StairMaster vs. Treadmill: Which One is Better for Weight Loss?
As simple as a StairMaster vs. treadmill cardio-equipment comparison may seem to some, such a task involves more variables than you think. Even if you narrow down the comparison according to a fitness goal such as weight loss, you still need to consider a number of important factors. These include the starting weight of the cardio-equipment user, equipment resistance level, incline on a treadmill, interval training and perhaps most importantly, how much effort the user is willing to put into the workout session.
One reason why a StairMaster vs. treadmill comparison seems easy for some is that the treadmill is an all-time cardio room favorite. This makes it easy for them to say that the treadmill works better for weight loss without backing it up with reliable data. Throw in fitness articles that pander to the treadmill fanbase using questionable studies, and you’ll have a lot of folks believing that the treadmill is indeed better for weight loss. Again, there are important variables that need to be considered for an objective discussion can arrive at this conclusion.
StairMaster and the Treadmill: A Closer Look
The treadmill is the undisputed king of the cardio room. Most gym members who love or hate cardio day will likely think treadmill before they do the StairMaster. Treadmills, however, are essentially machines with wide belts that rotate on a running platform. While the machine allows you to replicate running while staying in place, the reality is that you are not really running. You are not propelling yourself forward like you would if you are running on pavement. Instead, you are merely skipping on a belt that is moving under your feet. There is a big difference between the number of calories that you burn when running on pavement compared to skipping on a treadmill.
On the other hand, the Stair Master has a set of rotating steps to replicate the action of ascending a flight of stairs. Unlike the treadmill, you can’t skip the steps on the StairMaster. You are essentially carrying your own weight with each step. Another thing going for the stair-climbing machine in this StairMaster vs. treadmill showdown is that it hits more muscle groups more effectively. These muscles include the core muscles, quads, hamstrings, and glutes. This makes the StairMaster better than the treadmill when it comes to building strength in the lower body and for muscle toning.
So which fitness equipment is better for weight loss?
StairMaster vs Treadmill: What Studies Show
Studies that pit the two fitness machines against each other are rare. However, some studies indicate that a 30-minute medium to low-intensity training on a StairMaster burns around 30 percent more calories compared to a treadmill with the same training intensity. However, if the setting on the treadmill is at 6mph or above, the studies show that you’ll burn on the upwards of 30 percent more than the StairMaster.
The studies suggest that with low-intensity training, you’ll burn calories more efficiently with the StairMaster. If you are willing and can push yourself to run 6 miles per hour or faster and sustain the pace for 30 minutes, you’ll burn significantly more calories on a treadmill compared to a StairMaster. For fat burning, therefore, it all depends on how much effort you are ready to expend for a workout session.
Another consideration for this discussion is lean muscle gain and loss. You build muscle strength and gain lean mass when training on a StairMaster, such as the StairMaster 4000pt. Since muscle weighs more than fat, the loss of unwanted body fat may not immediately reflect on the weighing scale. However, more lean muscle mass means faster fat burning and more efficient metabolism even when you are resting.
A high-intensity steady-state cardio workout on the treadmill, on the other hand, has been shown to cause catabolism, which is the breakdown of lean muscle mass. Many experts agree that steady-state, high-intensity cardio is not the best way to shed unwanted pounds. While the weight loss may immediately show up on the weighing scale, some of the weight that you lose may likely include muscle mass. Losing muscle will slow down metabolism, which means that you may put on unwanted weight faster.
StairMaster vs. Treadmill: the Verdict
If you want to lose weight quickly, then the treadmill is your go-to equipment if you are ok with having a skinny-fat physique and do not mind losing muscle. Keep in mind, however, that it may not be sustainable as you need to keep up the intensity with each cardio workout and you have to be consistent with it to keep the weight off.
For overall fitness, however, the StairMaster is the clear winner. Working out on a StairMaster will not only help you burn calories more efficiently at low to moderate intensity, but it will also help you build and retain lean muscle mass. Coupled with a sound diet, StairMaster workouts will be an easier and more sustainable option compared to the treadmill when it comes to losing unwanted pounds.