No matter what your fitness goals are, having a flat stomach is most probably one of them. After all, who wouldn’t want washboard abs to flash on the beach or a lean tummy to rock their Instagram stories with!
But really, apart from its aesthetic objectives, abdominal fat loss contributes to your overall health. According to the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, visceral fat is associated with several health conditions like high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
Both the treadmill and exercise bike can help you shred belly fat. But the question is, which of them is more effective in burning fat from this stubborn area?
That’s what we’re answering in this article, so stick around as we explain which cardio equipment would be a better companion in your fitness journey.
What Burns More Belly Fat: Treadmill or Stationary Bike?
Before we answer this question, you need to let go of the myth that a particular cardio exercise or fitness equipment can “target” weight loss in your belly. What any exercise machine does is that it helps you burn calories and therefore triggers weight loss throughout your body, including your abdomen.
When comparing the calories burned from working out on the treadmill or the stationary bike, you’ll find a slight difference. While the treadmill consumes 9.48 calories per minute, the exercise bike uses 9.23 calories per minute.
Now, if you spend 15 minutes on either exercise equipment, the number of calories you’ll burn on each of them will be more or less the same. However, if you increase the duration, the calories will add up, and you’ll burn more by running on a treadmill.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) programs are the most effective at burning calories and melting abdominal fat. Fortunately, both exercise machines allow for it, and since HIIT training isn’t bound to long exercise durations, the calorie-burn difference between treadmills and exercise bikes is insignificant with this workout type.
So What About Abs?
Well, for your six-pack abs to pass through this squishy area and see the light again, you need to do a mix of three things:
- Burn more calories than you eat by working out on an exercise machine
- Do core-strength exercises to build muscles in this area
- Lower your calorie intake by following a healthy eating plan
The last condition is essential for melting visceral fat and building muscles. That’s because unless you have the metabolism of a hummingbird, you won’t burn enough calories to lose weight whether by exercising on a treadmill or exercise bike.
Exercise Bike vs. Treadmill – Detailed Comparison
The effect of treadmills and exercise bikes is nearly the same on belly fat. However, there are other factors that set both machines apart. Although most of these factors may not be directly related to weight loss from the abdomen, they can help you make up your mind and choose the most appropriate exercise equipment for your needs.
Calorie Burn & Weight Loss
Both the treadmill and exercise bike can be tweaked to different speeds, intensities, and friction levels. Therefore, the results you get from them depend on these factors besides the length of your workout.
To give you some numbers, here’s what a 150-pound person burns by working out on a treadmill for an hour, according to the American College of Sports Medicine:
- Brisk walking at 3.5 mph: 258 calories/hour
- Climbing at 4.5 mph: 300 calories/hour
- Jogging at 5 mph: 580 calories/hour
- Running at 6 mph: 680 calories/ hour
- Running at 7.5 mph: 750 calories/hour
- Running at 9 mph: 900 calories/hour
- Running at 12 mph: 1,200 calories/hour
The same person can burn around 500 calories per hour by riding an exercise bike at moderate intensity and 780 calories per hour at vigorous intensity.
Theoretically, treadmills provide a better workout for weight loss. However, indoor cycling can still burn more calories than running on a treadmill. After all, your overall weight loss depends on how long you’re willing to work out on each machine.
If you’re more comfortable with stationary bikes and just hate running, then the higher calorie burn of the treadmill won’t be of any benefit to you.
Consistent 30-minute sessions on the exercise bike will always be better than irregular 15-minute sessions on the treadmill. So pick the one you’re most likely to spend more time on.
Both exercise machines work mainly on toning leg muscles, and they work on nearly the same muscle groups but with a slight difference.
Indoor cycling belongs to the category of non-weight-bearing exercises. That means you don’t carry your own weight while working out on a bike, making it a low-impact exercise.
The cycling movement targets the quadriceps and hamstrings in the upper leg as well as the calves in the lower leg. Although it’s a lower-body workout, it doesn’t engage the glutes much. And, unless the machine has moving arms – like those sometimes found on spin bikes – it doesn’t provide an upper-body workout.
On the other hand, the treadmill provides a full-body workout with more focus on the core and lower-body muscles. Because you carry your weight while walking or running, these exercises are more effective at building strong bones and abdominal muscles. Also, with the incline feature, you can target your glutes more and increase your ankle strength.
Aerobic activities support your heart health and consequently help you burn calories faster, which results in reducing body fat, including belly bulges.
Fortunately, there is no difference here between the treadmill and the exercise bike. You can perform an aerobic exercise on either machine and gain many benefits, which include:
- Boosting your mood
- Improving your memory
- Lowering stress levels and blood pressure
- Enhancing your sleep
- Strengthening your immune system
Intensity and Impact
When it comes to intensity levels, the exercise bike and the treadmill can be both adjusted to many settings, allowing you to choose from low-intensity to high-intensity workouts. Yet, the treadmill takes the edge in being more challenging.
Because running works the entire body, it’s a high-impact aerobic exercise as it increases your heart rate and breathing faster. It strengthens the heart, burns more calories, and aids in body fat loss but places more strain on your joints.
On the contrary, an indoor cycle offers a lower-body workout only. And although it helps maintain muscle mass and increase lung capacity, it still burns fewer calories and has a lesser effect on the heart and bone density than the treadmill.
Despite the treadmill having the reputation of being repetitive and monotonous, it’s the other way around. The number of workouts you can perform on this machine is endless.
You can switch speeds to walk, jog, or run, or alter the incline and simulate uphill or downhill running. And best of all, you can mix and match these exercises and come up with numerous steady-state and HIIT workouts to break the boredom and fire up your metabolism.
On the other hand, the most vigorous exercise you can have on an exercise bike is a simulation of riding into the wind by changing the resistance levels. It still allows you to change the speed, which breaks the monotony of the exercise. However, unless it’s an exercise bike with an upper-body component, there is no chance for upper-body workouts.
Also, only upright stationary bikes allow you to alternate between sitting and standing while cycling, so if you have a recumbent bike, you’ll be bound to the bike’s seat.
Age and Mobility
Another factor you should consider when deciding between the exercise bike and the treadmill is your physical ability.
If you have bad knees or suffer from a chronic illness that affects your movement range like arthritis or plantar fasciitis, indoor cycling would be more suitable for you as it’s a low-impact exercise that doesn’t strain your already painful joints.
Running or brisk walking in these cases can bring more problems than benefits. Not to mention, “the exercise bike is typically better suited for geriatric populations due to the ability to be in a sitting position while exerting energy,” says Matt Camargo, the director of ProSport Physical Therapy and Performance.
Health and Injury Risk
Healthier individuals with no preexisting mobility problems can enjoy the treadmill. However, they should keep in mind that the risk of injury is higher with running than cycling. Despite being beneficial for cardiovascular health, the high-impact nature of treadmill workouts poses risk for associated overuse injuries.
If you’re not careful, you can hurt your knees and ankles while running. However, that’s not an issue with stationary bikes because the circular motion of cycling doesn’t put much pressure on the joints, even when pedaling at high speeds.
Moreover, your feet stay securely on the pedals, so there’s no chance of slipping or losing your balance when cycling as with running.
Comfort and Adjustability
To lose weight, especially from a stubborn area like the belly, you need to put a lot of time into your training. But, unfortunately, you won’t be able to do that unless you’re comfortable with the machine you’re using.
The ability to be sitting while exercising makes the exercise bike a more convenient choice for most people. Research has found that people tend to stay on the exercise bike longer than on the treadmill, which results in higher rates of weight loss, even with the lesser calorie burn ability of the exercise bike.
Another advantage of the exercise bike is that it can be adjusted to your height. Some models even have padded backrests to offer maximum comfort level.
Pros and Cons of Exercise Bikes and Treadmills
To sum everything up, here’s an overview of the benefits and drawbacks of each exercise equipment.
- Low impact and joint-friendly
- Provides a great workout for the quads, calves, and hamstrings
- More comfortable for long-duration exercising sessions
- The seating position is more comfortable for the elderly and people with joint problems
- Adjustable to many intensity levels through the varying speeds and resistance levels
- Offers less significant improvements in bone density and cardiac health
- Burns fewer calories than the treadmill
- Unless it’s a dual-action bike, it doesn’t offer upper-body workouts
- Burns more calories
- Better targeting for abdominal fat by offering full-body workouts
- Allows for endless numbers of exercises
- The incline feature increases the exercise’s intensity and engages more muscles
- More beneficial for cardiac health as well as muscle and bone strengthening
- Over-exercising on the treadmill can have a negative impact on the joints
- The chance of acquiring an injury is higher with running than with cycling
Wrapping Up – Treadmill vs. Exercise Bike
At the end of the day, the choice comes down to the user’s preferences and physical abilities.
While treadmills take the edge in being more efficient in burning calories and shredding abdominal fat, exercise bikes can be more convenient to some people, which makes them a better choice for the sake of consistency and achieving progress in the long term.
Emma James, 29 years old professional fitness trainer with Bachelor’s degree in Physical Fitness Technician from Boston University.