Recumbent Exercise Bikes vs Treadmills Compared Side By Side

Recumbent Exercise Bike. vs TreadmillRecumbent exercise bikes vs treadmills comparison where they get put up against each other in the major areas to provide a complete understanding of how they measure up against each other. In this way you can decide just which one can help you best with achieving your fitness goals.

These are two popular pieces of exercise equipment to work on your fitness. Both of them can do a very good job of helping you achieve those goals.

There is an obvious difference between the two in that you are sitting down while on the recumbent exercise bike and upright while using the treadmill.

This difference is the reason why these two pieces of exercise equipment are useful to people who have different requirements that need to be taken in to account while wanting to achieve their goals.

Before getting started with the match up a quick overview of the two pieces of exercise equipment and what they are designed to help with.

Recumbent Exercise Bikes

These exercise bikes are designed to provide a comfortable workout with support for the back and have little impact on the joints.

You sit down in a seat that is about the height of a chair and cycle with your feet out in front of you. The back rest provides good support for the back. With your feet out in front of you there is little impact on the joints with a smooth pedaling motion.

Recumbent bikes are used by people who have joint injuries or recovering knee surgeries. It can help them rehab the knee, build strength in the legs and they can work on their cardio fitness at the same time. Also people who want a comfortable way to exercise like these bikes and can great fitness benefits from them


These are a very popular way to get your cardio exercise inside. You get a similar workout as you do with running.

You get many of the same benefits and issues too without battling the elements or the views.

They have a belt that on cheaper ones moves as you run and the more expensive it moves to help you keep a steady pace. They can also change the gradient to give you some feel as to running up a hill but the gradient isn’t that you’d get with steeper hill climbs.

Now on to the differences and benefits of each:

Getting Used To Them And Injury

I think a recumbent exercise bike is the much easier option of the two to use.

A recumbent bike you sit down on the seat and then you start pedaling, adjusting the resistance to the level you want. With some of the more expensive bikes you may also need to select a user profile and workout out program. Your balance is helped with the seat and possibly arm rests.

Treadmills I feel are a little more involved in getting used to them .
You need to be able to learn to cope with the moving belt – so you need to get your pace and balance right by moving your legs correctly and on time.

Also if you do misstep or maybe lose concentration you may come off it even with the help of the safety bars to grab on to prevent this. It’s not that difficult really but it is harder than what has to happen with a recumbent bike.

Hill Work

A recumbent bike gives you the option of adjusting resistance. Although the less expensive ones don’t get really tough as those more pricey which can get very tough as you’d experience on the toughest hill climbs. The adjustment is quick and easy. Those that use electro-magnetic allows you to jump from very easy to very hard with the push of button and in moments you are pushing up that very tough hill and vice versa.

Treadmills can help you with hill work by being able to be adjusted for different inclines with a maximum of around to 20% for some machines, which is tough when running. However, not all offer this steepness.

When increasing/decreasing the incline it takes a little time for it to take place. It can be tough but not as tough as you can get with the resistance you can get on a recumbent.

In addition there are tread climbers that can offer up to a 40% incline but these are more like hiking than running.


If you are buying one for your home there is some assembly required as they come part completed for shipping purposes for both of them

Recumbent exercise bikes tend to be fairly straightforward to complete with the involved assembly work already completed for you. They can usually put together by one person in about 1 to 2 hours time.

Most treadmills also arrive with most of it put together leaving you to add the console and arms. It doesn’t take too long to get it up and finisihed ready for being used.


This is a big difference between the two. The recumbent exercise bike is very gentle on the joints. The pedaling is a circular motion so there is little scope for impact when using a bike with a weighted and balanced flywheel and pedals. It can be a great way to recover from knee injuries and surgery due to the low impact..

Treadmills are similar to running in that your legs and feet are weight bearing and you are making little jumps on every step resulting more impact on each stride. So there is a large amount of impact on the joints.

Muscles Worked/ Muscle Strength

The treadmill works the quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings and calves. You can increase the amount the rear muscles(calves and glutes) are worked by increasing the incline of it. It’s not primarily for building strength in the legs but will do some as it is more for cardiovascular fitness.

Similarly a recumbent exercise bike works the qaudriceps, glutes, hamstring and calves with more use of the glutes due to the sitting position on the bike. It doesn’t offer the same impact and weight bearing to build the strength and bone density as with a treadmill – it does offer some – as you can turn up the resistance level to build up the strength a little in the legs. It’s not like weight lifting though.


A recumbent exercise bike is much the quieter option of the two. They have belt drives and magnetic resistance so the operation of bike is very quiet. The loudest noise is likely to be the heavy breathing from exerting yourself. You don’t have to turn up the TV and others in the same room can watch it without being disturbed. It can often be used during the night while others are sleeping. You can also use it in apartment without worrying about the neighbors.

The motor for moving the belt on a treadmill is usually quiet (relatively) but when you are running even with padding the pounding of the feet as you run can get loud and disturb others. It’s going to be too loud to use while others are sleeping. If you live in a upstairs apartment the pounding can be very annoying for people in apartment underneath.

Calories Burned

Running on a treadmills is a weight bearing exercise and this would make you think you can burn more calories because you are having to support and move the weight (even if you aren’t actually getting anywhere).

This is an area where treadmills are a clear winner due to the exercise being weight bearing there is going to be more calories burned for the same amount of effort. It comes at the cost of more impact on the joints, of course.

Although at first look a recumbent exercise bike can seem like you wouldn’t burn that many calories but it is similar to what can be achieved with other indoor exercise bikes.

The comparison made is for a 150 lbs person training moderately which is at 50 – 70 % hear rate for say 30 minutes.

On a treadmill that equate to 264 calories burned and with a recumbent exercise bike it is 204 calories. So for a weight loss you get more “bang for your minutes” providing you can use a treadmill.

However, you may find with the recumbent exercise bike you can exercise for longer due to comfort and less strain on the joints that you might manage on the treadmill resulting in more calories burned overall.

Also you can set the bike so there is very little stress on your joints which does mean that you can get cardio and calorie burning unlike a treadmill.


Both treadmills and recumbent exercise bikes come with a wide range of pricing. The more affordable versions are more basic but there is something for all budgets.

The most affordable treadmills aren’t motorized and don’t come with a moving belt but one that you manually move with your feet as you walk or run. It provides a good cheaper option.

With recumbent exercise bikes understandably you don’t get the option of motorized at all price ranges so in this respect of those less expensive version is similar to a more expensive one but with fewer options. In terms of pedaling functionality they may not be as smooth nor do you get the same level of resistance at the top end of resistance .

Of course you don’t get the bell and whistles such as pre-set programs, speakers etc.

Space Required

Both require a reasonable amount of space when in use – more so than you’d have with an upright bike.

As an example:

In comparing the two most popular models the Weslo Cadence G 5.9 Treadmill requires an area of 65 ins by 29 ins. Whereas the Exerpeutic 900 XL requiring 54 ins by 22 ins.

Both do have folding options that can help when you when your home doesn’t have the space to accommodate it when not in use.


When using a treadmill you can set the pace you want with as you have the moving belt to keep you going. It’s great for making sure you stay at that pace too.

With the recumbent exercise bike you don’t have that help. You’ve got to keep your pace up yourself. You do have a console that can help you by giving you feedback to keep you on track. But if you are watching the TV or a video you may find that your attention may wander away from your pedaling speed and that it drops off from time to time or for long periods if the movie is that good.

So which is best?

In Summary Treadmills vs Recumbent Exercise Bikes

Treadmills and recumbent exercise bikes are both great ways that you can work on your cardio fitness. You can also burn calories using both.

It’s no doubt if you are looking to do running training a treadmill is the better option unless you want to some form cross training then a recumbent bike can be a good option especially as it is low impact and does train some different muscles more than running.

Treadmills can also be a good way to get walking where you can set the pace you want to walk for a lower intensity and lower impact form of cardio exercise. But you are still impacting the joints.

It is this impact that recumbent exercise bikes can really help along with those with back injuries. Also because they are comfortable they can offer a way to get exercise without feeling like you’re getting exercise in some respects. You can sit in the seat and be busy watching TV or a movie and keeping active which along with the comfort can result in exercising for longer which can result in more activity and calories burned.

Which one is right for you comes down to what your goals are really and your personal circumstances in regards to health and fitness.

6 comments for “Recumbent Exercise Bikes vs Treadmills Compared Side By Side

  1. Carol Gulla
    August 22, 2017 at 2:38 am

    I need to make a decision on this subject. I am a 70 yr old woman with arthritis, MS, and diminished blood flow in the deep veins of my legs. I do not exercise

    • Paul
      August 22, 2017 at 3:00 pm

      A recumbent bike can help with supporting your back and there is less impact on your legs than you’d have with treadmill but as always with anyone starting exercise I think it is a good idea to check with your doctor first.

  2. Edgar Gary
    April 29, 2019 at 3:57 pm

    My father is 72, he uses a recumbent bicycle for at least 20 minutes a day as part of his exercise routine. He is a writer, and spends the vast majority (almost all) of his day sitting, so that after 10 years of using the stationary recumbent bicycle, an unvarying routine, he has trouble walking for more that 15 minutes a time – though he would never admit it. Could it be that because of the seated nature of the recumbent bicycle, many of the smaller, balancing muscles, motor-functions have atrophied? He was never a ballerina, but he is quite unsteady on his feet now and it’s come to the point where my family might have to intervene (however gently). My first instinct was to suggest that he replace the recumbent bicycle with the treadmill, but I’m afraid it would be harder for him to read while using it, and I imagine his ability to read while pedaling was what drew him to the bicycle in the first place. What I’ve observed is, the recumbent bicycle appears to be a purely lower body exercise, that works a very fixed, isolated set of muscles, and is in no what a substitute for an actual outdoor activity. My question is, would the treadmill be a better one? And could he still read on it?
    It’s a difficult situation, and old folks tend to be stubborn about these things. He says he’s in a “holding pattern” but the last time we went on a trip he was a wreck after the shortest of walks. My hope is that a single alteration in his exercise routine (the swapping of the bicycle for the treadmill) might be a challenge he is willing to take on, and one that could help give him another 10 years of healthy mobility.
    What do you think?

    • Paul
      May 26, 2019 at 9:43 am

      A treadmill will help provide more variety in exercise, movement and mobility that is more weight bearing than a recumbent bike. It will provide some more exercise for the upper body but it isn’t the same as bodyweight exercises like press ups or planks etc (modified as needed) or weights. But please do get health and medical advice from a health care professional for the best program to help him.
      You can read on treadmill and there are attachments for books and tablets. It does take a little practice to get balance and coordination.
      I’d think it would be worth trying it out if you can convince him. Good luck.

  3. June DiNatale
    November 23, 2019 at 1:21 pm

    Please help me make the decision re which exercise equipment to purchase. I am a fairly healthy 89 yr. old woman who thru circumstances have had to give up line dancing and tap classes ,{ due to moving,} in which I was able to keep up with others, many half my age. {I was constantly complimented on my rhythm and grace and being an inspiration for the younger people.} Where I am currently living there are none of these classes available. Unbelievably I do have osteoporosis and spinal stenosis but was still able to dance an hour or two without a problem but walking is a bit of a problem as my back starts to ache after a short walk probably dancing uses more legs than back. I’ve already gained weight from not dancing. I’d like to keep things going as long as I can,What device -treadmill,recumbent bike or elliptical would give similar benefits as this dancing .Dr. not knowledgable on this.

    • Paul
      November 28, 2019 at 7:20 pm

      Great to hear about your dancing.

      I don’t think you’ll get all the same benefits and enjoyment you got from dancing – it seems you really enjoyed it.

      Of the 3 exercise machines I’d say give the elliptical machine – it can be awkward to start out – it gives you the opportunity to move all your body and low impact which can be easier on joints and back depending on what is causing your back to ache. I hope you find something you enjoy while staying active.

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