminates the need to be aware of your surroundings for safety reasons. This can make it more pleasant and less mentally taxing to exercise, which can help increase overall enjoyment of your workout.

elliptical in use

6. Variety

Variety is an important aspect of physical activity, as it can help to keep exercise interesting and reduce the risk of boredom and burnout. When you’re walking outside, you have the opportunity to change your route and explore new places, see different sights and encounter varying terrains, inclines and distances, which can help to improve overall fitness. Additionally, walking outside gives access to different environments such as parks, forests, beaches and other natural areas, this can provide different temperatures, smells and sounds which can help to change things up and make the exercise more enjoyable. Furthermore, walking outside also gives the opportunity to take in nature, sun and fresh air, which can have positive effects on mood and wellbeing. 

On the other hand, elliptical machines are usually found in gyms or homes, which do not have a lot of variety, and can make the workout feel monotonous over time.

7. Calorie Burn

Calorie burn is an important aspect of physical activity, as it can help to promote weight loss and improve overall fitness. Elliptical machines burn more calories per minute than walking, this is because elliptical machines provide resistance through the use of pedals and arm handles that work upper body muscles. This results in an overall higher calorie burn. Furthermore, elliptical machines allow adjusting resistance level, making the workout more intense and helping increase the number of calories burned. 

Walking, on the other hand, is primarily a lower body workout and does not provide the same level of resistance as an elliptical machine, resulting in a lower calorie burn. However, it’s important to note that the calorie burn varies from person to person, and it should not be the only factor to consider when choosing an exercise, as both forms of exercise have different benefits that could be more important for a person.

Walking vs Elliptical: Summary

1. Pros and Cons Of Walking


  • Low impact exercise
  • No special equipment needed
  • Improves cardiovascular health
  • Promotes weight loss
  • Improves mental health

Could be better:

  • Slower pace exercise
  • Limited resistance options
  • Weather dependent if you don’t have a treadmill at home

2. Pros and Cons of Using an Elliptical Machine


  • Low-impact alternative that is gentle on the joints
  • Can work the upper and lower body at the same time
  • Adjustable resistance allows you to vary your workout
  • Built-in display and workout programs can help you track your progress and motivate you
  • Many models can be folded or stored when not in use

Could be better:

  • May be more expensive than other types of cardio equipment
  • Some people may find the motion unnatural or boring


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Walking vs Elliptical: When to Choose Each?

Overall, the choice between walking outside and an elliptical machine depends on your fitness goals, preferences, and needs. 

If you are interested in simulating your body as naturally as possible and prefer to walk you can do it both outside and inside by getting a treadmill. Treadmills are designed to mimic the motion of running or walking and have a belt that moves over a deck, on which you walk or run. They are typically adjustable, allowing you to adjust the speed, incline, or intensity of your workout to match your fitness level and goals. One of the best walking machines on the market is the NordicTrack T Series which comes with a membership with on-demand workouts you can do on it as well as a smart one touch speed and incline control which makes it very easy to set up. It also has a smart response motor which makes it easy to switch from a speed, interval or endurance training mode. Furthermore it’s a foldable treadmill that helps you save space and it has a 300 lbs weight capacity. 

nordicTrack treadmill

If you are looking for a low-impact workout that is easy on your joints, or if you want to work your upper and lower body at the same time, an elliptical machine may be a good choice for you. Ellipticals have pedals that move in an elliptical pattern, simulating the motion of walking or running without the impact. Many models also have moving handles that allow you to work your upper body as well as your lower body. Ellipticals are typically adjustable, allowing you to adjust the resistance or intensity of your workout to match your fitness level and goals. One of the best elliptical machines on the market and our personal recommendation is the Sunny Health & Fitness Essentials Series Elliptical Machine which comes with a great app which helps you track your workouts as well as grants you access to expert trainers who have workout videos to help you organize your training sessions. It has 8 levels of magnetic resistance so you can adjust it to your liking and it has an 11-inch stride length which is one of the most optimal and efficient striding motions.

sunny health elliptical


Is Elliptical Better Than Walking?

Overall, the choice between walking and using an elliptical machine depends on your fitness goals, preferences, and needs. If you are looking for a low-impact exercise that is easy on your joints and can be done anywhere, walking may be a good choice. If you want a low-impact exercise that works both the upper and lower body and is easy on your joints, an elliptical machine may be a good choice.

Is Walking or Elliptical Better for Weight Loss?

Overall, the decision between walking and utilizing an elliptical machine for weight loss is influenced by your fitness objectives, tastes, and requirements. It is critical to pick an exercise that you love and that fits into your lifestyle, since this will increase your likelihood of sticking with it. It is also vital to remember that nutrition is a key factor in weight reduction, so pay attention to what you eat as well as how much you exercise.

What Burns More Calories Walking or Elliptical?

The specific number of calories you burn will depend on your weight, age, gender, intensity of the activity, and duration of the activity. It is important to find an activity that you enjoy and that fits into your lifestyle, as this will make it more likely that you will stick with it. It is also important to remember that diet plays a crucial role in weight loss, so it is important to pay attention to what you eat as well as how much you exercise.


In conclusion, walking outside and using an elliptical machine are both effective forms of exercise that have their own unique advantages and disadvantages when it comes to health and fitness. 

Walking outside provides a natural, outdoor environment with varying terrains, inclines, and distances that can be visually stimulating and help to change things up. Additionally, it improves cardiovascular health and promotes weight loss, and it’s a low-impact form of exercise that can help to improve overall mental well-being. However, walking outside can be affected by inclement weather conditions and may require more attention to safety and navigation of obstacles. 

On the other hand, using an elliptical machine provides a controlled and indoor environment, with the ability to control resistance levels which can make it easier to track progress and reach specific fitness goals, also it burns more calories per minute than walking and provides an upper body workout. However, it’s limited in terms of variety and can be less enjoyable due to the monotony. Ultimately the choice between elliptical or walking will depend on an individual’s preferences, fitness level, and goals.

Feel free to let us know what you think about which type of exercise you find to be better for you and why by using the comment section below!

Also read:


  1. The Benefits of Walking on Uneven Ground // Charlottewattshealth:
  2. The Impact of Different Walking Surfaces on Your Joints // Allysangels:
  3. Need a Change of Pace? Try Walking on an Incline // Healthline:
  4. Assessing the Effects of Weather Conditions on Physical Activity Participation Using Objective Measures // Ncbi:
  5. 10 Benefits of an Elliptical Machine Workout // Healthline:

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Ihor Shymechko

Author: Ihor Shymechko
Pro Olympic Weightlifter, Coach

Experience: 26 years
Best Results: Snatch – 208 kg,
C&J – 240 kg

Ihor has been a professional weightlifter since 1996, boasting over two decades of competition experience. His notable achievements include clinching the European Championship in 2009 and securing a silver medal in the 105kg division at the Senior World Championships in 2011. Ihor represented his country in the 2008, 2012, and 2016 Summer Olympics. After retiring from competitive weightlifting, he transitioned to coaching, leveraging his vast experience to guide athletes who now compete on both national and international stages.

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