Treadmill vs. Stepper Machines

Treadmill vs. Stepper Machines

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A stair climber takes your to the vertical plane.

At a crowded gym, you may not always be able to use your favorite piece of cardiovascular equipment. If the treadmills are all in use and you're left staring at a stair stepper, use it to your advantage. Both machines improve your cardiovascular health, endurance, burn calories and use your lower body muscles. It's just a matter of deciding whether you want to exercise moving horizontally or vertically.

Love at First Sight

A big difference between a treadmill and a stepper is in the look of the machines. The treadmill is longer than it is tall. It has a flat bottom with a rotating belt, a computer display at about chest height and two handrails for balance support. The stepper is taller than it is long. It has two pedals that move up and down, a computer display at about chest height and two handrails for support. The incline of a treadmill is adjustable, whereas the incline of a stepper remains stationary.

Flex Your Muscles

You walk or run on the moving belt of the treadmill. Your hands should gently hold the rails or swing back and forth at your waist. All the muscles of your lower body contribute to this exercise. Your glutes, hip flexors, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves and the muscles along your shins work together to move you forward. The stepper uses many of the same muscles except for those along your shins, since you are not picking up your foot. You also use the muscles on both sides of your spine to support your upright torso position.

Make An Impact

Treadmill exercise can be low or high impact. Walking on a treadmill is considered low-impact exercise. You pick your foot up from the belt and then set it down, which affects your ankles, knees, hips and back. Running is considered a high-impact exercise since the force of the landing is greater than walking. The benefit of the treadmill is it offers a reduced impact when compared to outdoor walking or running. Stair-stepping is a low-impact exercise. Your feet remain in contact with the pedals throughout the workout. Although your legs move up and down, the upward-moving pedals reduce the stress on your knees.

Counting Calories

Walking or running on a treadmill burns an equivalent number of calories to outdoor running or walking. According to the American Council on Exercise, a 140-pound person burns approximately 7.6 calories for each minute walking; jogging burns approximately 10.8 calories per minute. In comparison, according to Tufts Medical Center, a 135-pound person burns approximately 8.1 calories for each minute of stair stepping.