Which Exercise Machine Burns the Most Calories?

Which cardio machine should you use when you want to quickly burn off last night’s cheesecake?

Ben Greenfield
5-minute read
Episode #1
Exercies machine

How Many Calories Can You Burn on the Treadmill?

Running is a full body workout that burns 600-1200 calories per hour. As a matter of fact, running up an incline on the treadmill is the best way to boost your metabolism for hours after you’ve finished that workout.

Walking on the treadmill burns far less calories--about 300-400 per hour. The primary reason for that is that humans are very efficient at walking, as most of us have done so since an early age.

An exercise like walking, at which your body is very efficient, should be avoided as your primary cardio workout when you’re trying to burn calories. As a matter of fact, I have to frequently point this out to every desperate person who walks through the parking lot, walks up the stairs, walks into my personal training office and complains that they’re not losing any weight with their morning walk. They walk so much the rest of the time that their body just doesn’t get much a metabolic boost from walking for their cardio session.

Quick and dirty tip for the treadmill: If you’re using a treadmill, then either jog or use an incline, but avoid the common mistake of choosing a ridiculously high incline, then holding on to the handrails to keep up. You may look like a champion Everest ascender, but the fact is, the rails should only be used if you have extreme balance difficulties, or must stabilize yourself to change a setting. Remember to vigorously pump your arms too, as long as you can pull that off without smacking any nearby exercisers in the face.

How Many Calories Does the Elliptical Trainer Burn?

Unfortunately, the computers on most elliptical trainers overestimate the actual amount of calories burned, especially in individuals who lean against the railing for support. You can generally burn about 600 calories per hour on the ellipticals that don’t include arm movement, and slightly more on the ones that do. Using the elliptical burns fewer calories than running because once you get the parts on an elliptical moving, they’re pretty easy to keep moving, and so you expend less energy.


About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.