Running and using an elliptical machine are two of the best choices for cardiovascular conditioning and caloric expenditure. You really can’t go wrong with either, and neither is necessarily best all the time depending on your goals. Here’s some considerations when evaluating workout options:
Outdoors versus inside: If you live in an area with temperate weather, then running outside can be invigorating – and typically elliptical machines are indoors, which is excellent for snowy, rainy, very cold or super hot days.
Lower body versus total body: Running uses the hips, legs and core. Ellipticals engage multiple muscle groups in both the lower and upper body, which not only adds variety but better disperses the workload.
Biomechanics: The movements of running, which require flexion at the hip, knees and ankles, as well as at the shoulders, are quite similar to those used for elliptical workouts; the biggest differences are that the legs can move in reverse on an elliptical and handlebars like Octane’s MultiGrip facilitate a variety of handgrips to recruit more of the chest, back, biceps and triceps.
Impact: Running outdoors on unforgiving surfaces like pavement subjects your body to a pounding. Ellipticals are low impact and less stressful on the joints.
Feedback: If you’re running outside, the only feedback you may get is from your heart rate monitor (if you wear one.) What’s nice about the elliptical machine is that you can see instant data on your heart rate, distance, calories, etc. that provides important information to make intensity adjustments as well as extra motivation.
Running vs. elliptical – The bottom line is that variety is helpful, and cross training can bring on greater benefits as your body adapts to the same workouts. If you’re competing in some races, then it’s important to do a lot of running. If you’re trying to get and stay in shape, the elliptical is a terrific tool.