Cardio training can improve heart health, burn fat and calories, and improve mental health and well-being.
Treadmills have been considered a staple part of cardio training for a long time. Straightforward to use and delivering quick results, it’s no surprise that they have overshadowed other cardio machines for so long.
However, the high costs, monotonous nature, and increased injury risk associated with treadmills are turning many home gym owners to other machines to do their cardio training. Enter, air bikes.
More and more cardio enthusiasts are ditching their running shoes and jumping on the saddle of this daunting machine. With full-body toning capabilities and exhilarating workout effects, air bikes are certainly qualified challengers to treadmill dominance.
So, are air bikes set to de-throne treadmills as the kings of cardio, or is all the hype for nothing?
Air Bike and Treadmill Overview
A relatively recent entry into the cardio world, air bikes (a.k.a fan bikes and assault bikes) are growing in popularity. Dispelling the “boring” tag from cardio training, air bikes deliver an exhilarating, brutal, and effective workout.
They differ from other stationary bikes (spin bikes, recumbent bikes) by working both the upper and lower body. Their all-round versatility and capacity for effectively taxing your cardiorespiratory system has made them particularly popular in CrossFit.
The method of resistance differs too. On an air bike, all the resistance comes from the fan which is driven by the speed and power going into the pedals. Air resistance is essentially infinite and is determined by how much effort you put in. This means that if you want to increase the resistance on your air bike, you simply have to pedal harder.
The moving handlebars and pedals help air bikes deliver a bruising, full-body workout. Whether it’s fat-burning, calorie-blasting, muscle toning, or increasing cardiovascular endurance, air bikes are versatile enough to suit your needs with a demanding, yet invigorating, workout.
Treadmills are a staple machine for the workout of nearly every cardio enthusiast. The concept is simple: run against a conveyor belt until you collapse.
With the right treadmill, you can do anything from power walking through to all-out sprinting. Whatever intensity of workout you choose, a treadmill can deliver.
Their ease of use and versatility makes them ideal for beginners, older users, and even those who take an indifferent approach to fitness. You can use them to just maintain your fitness level or to begin your weight loss journey as they burn tons of calories and help you elevate your cardiovascular endurance.
They can be ideal for advanced runners and fitness fanatics too with a range of in-built workout programs, powerful and durable motors, and incline/decline features providing a test for even the most seasoned runner.
Treadmills come in all shapes and sizes, so it’s important to do your research before buying one for your home gym. Important specs to look out for are the motor, tread belt length, incline/decline abilities, and its top speed. Consider these specs against your needs as you decide.
For me, one of the biggest downsides of running is that it can get quite monotonous and boring. Luckily, some modern treadmills now feature TV screens that can immerse you in a virtual world as you workout or just provide some entertainment to break the monotony of a run.
Pros and Cons of Each Machine
No piece of equipment is perfect, or even right for everyone. Let’s explore the upsides and downsides of each machine.
Air Bike Pros and Cons
- Unlimited Resistance
- Full-body workout
- Low impact workout
- Simple to use
- Burns calories and fat
- Delivers intense workout
- Muscle toning capabilities
- Large footprint
- Difficult to do low-intensity work
Treadmill Pros and Cons
- Versatile: walking, running, HIIT, or sprinting
- Simple to use
- Burns a lot of calories
- Build cardio endurance
- Suitable for all fitness levels
- Modern treadmills feature entertainment and coach-led workouts
- Large footprint, though some are foldable
- Expensive to buy and ship
- High impact bad for joints
Treadmill vs Air Bike: Key Differences
When choosing between a treadmill or air bike, there are several key features and outcomes of each machine to consider. Depending on your fitness goals, one might be more suitable than the other.
Cardio vs Metabolic Conditioning
The high-intensity workout you can achieve on an air bike makes it well-suited to metabolic conditioning (metcon). Its metcon capabilities make it very well suited to CrossFit training too. Key benefits of this anaerobic form of exercise include muscle building and fat burning.
Metcon is a great way to break up your training if you feel like you’ve hit a plateau or lost motivation. Rather than a tedious run, you can jump on an air bike and do a variety of HIIT or MISS training, working the arms, the legs, or both.
The nature of a treadmill makes it difficult to replicate the intensity that can be found on an air bike. It is however well suited to endurance sessions, building cardiovascular endurance, and improving heart health.
Treadmills are also better than air bikes at low-intensity steady state (LISS) workouts. Going at a slow pace will annoy your air bike, and it will punish you by making things harder. A treadmill on the other hand loves a slow grind and will purr its way through your workout as you relax into a rhythm.
If you want to vary between metcon sessions and cardio endurance, then an air bike is more suitable. If your goal is endurance only then consider the treadmill.
Calorie Burn and Weight Loss
Air bikes and treadmills are both fat blasting machines. To compare them adequately, it’s useful to look at each activity’s metabolic equivalent (MET) value. A MET is the amount of energy you use while sitting quietly for a given amount of time. An activity like running or riding can be quantified by number of METs. That is, how much more energy does it burn compared to sitting quietly? An activity with a MET value of 2 would burn twice as much energy as sitting quietly. A MET value of 5 would indicate that the activity burns five times as much energy as sitting quietly, and so on.
The table below presents at the metabolic equivalents for running at a variety of speeds (note that jogging and walking would burn significantly fewer calories) as well as THFF’s loosely calculated MET values for riding an air bike at different intensities.
|Air Bike (moderate effort)||8.0|
|Air Bike (vigorous effort)||12.0|
*These values are taken from the Compendium of Physical Activity.
From the table, we can see that vigorous running is a higher intensity activity than vigorous riding. METs can be also used to calculate the approximate number of calories burned for a given bodyweight in a given time period. Let’s have a look at 15 minutes completed of each activity and intensity for a few different body weights.
|Calories burned in 15 minutes|
|130 lbs.||175 lbs.||220 lbs.|
|Air bike (moderate effort)||120||160||200|
|Running 6 mph||147||196||245|
|Air bike (vigorous effort)||180||240||300|
|Running 9 mph||192||256||320|
Don’t worry, it’s a lot simpler on this one. If you have bad knees, don’t get a treadmill. For all its benefits, running is one of the least functional activities you can do. Repeated impact on the knee joints can be particularly harmful and if not managed properly can cause long-term problems.
Pleasingly, a lot of treadmills do now feature extra cushioning on the tread belt which can ease the impact. Compared to an air bike though, the impact is still significant and not recommended if you have knee problems.
If you are carrying a leg or hip injury, the versatility of an air bike may help here too. With foot pegs to rest your feet on, you can use just the handlebars to get a hard workout. They give you the option to sit or stand too, which can help with a variety of injuries.
While both machines have a big footprint, there are some seriously giant treadmills. They can take up a ridiculous amount of space, which is not ideal if you’re set-up in a small garage or apartment. Their size makes them a bit of a pain to assemble as well.
Unfortunately, if you’re on the taller end of the height spectrum then you need a larger treadmill. A long tread belt will support your stride length, while a wider belt gives you that extra elbow room.
The footprint problem is somewhat offset by many modern treadmills being foldable.
Air bikes on the other hand have a smaller footprint. Although it will still be a tight squeeze in a small apartment or garage, they generally have a more compact footprint.
Maintenance and Upkeep
The introduction of belt-driven systems for air bikes has been a game-changer. Not only are they much smoother and quieter than the old chain-driven systems they’re also more durable meaning less maintenance and upkeep over time.
The full metal construction of most air bikes (an exception is the Schwinn AirDyne Pro which features plastic to reduce noise) means their frame is durable too. Full metal construction prevents serious wear and tear over time, and helps the bike stay incredibly stable.
Treadmills on the other hand tend to show signs of wear and tear if not looked after properly. The repetitive impact on the tread belt can damage the rubber requiring a replacement belt.
A key feature of treadmills is the motor too.
HP tells us the speed a treadmill can max out at. CHP tells us the power a treadmill can maintain without burning out. Therefore, a low CHP will struggle to maintain a high speed for any length of time meaning that if you want to train hard and run at high speeds, you’ll need to spend more on a bigger motor.
Air bikes tend not to have this problem. As long as it is belt-driven it will sustain high speeds without burning out or having further issues.
Air Bike vs Treadmill: Top Products Comparison
Rogue Echo Air Bike
Rogues first delve into the competitive air bike market has been well-received. With the Echo Air Bike flying off the shelves as fitness go-ers clamor to get it into their garages, the Echo may just be the hottest air bike out there at the moment.
Boasting an intimidating full metal frame, a durable belt-driven system, and a huge 27” fan, the Echo has an ominous look about it, almost as if it’s daring you to try it out.
Once you do muster up the courage to jump on it, you won’t regret it. The Rogue is capable of delivering an exhilarating and brutal workout that will leave you both gasping for air and smiling ear-to-ear.
Let’s check out its features.
- Size: This hefty machine brings with it extreme stability and incredible durability. It can stand up to even the hardest of sprints, allowing you to focus on burning those calories and toning your muscles.
- Belt-drive: We mentioned earlier the benefits of a belt-driven system and it works nicely in the Rogue too. It’s durable, smooth, and relatively quiet compared to other air bikes.
- Fan: The 27” fan is armed with 10 steel blades which inevitably create more resistance as you cycle and push/pull. This creates a more intense and effective workout.
- Value: Not really a feature, but the cost of this machine is well-worth mentioning as it is probably the most fairly-priced air bike on the market at the moment. At around $745 this bike offers incredible value.
NordicTrack Commercial 1750
Priced right, powerful, enjoyable to use, and full of exciting gadgets and features, NordicTracks’ popular model ticks all the right boxes.
This deluxe machine will please runners and power walkers alike. If you’re looking for a well-reviewed, popular, good value treadmill, look no further.
Despite the 1750 being the cheapest of the NordicTrack Commercial range, it’s far from entry-level displaying an array of exciting features.
- Interactive Touchscreen: The super-responsive 10” HD touchscreen works a dream on the 1750, helping fully immerse you in iFit workouts and Google Street Views.
- iFit Compatibility: It’s really not worth getting a treadmill if it doesn’t have iFit. Whether it’s running whilst a trainer screams motivation at you, or power walking through the streets of Rome, the iFit coach is an essential feature that helps the 1750 support a wide variety of fitness goals.
- Motor: The 3.75 CHP motor is a beast, easily powering you through your sprints, endurance runs, and HIIT sessions. It combines seamless speed changes with superb durability delivering a suitable workout for all levels.
- Tread Belt: The huge 22×60” tread belt can accommodate the longest of running strides. The added width gives you that extra elbow room you didn’t know you needed. The thickness of the deck provides longevity and reduces noise too.
- Incline/Decline: The 1750 can incline to 15% and decline to -3%. One of my favorite iFit features makes the most of this, inclining and declining to match the terrain you’re running on when using the Google Maps Street View feature. What’s more, the transitions are smooth and seamless.
- Fans: NordicTracks impressive dual AutoBreeze system will keep you cool as you run. The fan speed will match your speed to simulate running outside. If you don’t like this, you can adjust it yourself too.
- Foldable: You can save much-needed floor space when not using this machine by folding it away. Thankfully, because the 1750 is huge.
|Rogue Echo Bike||NordicTrack Commercial 1750 Treadmill|
|Footprint||58”L x 30”W||81.25”L x 39.25”W|
|Warranty||2yr Frame||Lifetime Frame, 10yr motor 2yr parts|
|Max user weight||300lbs||300lbs|
|Where to Buy?||Rogue Fitness||Amazon|
Assault Bike vs Treadmill FAQs
Which is better for cardio: Air bike or treadmill?
A treadmill is the most natural method to improve heart health and build cardio endurance. You can do long, moderate, or low-intensity sessions which aren’t as effective on an air bike. Incline features also help build cardio health even quicker, an option that isn’t available on air bikes.
Is a treadmill or air bike better for losing weight?
To lose weight you need to burn more calories than you intake. As a treadmill can burn more calories at high intensity than an air bike, it is slightly more suited to weight loss.
Will a treadmill help you lose stomach fat?
A treadmill is extremely effective at burning plenty of calories, making it effective at wiping out fat. If you are burning more calories than you intake then you will lose body fat, including stomach fat. They also give you the option to increase your exercise intensity, thus burning more calories.
Therefore, paired with a balanced diet a treadmill can help you lose that stomach fat.
Air Bike or Treadmill: Which One is Right For You?
Both calorie-blasting machines are excellent in their own right. If your goal is simply weight loss and cardiovascular endurance, then a treadmill is more suitable for you.
So for now, treadmills can keep their cardio crown. But, an air bike does have its place in your home gym.
If your goal is weight loss with more muscle toning and higher intensity workouts, an air bike is more suitable. CrossFitters, home gym owners on a budget, and users with knee/joint issues should also consider an air bike over a treadmill.