Stairmaster vs Treadmill – Which is a Better Cardio Workout?

Natalie Cecconi
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Stairmaster versus Treadmill

When it comes to the treadmill and the Stairmaster, many people have a hard time determining which of the two is the better option for their fitness goals. The truth is that the two items aren’t that different from one another, though they both target different muscles and provide comparable health benefits.

A treadmill or a Stairmaster both work by subjecting the body to an external force that’s meant to challenge the ability to maintain balance and posture. What this means is that, when one uses a treadmill or a Stairmaster, their muscles must continuously tighten or loosen in order to stabilize the body.

The Stairmaster requires the use of certain leg muscles to perform, which means that it will benefit the legs more than the treadmill. If you have knee problems, however, you should exercise caution when using such a machine as the Stairmaster, as it can cause extra wear.

The treadmill uses the entire body to support one’s body weight, so it engages the arms and the upper body as well. In addition, it also targets the muscles of the core and the lower back. In the end, the treadmill is ideal for those who want to engage all the muscles of the body as opposed to those who just want to target a particular body part.


Health and Treadmill vs StairMaster – Which should you go for?

The human body was built for prolonged walking and running. It was not intended to sit in front of a desk all day and be stuffed into a subway or a bus, and so it wasn’t given the muscular strength or the fat-burning abilities to handle either of those situations well.

In order to counteract the negative impact of our modern lifestyle, people are moving to the gym to get some exercise into their lives, and the most popular cardio machines that are now available are the treadmill and the StairMaster. Which one is better? Let’s break it down.

Both machines provide a great cardiovascular workout, but the StairMaster does so in a slightly different way. When you run on a treadmill, your feet are on the ground and you are going at a steady pace. You don’t have to focus on anything else because the treadmill takes care of adjusting the pace and keeping you going.

But with the StairMaster, you have to maintain your pace by being aware of how high you’ve climbed upwards. There is also the option to go down the steps as well, which is what makes it a great workout.


Cardiovascular conditioning is a term that refers to the exercises that boost your endurance, strength, and speed. There are two different types of cardio conditioning: non-impact and impact. The difference consists of the way each one affects the bones and joints ….

Non-Impact Cardio Exercises

Non-impact cardio exercises involve aerobic workouts that do not put pressure or weight on the bones and joints. The two types of non-impact cardio exercises are cycling and swimming.

Non-impact cardio exercises help improve fitness levels, increase agility, and even control your weight. Each of these two non-impact exercises has its own benefits and you should choose both when developing a program for your fitness. Cycling is an excellent example of an impact-free exercise that does not involve any sudden or sudden twisting or bending and is therefore a very safe way to improve your overall cardio conditioning as well as endurance.

Continuous swimming is another non-impact exercise that does not put any actual pressure on the joints while still being able to raise the overall cardiovascular fitness and stamina of the swimmer. Swimming does not cause any impact on the joints so it is actually a very healthy exercise for people who suffer from arthritis or any other form of joint pain.


The everyday life of many people does not allow them to devote enough time for running or jogging outside. This is where treadmills come into play as convenient substitutes for outdoor training.

However, runners are often in a dilemma – should they spend time on the treadmill or go for a run outdoors.

There are numerous opinions on which is the better option when it comes to burning calories. This post is an attempt to answer this question once and for all. We have compared the main features of both types of workouts and calculated how many calories are burned with different intensities.

What we have found out is that although running on a treadmill may seem easier as you don’t have to keep looking at the street for passing vehicles or pedestrians, it is no less effective than regular jogging or running outdoors.



Ideal option for people who have joint problems.

It is helpful with rehabilitation after an injury.

Helpful with working out indoors during extreme weather conditions.

Works out the stabilizing muscles.

Great for people who prefer training alone as well as for small homes or apartments.


You need to keep a close eye on the speed and incline so it may take more of your attention than running on the street.


When it comes to running, speed and duration are very closely related. A person who runs at a fast pace for a long time will burn a lot more calories than someone who runs very slowly for the same amount of time. So duration should be a consideration if you’re trying to lose weight.

A treadmill can allow you to run at a constant speed for longer than a stair climber can. Many treadmills allow you to set a course that takes you throughout the length or width of the machine, which can allow you to run even longer than the machine is actually physically capable of.

However, since you have to be moving to keep the treadmill working, many people end up jogging at a fast pace to increase the time. So for weight loss, you may wish to increase your running speed on the treadmill in order to keep yourself moving for a longer period of time. The key is finding the right balance.


Most of the time, treadmills are generally more expensive than indoor stair climbers. But while cost can be a factor, I would always advise you to buy the tool that will give you the best cardio workout. And I think we can all agree that you won’t get a better cardio workout than if you were climbing stairs outdoors on a hot sunny day.

A treadmill also allows the selection of running surfaces that are a lot more complex and serious than on a climbing machine. However, for the hardcore runners, the stairmaster does have its advantages. You can simulate long uphill climbs for example.


Both the treadmill and stairmaster allow you to do aerobic exercise and to track your heart rate. The treadmill is on a flat surface and uses a track whereas the Stairmaster is on an incline.

So the real question is “ which should you choose?

For a baseline comparison, the treadmill has been around longer than the stairmaster. Quite a few people also can recall using a treadmill as one of the first cardio machines they used at the gym. But the Stairmaster is gaining popularity and has been challenging the treadmill for a while in terms of cost, popularity, and convenience. Here is a comparison of the treadmill and stairmaster.

In some ways, using a treadmill is like being outside, but inside a nice warm gym or living room. Some treadmills have a window, showing you what you would see if you were running outside. If you are running outside, you get the wind and rain or warm sun hitting your skin.

On a treadmill, you can do that too with some treadmills having a fan that blows lightly on your face or a window that looks out on the world beyond your gym. You can also step out and get a cup of your favorite beverage or get some fresh air in between your exercise sessions.

In general, treadmills are less likely to make you bored or tired compared to a stairmaster. You run on a flat surface and in a straight line.

Stairmaster Pros

Let’s start the conversation with the obvious advantage of the Stairmaster – its resistance.

Although the name implies that you would be working your legs and your core, the resistance actually comes from your arms and shoulders as you lean into the handles and hold your body up. This makes the Stairmaster a great total body workout for those looking to get a full body workout.

A common complaint of Stairmaster workouts is the inability to increase intensity. Since you rely on gravity to determine pace, there is little you can do to speed up or slow down your workout.

If you are looking to improve your time, you will need to climb higher tiers. This is great in theory, but it may not be practical for some people as it may not be safe for them to climb higher and higher.

The other piece of bad news for the Stairmaster is the actual climbing.

You are basically you climbing and climbing and climbing. That being said, if you can get past that, the Stairmaster is a great way to burn calories and build endurance.

Stairmaster Cons

Less sturdy frame and can get loose after a few years of use.

Can Be Intimidating as Steps Vary Dramatically in Height and Variables Change as You Get Higher

Runners tend to step higher on the treadmill vs. the stairmaster to keep their stride length consistent

Also, runners tend to use a lower incline on the treadmill vs. the stairmaster to keep their stride length consistent

Treadmill Cons:

Spot carpeting for runners to land on is less forgiving and can lead to shin splints and/or ankle injuries for some runners due to a difference in height of heel vs. forefoot

You Can End up Running Faster or Slower than Intended while Not Paying Attention and Lead to an over or under Performed Workout

Must pay attention to body mechanics more, including posture, arm swing, etc.

Treadmill Pros

If you are interested in getting a good cardio workout, there are two main types of equipment used to get your blood flowing: treadmills and stair climbers. Which is the better choice?

Technically speaking, yes, a treadmill is a better exercise machine. A treadmill allows you to accurately control the speed of your workout, whereas when on a stair climber, you have to rely on the slowest speed of the machine.

But there are some cons to a treadmill which may not be a deal breaker but are still worth thinking over before purchasing this kind of equipment. Using a treadmill can be a little boring compared with the wide variety of scenery you can see running outdoors. This is a problem that can be remedied with the right program design, which focuses on different muscle groups and various speeds of running.

Treadmills also can be a little more difficult to use to the point where it might hinder your workout. This can be due to the heavier and more expensive equipment it takes to stabilize. Some individuals have arthritis, for example, and the range of motion you get with the treadmill may not be enough for them to work out in a beneficial way. You also have to spend time moving the machine out of your way when you are done so you can get the exercise bike out or, worse yet, work out in the same place.

Treadmill Cons

The treadmill is a staple of the at-home gym scene.

Since it is a regular fixture in most workout facilities, many people forget that it can serve a valuable purpose in the home.

You may want to consider buying a treadmill if you don’t have one or if you are planning to buy another one for your home.

Before you commit to one or the other, however, it’s a good idea to study the pros and cons of treadmills vs stairmaster machines. This is because each one has its own take on offering a good workout.

The treadmill is like the man’s best friend. It is a reliable, time-tested machine that will give you a good workout. It’s basic.

That is both a good and a bad thing. Some people would like more features but there are some benefits to the simple nature of the treadmill.

The treadmill has a lot of benefits. It’s a good way to improve leg muscles. It’s a lower body workout. You will need upper body muscles, however, to run.

Some treadmills also provide other fitness needs such as a fan, the ability to play music through an in-built audio system, or a built-in TV.