Stationary Bike Vs. Elliptical: Which One Should You Choose?

Whether you're torn between cardio machines at the gym, or you're considering investing in a home setup, deciding between a stationary bike or an elliptical machine can be tough. Both have pros and cons, and ultimately, the choice depends on your personal preference, as well as your athletic and fitness goals.

Both machines provide low-impact cardio exercise, and the ability to adjust your effort easily as you go. The calorie burn is up to you: In an hour, you may burn anywhere from 270 to 400 calories on an elliptical (depending on your bodyweight and effort), while on a stationary bike, you may burn 210 to 466 calories, depending on your weight, and how hard you're pedaling (via Harvard Health Publishing).

Elliptical machines provide a more full-body workout, since they require arm usage, while stationary bikes are obviously lower-body focused. However, the elliptical machine has you doing a movement that you'll never do outside the gym, while riding a stationary bike obviously translates to cycling outside, per Women's Health. But with the stationary bike all that time in the saddle may not be pleasant.

Which machine should you pick?

If you're hoping to speed up your outdoor cycling, a stationary bike is the clear choice. For group workout lovers, an at-home spin bike arguably has more community-oriented integrations, since brands like Peloton host dozens of daily spin classes that you can take from your tablet at home (via Peloton Cycling).

The elliptical can be a better overall workout, compared to the bike, since the moving handles force you to work your shoulders and deltoid muscles, while standing upright means you need to engage your core as you use your legs. It also offers a lot of options: You can do a light workout or a high-intensity one, and you can do things like taking your hands off the handles to challenge your balance (via Healthline).

With both machines, you get out what you put in, meaning it's easy to spend an hour thinking that you're exercising, when you're really just sitting or standing on your machine and watching TV. On a bike, it's easier to soft-pedal and spend an hour not even breaking a slight sweat, while on the elliptical, you can just let gravity do the work of swinging your legs back and forth (via Women's Health).

If you have access to both machines at the gym, switch it up to add variety to your routine. When it comes to which one to buy for at-home use, opt for the one that you'll be the most excited to use.