Elliptical Vs Walking: Which Is a Better Workout?

Walking and elliptical machine workouts are two of the most popular cardio activities that aid in calorie burning, promote muscle growth, and help in weight loss. They are both low impact, but one is easier on the joints than the other.

The better workout between elliptical and walking will not be the same for all people. It all boils down to your fitness goals, health condition, and personal preferences. The elliptical burns more calories than walking and is easier on your knees. Meanwhile, walking is something that you can do wherever you are and without any equipment.

Deciding between the two is going to be tough, that’s why we’re here to help you. To find out who wins in the hotly contested elliptical vs walking issue, let’s compare them side by side.

If you need to choose between walking and the elliptical, which would it be?

Read on to find out whether using the elliptical or walker is better for you and your health goals.

Elliptical Vs Walking – Different Aspects to Consider

No two forms of exercise are equal or exactly the same, and choosing one over another depends on your priorities. Is the amount of calorie you burn in an exercise more important to you than the effect of a workout to your knees and joints? Is it more important to you to get a full-body workout than build muscles?

walking vs elliptical

Whatever you set your eyes on will have a bearing on the exercise that you eventually choose, so let’s look at the different aspects that you should consider before you decide on a workout.

Which Workout Burns More Calories?

While both are cardio exercises, elliptical workouts burn more calories than regular walking.

According to Harvard Health, a 155-lb person working out for 30 minutes on an elliptical trainer can burn around 324 calories but burn only around 133 calories after 30 minutes of walking at 3.5 mph.

However, you may increase your calorie burn while walking by raising your pace or adding resistance to your path, such as climbing a hill. For example, that same person can walk faster at 4 mph to burn 175 calories in 30 minutes.

To see if you are walking fast enough, observe yourself. Are you breathing hard or sweating a lot? If not, or if you are finding the walk too easy, then increase your pace or walk for longer.

Still, the difference in the numbers are significant. You will find that you will burn far more calories on the elliptical than you ever could by simply walking.

So for calories burned, the clear winner is the elliptical.

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Which One Offers Full-Body Exercise?

Walking engages only the lower body muscles, while the elliptical exercises the lower body and integrates the upper body in the workouts.

With the elliptical machine, you push and pull the arm grips on the machine, engage your arms, back, core, and shoulders as well as your legs, promoting total-body fat burning.


With walking, you may still include abdominal and arm exercises into your walking regimen by engaging your obliques, forming a fist, maintaining 90-degree angles with your arms, or using walking poles.

However, we discourage walking with hand weights because it can unnecessarily strain your shoulders and elbows. What you can do is walk with a weighted vest or backpack instead, carrying up to 10%-15% of your body weight. Doing this can increase your overall calorie burn because you’re engaging more muscle groups.

If you want to try adding these weights, you should first seek your doctor’s approval. Using weights can aggravate health issues like osteoporosis and back pains.

So, if you want the benefits of a full-body workout, you should head on to the nearest elliptical machine fast!

Which Is Better for Heart Health?

Any aerobic activity benefits heart health by maintaining normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels, so both walking and ellipticals are excellent choices for keeping your heart in check.

man exercising holding a love heart

Interval training is the best type of exercise recommended for cardiovascular health. It involves alternating intense and recovery periods. You can apply interval training to your walking or elliptical training, but it’s easier to incorporate in your walking routine.

When walking, it’s so much easier to transition from a slow pace to high intensity, and vice versa. You can add a run, sprint, or light jog when you’re ready and alternate those bursts with walking. 

For the ease of integrating interval training into this exercise, walking is no doubt the winner.

Which Workout Builds Muscle?

Muscle is created by exercising against resistance, and the elliptical has adjustable resistance levels, making it superior to walking in this category.

However, you can also add resistance while walking by adding an incline on a treadmill or hill-climbing outdoors.

man in red shorts exercising on an elliptical

When it comes to this category, there is no clear winner, as both walking and using the elliptical can help you strengthen and build your muscles.

While both are not considered muscle-building workouts in the same level as weightlifting, you can improve your walking or elliptical workouts by adding resistance bands, dumbbells, or kettlebells to your routines.

For this category, it’s a draw between walking and ellipticals.

I Have Knee Pain, Which One Is Low Impact?

Walking is not a high-impact workout, but since you lift each foot alternately and make contact with the ground with each stride, you’re sending shock and tension to your joints.

This can cause joint pain over time, especially if you walk on inclines and uneven terrain.

feel on an elliptical at the gym

The main difference between the two is that when exercising on an elliptical, your feet don’t leave the surface, so there’s no impact from landing, which you get when you walk.

The elliptical has a lower impact since there is less touch with the ground. This results in less force being absorbed by the body and joints.

If you suffer from knee or ankle pain, then the elliptical will be the most beneficial cardio workout for you. Even if you don’t have these conditions, it’s still best to choose a low-impact exercise. So for this round, we pick the elliptical.

Related Post:  Does an Elliptical Strengthen Knees?

What If I Want to Lose Weight?

If your primary goal is weight loss, then you should choose the workout that you can easily do most days of the week.

lady sweating on an elliptical at home working out

While you could spend an hour on the elliptical and burn a ton of calories, walking is a preferable option for most people since it is easier and more accessible. You don’t need a machine or a gym membership to walk. In fact, you can walk home from work so you don’t need to spend another half hour in the gym.

However, the elliptical machine is very effective at burning fat and calories quickly, which are both vital for weight loss ( read more on the side effects of elliptical machines ). If you have a gym membership or have an elliptical at home, then you should try to work out for at least 30 minutes a few times a week. Depending on your circumstances, you can pick either of the two and still be a winner.

Summary – So Which Should I Choose, the Elliptical Or Walking?

From this list, it seems that using the elliptical machine is better for your overall health and fitness.

Walking and using an elliptical machine are both wonderful workouts to incorporate into your fitness routine, especially if you’re looking for low-impact exercises.

When choosing between the two, pick the activity that you enjoy most and that you can do most days of the week. You’ll want a workout that you can sustain and even incorporate into your lifestyle.

With all that’s said, don’t forget that you cannot out-exercise a bad diet. Exercise and proper diet should always go hand in hand.