What Gives a Better Workout: a Treadmill or a Stair Climber?

Treadmills are a versatile addition to your cardio routine.
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If you’ve ever jogged to catch a bus or climbed a flight of stairs, you’ll notice how much energy is required for these actions. Jogging and climbing stairs strengthen your heart and muscles, help you burn calories and improve your overall fitness. Both the treadmill and the stair climber can give you an excellent cardio workout. Which you choose depends on your specific needs and fitness goals.


A treadmill's continuous belt allows you to walk, jog or sprint at your own pace. Its electronic monitor allows you to adjust your speed and keep track of your heart rate, calories burned and distance covered. Most treadmills also have an adjustable incline to simulate running up hills. This piece or cardio equipment has the most options for aerobic exercise depending on your fitness level. There are many lower-impact or beginner exercises that can be done on a treadmill, like walking on an incline or jogging at a low speed. This is a great way to improve your cardiovascular health or try resistance training with less impact on your joints. However, treadmills can be used for high-intensity workouts like sprint, HIIT or cross training. Overall, it is great for those who want variety in their workouts.


A stairclimber, sometimes called a stairmaster, stair machine or a stair stepper, is an exercise machine with a revolving staircase that simulates walking up stairs. For added support, the machine has handrails. This is an electronically powered machine that allows you to control the speed and intensity of your workout. Stair stepping is a low impact exercise that allows you to burn a large amount of calories and build muscle mass without causing any stress-related joint pain.

Use of Muscles

Both cardio machines focus on engaging your lower body and core muscles. These muscle groups include your calves, quads, hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, hips, abdominals and obliques. The treadmill specifically engages your hip flexors and extensors, which are used to move your thighs forward or backward. The stair climber engages your core, which is needed to keep you balanced and assist in the constant lifting motion of your legs. It’s also particularly known for being a great fat burning workout that blasts your leg muscles.

Types of Workouts

Each machine can be used in many different ways to spice up your workout routine. Great treadmill workouts you can do are strength-training exercises like walking lunge or a thread push. You can also do interval training that strengthens muscles and burns body fat.

The stair climber, while it offers an intense, low-impact workout, does not offer as much variety. On the stair climber, you are limited to climbing stairs. But since you can change the speed, you can increase or decrease the intensity of your workout to interval train.

Calorie Burn

In general, you can burn a higher number of calories in a shorter period of time on a treadmill than on a stair climber. For example, if you weigh 140 pounds, you can burn 546 calories in one hour running at 5 mph on the treadmill, whereas you would only burn about 508 calories during that same amount of time on a stair climber. Increasing the speed or intensity of the workout on either machine also increases the calorie burn. Remember that how many calories you burn depends on your body weight, energy expenditure, and how tall you are.

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