Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
ISSN: 1303 - 2968   
Ios-APP Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
Androit-APP Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
©Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (2021) 20, 170 - 178   DOI:

Research article
Maximal Fat Oxidation: Comparison between Treadmill, Elliptical and Rowing Exercises
Michelle Filipovic1,2, Stephanie Munten1,3, Karl-Heinz Herzig4,5, Dominique D. Gagnon1,3, 
Author Information
1 Laboratory of Environmental Exercise Physiology, School of Kinesiology and Health Sciences, Laurentian University, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada
2 Northern Ontario School of Medicine, Sudbury, Canada
3 Center of Research in Occupational Health and Safety, Laurentian University, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada
4 Institute of Biomedicine, Medical Research Center, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oulu, Oulu University Hospital, Finland
5 Department of Gastroenterology and Metabolism, Poznan University, Poland

Dominique D. Gagnon
✉ School of Kinesiology and Health Sciences, 935 Ramsey Lake Rd., Ben Avery Building, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, P3E 2C6
Publish Date
Received: 01-07-2020
Accepted: 03-12-2020
Published (online): 01-03-2021
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Fat oxidation during exercise is associated with cardio-metabolic benefits, but the extent of which whole-body exercise modality elicits the greatest fat oxidation remains unclear. We investigated the effects of treadmill, elliptical and rowing exercise on fat oxidation in healthy individuals. Nine healthy males participated in three, peak oxygen consumption tests, on a treadmill, elliptical and rowing ergometer. Indirect calorimetry was used to assess maximal oxygen consumption (V̇O2peak), maximal fat oxidation (MFO) rates, and the exercise intensity MFO occurred (Fatmax). Mixed venous blood was collected to assess lactate and blood gases concentrations. While V̇O2peak was similar between exercise modalities, MFO rates were higher on the treadmill (mean ± SD; 0.61 ± 0.06 g·min-1) compared to both the elliptical (0.41 ± 0.08 g·min-1, p = 0.022) and the rower (0.40 ± 0.08 g·min-1, p = 0.017). Fatmax values were also significantly higher on the treadmill (56.0 ± 6.2 %V̇O2peak) compared to both the elliptical (36.8 ± 5.4 %V̇O2peak, p = 0.049) and rower (31.6 ± 5.0 %V̇O2peak, p = 0.021). Post-exercise blood lactate concentrations were also significantly lower following treadmill exercise (p = 0.021). Exercising on a treadmill maximizes fat oxidation to a greater extent than elliptical and rowing exercises, and remains an important exercise modality to improve fat oxidation, and consequently, cardio-metabolic health.

Key words: Substrate oxidation, indirect calorimetry, exercise modality, metabolism

           Key Points
  • The ability to oxidize fat has been associated with improved oxidative enzymes activity and mitochondrial biogenesis.
  • The present study examined the effects of treadmill, elliptical, and rower exercises on maximal fat oxidation rates (MFO), the intensity were MFO was observed (Fatmax) and on fat oxidation curves in healthy and young participants.
  • Both MFO and Fatmax were higher during treadmill exercise. Multiple linear mixed-effects regression analyses further revealed an effect of exercise modality on fat oxidation curves.
  • Adequate selection of exercise modality during training may have a meaningful impact on substrate oxidation. Treadmill exercise should be considered in training design for those looking to maintain or improve metabolic profiling.
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