Treadmill or CrossFit: Which is the better workout?
It’s been found that cardio exercise improves your brainpower, and listening to music when working out can boost your performance by 15%. (BestReviews)
Treadmill vs. CrossFit
Whether you’re trying to get into working out again or for the first time, or you’ve been committed long-term and need to shake things up, there are many reasons to find a new exercise routine or workout program. Both treadmill and CrossFit workouts are effective ways to improve your fitness level and maintain good health.
Treadmills have a moving belt on which you walk or run, either to a speed and incline that you set or to a preprogrammed workout with varying speeds and inclines. The workout is cardio-focused, though it does offer leg muscle work. CrossFit is a high-intensity interval training workout that emphasizes distance, speed and load to build power and strength.
Each workout has its pros and cons, all of which mean something different when you consider your personal fitness goals.
With treadmill workouts, you walk, power walk or run on the machine in a standing position. This type of exercise focuses on cardiovascular health, but the steeper your incline and faster your speed, the more you recruit your leg muscles and bring in some strength training as well.
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Treadmill workout pros
- User-friendly and easily programmable to your personal settings
- Provides lower impact on the hips, knees and feet than running on pavement, which is great if you're training for a race
- Shows progress and improvements over time at a glance, such as calories burned, pace, time and distance
- Burns more calories than other cardio-centric workouts, like ellipticals
- Running or walking on treadmill inclines offers an effective lower body workout for the glutes, calves, core and quads
Treadmill workout cons
- Treadmill workouts focus on the lower body and engage fewer muscle groups than other types of exercise (like CrossFit).
- Because of the stress and impact on your joints, injuries like shin splints, knee problems and stress fractures can happen. To mitigate this risk, be sure to stretch and warm up before your treadmill workout.
CrossFit is a type of HIIT workout designed for all fitness levels that utilizes dynamic strength and conditioning moves at a high intensity. The exercises are designed to mimic what you do on a daily basis, such as pushing, pulling and squatting, and they’re done for preset time frames to build muscle (as opposed to an indicated number of reps that other workouts call for). Examples of movements include:
- Olympic weightlifting
- Kettlebell swings
- Overhead presses
- Explosive body weight exercises
- Plyometric jumping
- HIIT workouts offer more bang for your buck since you efficiently and effectively strengthen your muscles, stamina and endurance, and CrossFit offers HIIT in a dynamic, multi-joint and reasonably difficult workout.
- When you do CrossFit workouts, you'll quickly learn how to challenge yourself using your own body weight, no matter where you are, making them fairly portable.
- CrossFit's functional exercises, like squats or kettlebell swings, imitate everyday movements and contribute to better balance, agility and flexibility.
- The CrossFit workout is intense and demanding and has been found to have relatively high injury rates, particularly among first-timers who do the workout less than 3 days a week.
- Many CrossFit exercises come from Olympic weightlifting and gymnastics, sports that take years to master and require precise movements and form. This can create a challenging or long learning curve for beginners — which needn't be a deterrent, just something to keep in mind.
Should you do a treadmill or CrossFit workout?
Both treadmill and CrossFit workouts come with their unique benefits and drawbacks, and there is some crossover between the two. Depending on your fitness level, goals, motivation and interests, you might find both beneficial for different reasons. This is why one really isn’t better than another overall — it all depends on who you are, what you’re capable of and what you want.
If running a marathon is your ultimate goal, a treadmill is the clear answer for you, but if building muscle is a high priority, CrossFit could be the better choice. Keep in mind that both workouts can be effective for weight loss and calorie burning. When it comes down to it, go with what you feel you’ll enjoy and stick to the most.
Emma Caplan is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.
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