Spin Bike vs. Treadmill – Which is best?

Spin bikes and treadmills are two of the most common pieces of workout equipment found in gyms that people like to bring into the comfort of their homes. But unlike smaller pieces of equipment such as dumbbells or resistance bands, both spin bikes and treadmills take up more space and cost and weigh significantly more, so buying one or the other isn’t a decision to take too lightly (no pun intended). Nevertheless, it is a decision most people must make, as it’s not always possible or practical to have both.

Determining whether one exercise machine is better than the other is a moot point. Each one has its unique features, and whether you see them as advantages or disadvantages is up to you. All we’ve done here is lay out some essential aspects of both – everything from the features to cost to the type of workout each provides. The most important thing and the only thing left now for you to answer which one is the best for you – a spin bike or a treadmill?

Spin Bike and Treadmill Comparison

Workout

Spin bikes and treadmills both use your legs to elevate your heart rate, activating many of the same muscles. These include the lower body muscle groups, including your glutes, calves, hamstrings, and quadriceps. Both exercises also work your back and core but have minimal impact on the upper body. For spin bikes, you use some upper body to support yourself upright on your bike. There is the option to add more upper body exercises with resistance bands or dumbbells. While running on a treadmill, you don’t target the arms directly, but several upper body muscle groups are still used, including the arms, back, chest, and shoulders.

Running and cycling are both forms of aerobic exercise that can help you burn calories and tone and build muscle. The primary difference is that running has a much higher impact on your muscles and joints. Each heel strike produces a force that is about 3 to 4 times your body weight, which is a lot of pressure for anyone to take on, but your bones and muscles will get stronger from the impact of hitting the treadmill.

That said, running uses all your body’s muscles at the same time while pushing pedals on a spin bike engages your lower body. The muscles are activated in different ways with these two workout machines, so while running doesn’t engage your muscles in a way that will help you build much bulk, using a treadmill will still allow you to strengthen and tone your leg muscles. Because it works your whole body, treadmill running, at least at longer distances, might be better for muscle toning than spinning. Spinning, on the other hand, will help you build more powerful leg muscles.

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Calories Burned

Because running on a treadmill uses more muscles than cycling, running generally burns more calories. That said, you may be able to spin for longer than you run since spinning has a lesser impact on the body. It is also easier for many people to spin faster than they run, jog, or walk. So you may be able to achieve the same or greater weight loss with cycling, but you would have to cycle more.

As far as calories per hour, it will depend largely on the intensity level you choose for either exercise machine. Similarly, calories burned per hour will increase if you decide to use uphill or higher intensity settings on either machine. On average, people will burn about 100 calories per mile on a treadmill, but this also depends on your weight and how fast you move. Someone who weighs 150 pounds and runs at ten mph for 60 minutes would burn around 700 calories. On a stationary exercise bike with moderate intensity, that same person would burn roughly 500 calories.

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Noise

Overall, treadmills are a much noisier exercise machine than friction and magnetic spin bikes. With treadmills, you have the noise of the motor coupled with sound of your feet pounding. Although walking on a treadmill won’t make as much noise as running would, or if your treadmill is newer and maintained well.

Spin bikes are fairly quiet, and those with magnetic resistance are virtually silent. Spin bikes are your best bet if noise is a concern for you or those around you. Plus, you might find you get a better workout on a spin bike where you can cycle more intensely without worries over disturbing anyone else.

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Space & Storage

Between their weight and dimensions, treadmills generally have a much larger footprint than spin bikes. On average, most treadmills are about 6.5 feet long by 3 feet wide, while spin bikes are about 4 feet long by 2 feet wide.

When folded, both a treadmill and spike bike will fold to about half its length. The only thing worth noting is that the height dimension on each will be higher when folded. For treadmills that fold completely upright, the original length will be the same as the new height. And when you factor in the handles and console, spin bikes are also taller when folded. Because treadmills are wider and longer overall, they take up more space while in use and when stored, making spin bikes a better choice for smaller spaces or lower ceilings (if folded).

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Transportation

Some treadmills weigh about four times as much as an average spin bike. Spin bikes typically range from 30 to 50 pounds, while treadmills can weigh closer to 200, sometimes over that. The reason treadmills are heavier is due to the motor.

While all folding treadmills should have wheels, the weight factor will make treadmills a little bit more difficult to move around than a spin bike. Most spin bikes have built-in wheels for easier transport, making folding spin bikes the overall better option for mobility and convenience. Nonetheless, if a folding spin bike does not have wheels, it could be just as troublesome to move as a treadmill for some, depending on the particular machine’s weight.

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Price

The cost of a treadmill or spin bike will vary based on the functions it includes, such as heart rate monitor, console, workout programs, and overall performance. There are non-commercial high-end treadmills that range from around $1,600 – $1800 in price, such as some NordikTrak or ProForm models. For top-rated spin bikes such as Echelon EX7s, these prices are roughly the same.

On average, spin bikes are less expensive if you consider their price ranges. It is possible to get a decent spin bike starting at $200-300, while you can expect to spend at least $1,000 for a quality treadmill.

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Technology

In terms of technology and programming abilities, both a spin bike and treadmill can be adjusted according to your preferred intensity level, just in different ways. With a treadmill, you can change the speed. You can walk, jog, or run on a flat surface or at an incline.

With a spin bike, you can adjust tension and speed, but you lose the option to target different leg muscles without an incline setting. That said, upping the tension on a spin bike is comparable to pedaling uphill, but you are just working the same muscles a bit harder at that point.

Depending on the brand and model, both exercise machines have consoles, some more advanced than others. If you are leaning on the side of a spin bike but worry you might get bored, consider one with a larger screen – something interactive. Even a stand to place a phone or tablet in front of you to follow workouts is nice to have for either exercise machine. With a treadmill, you will have more variability either way and won’t need to concern yourself as much with entertainment unless that is a deal-breaker for you.

Before you purchase a spin bike or treadmill, take note of all the technical aspects. It makes a significant difference in their workout for most people if they can at least track their heart rate or set up their phone somewhere to play music.

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Maintenance

With a spin bike, you will need to clean it regularly and check now and then to see that the nuts and bolts are properly fastened. You should occasionally lubricate the chain and replace the resistance pad once a year. After a few years, you may need to have a mechanic to change the belt drive. Overall, this exercise machine requires relatively little maintenance.

With treadmills, most are motorized, which means they need a little more attention and TLC. Like a spin bike, a treadmill will also need to be cleaned, and the nuts and bolts checked up on regularly. The primary difference is that the electric motor and console will require more regular maintenance by a skilled technician.

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The Bottom Line

Whichever exercise machine you decide on, both treadmills and spin bikes are great machines that can help you build and tone muscle, lose weight, and stay in shape. Which one you choose depends largely on your fitness goals and physical needs and abilities. Overall, spin bikes can provide a great workout with a lower impact on your wallet and your joints. Treadmills, on the other hand, offer more of a full-body exercise. You will experience a greater calorie burn and workout variety with a treadmill, but at the expense of a little more space and sometimes cost. Take some time to figure out the most important aspects of a workout machine before you take the plunge – you’ll be glad you did.

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