Recumbent Bike Vs Elliptical: What’s The Difference?

When it comes to low-impact training equipment, the recumbent bike and the elliptical machine are two of the best options available. Recumbent bike vs elliptical is a difficult question, but our guide can help.  

We will break down the key differences between these two exercise machines so you can choose the best option for your home and fitness needs.  

recumbent bike is an excellent cardio machine that offers a low-impact workout and puts the exerciser in a reclining position. 

This is a great exercise machine for people who have arthritis and have trouble with pain in their joints because the majority of the rider's weight is held by the seat rather than by their body. It is also a good workout machine for heavier exercisers because of the weight distribution.  

Recumbent bikes are not a good choice for an upper-body workout because the arms remain stationary during the movement. Some commercial model trainers add light weights so that exercisers can work their arms, so there are ways to incorporate the upper body. That said, the machine does raise heart rates and is a good cardiovascular workout.  


  • Good cardio workout 
  • Comfortable 
  • Eases back pain and pelvic pain 
  • Perfect for arthritic exercisers 
  • Adjustable 
  • Easy to assemble and move 
  • Beginner-friendly  


  • Cannot simulate outdoor riding with hills or sprints 
  • Wrist pain from resting hands on the sidebars 
  • Knee pain from additional stress on knees (fewer stress placed on other joints) 
What Is A Recumbent Bike

What Is An Elliptical Machine & What Are They Good For? 

An elliptical machine is a cardio machine that focuses on the lower body (when using stationary handlebars) but can easily focus on the whole body (when using the moveable handlebars). The elliptical offers a good cardio workout and can even feel relaxing once you have experience working out on the machine. 

It is comfortable and can even feel easier than it actually is, so you are "tricked" into working out for more extended periods of time. It also offers a reverse stride option, which lets you target your glutes and hamstrings.  

The elliptical machine is often chosen over other types of exercise machines because it is low-impact. It is also a fun exercise machine because the movement is different from other types of training (running, walking).

Elliptical machines do not come with accurate stats for workouts and tend to overestimate calories burned as well as distance completed. If you have pre-existing hip problems, the elliptical can exacerbate these issues. Most types of ellipticals are beginner-friendly and perfect for people of all fitness levels.  


  • Good cardio workout 
  • Low-impact 
  • Relaxing on easy days 
  • Upper body workout 
  • Reverse stride option 
  • Feels easier than it is so you might work  out longer, harder 
  • Adjustable 
  • Beginner-friendly 


  • Unnatural movement 
  • Stats are not accurate 
  • Can aggravate hip problems 
What Is An Elliptical Machine

Recumbent Bike Vs Ellipticals: Which Is Better For Your Workout? 

For Fitness Goals 

  • Staying Fit  
    If fitness is your goal, we recommend choosing the elliptical. The elliptical offers more variety when it comes to workouts and also works your entire body. The elliptical will engage multiple muscle groups and is better for overall fitness.  
  • Weight Loss   
    Which is better for weight loss exercise, the bike or elliptical? When it comes to weight loss, the best answer is the machine that you will use most often. Therefore, whichever machine you choose is one that you will need to use daily in order to keep burning calories. However, if you like both machines equally, the elliptical machine burns more calories per minute because it recruits more muscle groups throughout the workout.  
  • Burning Calories  
    When it comes to burning calories, the elliptical machine burns more calories than the recumbent bike. If you are looking to burn the most calories during your workout session, we recommend the recruitment bike. However, the elliptical machine does not burn the most calories of any workout machine (the treadmill and rowing machines burn more calories).  

For Muscles Worked 

  • Upper Body   
    If you want to focus on working the muscle groups in your upper body, then we recommend using the elliptical machine. There are stationary handlebars that you can hold onto and use, but you can also easily use the moveable handlebars to work your arms, including your biceps and triceps, as well as the smaller arm muscles. If the upper body is your goal, the elliptical machine is your tool.  
  • Hamstring And Glutes    
    When it comes to the hamstrings and glutes, it’s really a toss-up between both machines. Resistance is the greatest factor here. The higher you place the resistance on both the recumbent bike and the elliptical machine, the harder you will work your hamstrings and glutes. If you are on the elliptical, you can also perform a reverse stride, specifically targeting the hamstring and glute area. Both machines work the hamstring and glutes in similar ways.  

For Pain & Comfort 

  • Joint Pain    
    For fitness enthusiasts with knee pain, the elliptical machine will be the gentler option. For fitness enthusiasts with hip pain, the recumbent bike will be the gentler option. If you are someone who struggles with arthritis and has many different areas of joint pain, then the recumbent bike will be more comfortable and provide a better workout.  
  • Back Pain    
    Most people with back pain find that the recumbent bike is the better option for them overall because it isn’t jarring (like a treadmill would be while running) but also offers support (ellipticals do not provide back support). 
  • General Comfort    
    Both exercise machines are comfortable to use. However, the recumbent bike is often considered the most comfortable. This is because the recumbent bike allows the exerciser to remain in a seated position and also doesn't require engaging the upper body throughout the workout.  

For The Type of Users 

  • Beginners     
    For beginners, both the recumbent bike and the elliptical machine are great options. We recommend that beginners sign up for a free trial at a gym and try out each machine first before making a purchase. Another option is to think about this: do you enjoy biking? Do you enjoy walking or running? If you enjoy biking, purchase the recumbent bike. If you enjoy walking or running, purchase the elliptical machine.  
  • Seniors     
    When it comes to senior exercisers, we recommend that you consult with your physician before making an exercise machine purchase. We also recommend that you consider your pre-existing conditions. If you have poor hips and are suffering from arthritis, then the recumbent bike will be the better option. If you have poor knees or back pain from frequently sitting, then the elliptical will be the better choice for you. Recumbent bikes are gentle on the joints, but they do place additional pressure on the knees. Ellipticals will give you a better workout and engage the upper body, but they place extra pressure on the hips.  
Recumbent Bike Vs Ellipticals

People Also Ask (FAQs)

Can you stand on under desk ellipticals? 

No, you cannot stand on under desk ellipticals. If you want to stand on an exercise machine that stays under your desk, you may want to choose an under desk treadmill. The under-desk elliptical is meant to be used while sitting 

How many days a week should I do elliptical? 

The elliptical machine offers a great cardio workout, and we recommend performing a cardio workout 4-5 days per week. If you plan to use the elliptical for all of your cardio workouts, we recommend working out on the elliptical five days per week.  

Is the recumbent bike bad for knees? 

This depends on your personal health history. You should consult with your physician before using any type of bike if you have knee injuries. The recumbent bike is a low-impact cardio machine; however, it does place additional stress on the knee compared to a traditional bike.

 Still, recumbent bikes place less strain on other joints, so if you have healthy knees, the recumbent bike can be a great way to lessen the strain on your ankles, hips, and other joints. This is why the recumbent bike is often recommended for arthritic people.  

How long should I ride a recumbent bike per session? 

This depends on your personal fitness goals. We recommend working out for approximately 30-60 minutes each day. Some of this time could also be served by a brisk walk or alternative exercise machine.

Tailor your recumbent bike sessions to your fitness goals. If you are a beginner, start slow with 10-15 minutes per day and add minutes each week.  


Choosing the recumbent bike or the elliptical for your fitness goals is a personal decision. If you prefer upright movement and want to get your arms involved, we recommend the elliptical.

On the other hand, if you have arthritis or prefer a seated position while working out, then we recommend the recumbent bike. Both exercise machines offer a great way to get in your recommended 300 minutes of cardio per week, according to the ACSM 

Last Updated on January 30, 2023

Paul J

Paul J

Paul J is is an ex-professional footballer who has seen a gym or two and is an expert at knowing what is required for home gym setups. When he isn’t testing out products for his readers, he’s usually going for a run in the park or out for coffee.