Q: When I'm doing a cardio workout, will I obtain healthier fitness results from a treadmill or an elliptical machine?
A: According to an exercise physiologist at the University of Missouri-Columbia, the difference in health benefits between the two is minimal.
Thomas Altena, post doctoral fellow of nutritional sciences, conducted a study measuring the amount of oxygen retained, lactic acid, heart rate and perceived exertion between the two machines to find which one is better in terms of physiologic responses. The researcher says some differences do exist; however, they are minimal. For example, on a rating scale from 6 to 20 - with 6 being at rest and 20 being at maximal-effort intensity - the sample group rated elliptical exercise at 13.42 and treadmill at 12.32.
"In this particular study, the physiological responses associated with elliptical exercise were nearly identical to treadmill exercise," Altena said.
During Altena's study, 18 trained males volunteered to participate in the study and completed two sessions - burning 350 calories each session - on both a treadmill and an elliptical machine. During two separate sessions, subjects exercised on each machine at the exact same intensity in terms of both oxygen consumption and calories burned.
"In light of the small statistical differences, a practical application of this research would state that both exercise machines are effective for increasing the amount of calories burned and for producing cardio-respiratory, health and training benefits" Altena said.
There is, however, a difference in the impact. Elliptical machines create a low-impact motion, allowing users to move through an exercise in a smooth, fluid manner with reduced impact. The treadmill, however, typically simulates walking on a flat surface in a higher impact manner.
(Send your questions to Steve Infanti, "A Fit Life" Column, 801e BAB, University Park, PA 16802 or via e-mail to SCInfanti@compuserve.com.) (Send questions about health, fitness or nutrition to Steve Infanti, A Fit Life, 216 Henderson Bld., University Park, Pa., 16802, or e-mail to SCInfanti(at)compuserve.com.)