Treadmill vs. Stationary bike: Which should you buy?

Treadmill Vs Bike Hero - Tollbrothers
Treadmill Vs Bike Hero - Tollbrothers (Image credit: William Taylor)

Xterra Fitness TR150 Folding Treadmill

Xterra Fitness Tr150 Hero

A treadmill is a machine designed for walking or running indoors. It features a moving platform with a wide conveyer belt driven by an electric motor so you can walk or run at different speeds. Some also will incline or decline to simulate walking or running up or down hills. Take note that walking and running is a great workout, but it's high impact, and can be tough on your joints. We love the Xterra Fitness TR150 Treadmill because it's highly rated, good quality, and affordable.

Xterra Fitness TR150 Folding Treadmill

Indoor walking + running

Walk or run (2-in-1)
12 preset programs
5-inch LCD stat display
Three incline settings
High impact
Can be dangerous

PYHIGH Indoor Cycling Bike

Pyhigh Reco

Indoor cycling on a stationary bike is a wonderful workout and it's low-impact, aka gentle on your joints. A stationary bike, also known as an exercise bike, spinning bike, or exercycle is fully adjustable so it can accommodate all different kinds of riders. It features a resistance knob so you can add and take off resistance, which increases and decreases the intensity of the exercise, while you're in control of your cadence or speed. We love the PYHIGH Indoor Bike because it has everything you could need, including an LCD monitor for tracking.

PYHIGH Indoor Cycling Bike

Indoor cycling

Low impact
Adjustable resistance
4-way adjustments for personalized fit
Phone/iPad holder
LCD stat monitor
No incline/decline capability
Odd shape; difficult to store

To run or cycle, that is the question...

In general, both treadmills and stationary bikes come in a wide variety of models via multiple brands at different and comparable price points. If you're trying to decide between a treadmill and a stationary bike, you'll want to consider what's best for your body and what you enjoy doing more. If you're a runner and/or walker and have healthy knees and joints, then you'd most likely prefer a treadmill over a stationary bike. If you have sensitive knees and joints and love to cycle, then a stationary bike is the way to go.

I love both of the products featured above and feel that they're at the top of their class as far as ratings, features, quality, and affordability goes. Both treadmills and stationary bikes will provide great workouts, a myriad of health benefits, and come at varying price points that can accommodate every budget. Plus, they can both be used in the home, which is great now that a lot of us are working remotely.

Let's break it down

Both a treadmill and stationary bike will help you get your sweat on at home. Let's really break down the details so you can see exactly how these two pieces of equipment differ.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 TreadmillStationary Bike
Size variesYesNo
Easily StorableUsuallyRarely
Speed adjustmentsYesNo
Resistance adjustmentsNoYes
Personalized adjustmentsNoYes
Varying price pointsYesYes
Bluetooth capabilitySometimesSometimes
Stat displaySometimesSometimes
Moving platformYesNo
Fitness app subscriptionsYesYes

To outline the key differences between these two pieces of exercise equipment, let's first state the obvious. The treadmill is for running and/or walking indoors, and the stationary bike is for indoor cycling. Both of these machines are available via multiple brands and companies and both come at varying price points that can suit every budget.

To determine which one you want, you're going to have to look beyond your needs and preferences. Here are some categories you might want to look closer at.

Storage: Get it foldable or just compact

Best Low Profile Exercise Machines Hero

Source: Miageek (Image credit: Source: Miageek)

Let's talk about storage. Many treadmills, like the one featured above, are foldable, which makes for easy storage. I know of one foldable bike, the Exerpeutic Folding Magnetic Upright Exercise Bike. Other than that, stationary bikes are relatively the same shape — they're bulky and difficult to store. If size and easy storage is a top priority for you, the treadmill would be a better choice.

While some treadmills are not foldable, I would say most designed for home use are. If you're working with a super compact space, we like the Miageek 2-in-1 Folding Treadmill. It's budget friendly, small, and can easily be stored under a bed, sofa, or in a closet for convenience.

Adjustments: Create resistance and more

Adjustments Lifestyle Cycling Cinema

Source: Cycling Cinema (Image credit: Source: Cycling Cinema)

When it comes to adjustments, both of these pieces of machinery are adjustable, but in different ways. With a treadmill, you adjust the speed at which you are walking or running, and many have incline/decline adjustment capabilities to simulate walking or running up and downhill. With a stationary bike, you can adjust the saddle and handlebar heights to accommodate riders of all shapes and sizes. Many of the higher-end stationary bikes like the one featured above have four-way adjustments, meaning, you can adjust the handlebar and saddle heights as well as slide them back and forth for an even more personalized fit. You can also control your resistance and cadence on a stationary bike to simulate pedaling up and downhill.

Features and tech: It varies by brand

Commercial Treadmill Console Lifestyle

Source: NordicTrack (Image credit: Source: NordicTrack)

Both the treadmill and the stationary bike come in multiple different models via different brands and can host a variety of different features and tech. If you're looking at top-of-the-line models in each category, you can see how fancy the features and technology can get.

The NordicTrack S22i stationary bike and the NordicTrack Commercial Series Treadmill are both commercial grade pieces of equipment. They both come with a free one-year iFit membership where you gain access to live and on demand classes, as well as interactive trainer-led global and studio workout programs. They're both outfitted with a built-in HD smart touchscreen display that will host the rides and will display your workout stats like distance, calories burned, cadence, and more. They also include built-in fans to keep you cool while you sweat and convenient water bottle holders to keep you hydrated.

A basic treadmill or stationary bike will usually host a basic stat display that tells you how much distance you've covered, how long you've been working out, and how many calories you've burned. Of course, there are some models that don't have a stat display at all. Some models also have Bluetooth connectivity so you can listen to your own music on built-in speakers. The features and tech that both treadmills and stationary bikes can host is extensive. You can count on both coming in at similar price points according to the features and technology they possess.

The workout itself

Working Out Sweatblock

Source: Sweatblock (Image credit: Source: Sweatblock)

Let's take a look at both of these workouts; walking and running vs. indoor cycling. Both are great for your cardiovascular health and both can deliver excellent workouts and results. Running and walking are high impact sports and can be tough on your joints. Indoor cycling is considered low impact and is great for people that suffer from joint issues.

For me, purchasing a stationary bike over a treadmill is a no-brainer. I have sensitive knees, so I prefer indoor cycling over running. I just like the workout itself more and it feels better in my body. However, there are countless people out there that feel the opposite. If running and/or walking is your jam, then the treadmill is the right choice for you. Ultimately, the decision between the two comes down to what you enjoy doing more and what is best for your body.

Which should you buy?

That all depends on your storage capabilities, what you enjoy doing, and what is best for your body. If easy storage is a top priority for you, then go with the treadmill or the foldable bike. If you have sensitive joints, the stationary bike is the right choice. If you need to run, the treadmill is your best friend. You really can't go wrong as far as excellent workouts and cardiovascular health is concerned, so evaluate what's most important to you and make your choice from there.

Nicolette Roux

A writer, master fitness instructor, health and fitness expert, performance artist, DJ/MC, and mom based in Los Angeles, CA; I've had the pleasure of working with some of the top platforms, studios, and brands in the country over the past decade. A dedicated creative, I enjoy writing about all things: health, fitness, music, entertainment, and home. If I'm not working, you can probably find me sipping a glass of wine, enjoying a concert, or hanging with my family. For more, follow me on [Instagram: @nicoletteroux!