Author’s Note: I have no relationship with companies that make Gazelles or treadmills. I’ve used both and prefer Gazelles with resistance over a treadmill.
A Gazelle elliptical machine and a treadmill create different body movements to help you burn calories and improve cardio function. Depending on the type of Gazelle or treadmill you use, you can create a variety of workouts, with a Gazelle offering less impact and more muscle work. Understanding what each offers will help you create the best workout on each.
You might prefer a treadmill if you want to burn more calories while performing a high-impact, steady-state workout (you need to run on a treadmill to maximize calorie burn). A Gazelle with resistance is better if you are looking for a full-body workout with more muscle-building benefit and more workout options. Gazelles without resistance are better suited to beginners or those who want an additional exercise option to supplement their main exercise choice.
A treadmill lets you walk, run, jog or sprint. A Gazelle creates a movement similar to crosscountry skiing. On a Gazelle, you work your arms, chest and shoulders on while you create short, medium or long strides, keeping your feet in contact with the pedals the entire workout. You can add upper-body dumbbell exercises on a treadmill, but probably not while you’re running.
At lower speeds, a treadmill is low-impact, because you keep one foot on the tread the entire time you walk. As you raise your speed to a jogging pace or higher, the exercise becomes high-impact, with both feet leaving the tread at once, causing you to land on your feet with your entire body weight. A Gazelle remains non-impact no matter which exercises you perform because your feet remain on the machine’s foot rests.
A treadmill provides little or no resistance unless it has an adjustable incline. Raising the incline forces you to use more muscular effort to push your body’s weight forward, similar to walking uphill. If the treadmill has a negative incline, you can simulate the effect of walking downhill, adding more resistance against your quadriceps. The Gazelle uses your body’s weight as resistance to push and pull the levers. If you decrease the use of your legs to move the machine, you increase the resistance against your arms. If you use less arm effort, you need more leg muscle use to move the pedals. Gazelles with resistance can provide a good muscular endurance workout, but not true bodybuilding exercise. On Gazelle with resistance, you can build some muscle if you’re not already very muscular.
Which burns more calories? It all depends on how hard you work and what type of Gazelle you use. At higher speeds, a treadmill will probably burn more calories than a Gazelle without resistance.
Treadmills and Gazelles both help you create moderately intense fat-burning workouts, high-intensity aerobic workouts and high intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts. A treadmill may burn more calories than a Gazelle, depending on how you use the machines. A criticism of the Gazelle is the fact that its mechanics allows you to get into a rhythm that creates momentum, using gravity to assist you in moving the machine, rather than muscular effort, especially at higher speeds. Uh, don’t do this! The other criticism is that the models without resistance don’t require as much effort and don’t burn as many calories as other machines. You can find plenty of used Gazelles with resistance in good shape on Craigslist.
During treadmill workouts, the faster you go, the more calories you burn, but your back, knees and ankles take more of a pounding. As pointed out earlier, you can also add dumbbell exercises on a treadmill, increasing your calorie burn, but probably not while you’re running.
Upper Body Workout
A Gazelle lets you work your arms, chest, shoulders and back using the arm levers. If you keep your elbows in while you pull and push the levers, you emphasize the chest, fronts of your shoulders and biceps more. If you move your elbows away from you body, you emphasize the lats, triceps and backs of your shoulders. Unless you use walking poles or dumbbells, you receive no upper-body workout from a treadmill.
Core and Thighs
A treadmill creates a monotonous, forward striding motion, working primarily your leg muscles in one direction. Using a double stride move on a Gazelle, or holding long strides for several seconds, your recruit your abdominal muscles. Standing sideways on a Gazelle, you work your inner and outer thighs.