Which Gym Cardio Machine Is Best?

Are there advantages to using an elliptical machine instead of a treadmill when working out in a gym?

You might head straight for the cardio machines at the gym while trying to meet the 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week recommendation set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. re

With all the alternatives available—treadmill, exercise cycle, elliptical, stair climber, rowing, and occasionally more—you could also be unsure about which one to pick.

Greg Summerville, MD, a sports medicine physician at the UNC School of Medicine in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, argues that each piece of cardiac equipment has advantages and disadvantages. However, these benefits and drawbacks vary depending on the individual.

When working with patients to develop exercise prescriptions, Dr. Summerville considers a variety of characteristics, including age, function, and mobility as well as any current medical issues or injuries. The appropriate equipment for you will depend on all of those factors, as well as your unique fitness objectives.

All of the aforementioned cardio devices are intended to enhance cardiovascular health by raising your heart and breathing rates, which will bolster your heart’s muscle and raise your endurance. Some, however, add strength, according to Summerville. Therefore, consider what you want to get out of your workout. Are you want to blend cardio and weight training, for example, or are you there for a strictly cardio workout?

You’ll be able to choose the right equipment for you by providing answers to queries like that. Talk to your doctor or healthcare provider before beginning a new exercise regimen if you have any conditions that could make it dangerous for you to exercise or use one of this equipment, such as a disability.

And finally, if you’re going to use one of these machines to do your cardio at the gym, choose one that you enjoy using. (so long as you can safely do so). It is much simpler to return to and maintain an exercise regimen when you enjoy doing it. After all, a movement you make is better than a “perfect” workout you don’t make (whatever that looks like).

Its nature is a device for jogging or walking that has an infinite moving belt. According to ACE-certified personal trainer and health coach Araceli De Leon, “I’d call this the bread-and-butter of cardio machines.”

muscles aimed at According to ACSM, walking or running will also engage the lower body muscles, such as the quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. De Leon claims that the treadmill is best for increasing cardiovascular endurance. Using the treadmill will help you preserve these muscles even though it’s not the best way to develop them, Summerville continues.

Perks To enhance intensity, you can change the speed and incline or do an interval or HIIT workout, according to De Leon. A study indicated that using a treadmill burned more fat than using an elliptical or a rowing machine. The study was published in the Journal of Sports Science & Medicine in 2021. (It should be noted that there were no women in that study; there were just nine guys.)

Considerations According to De Leon, using a phone while in the gym and gazing up or down at a TV might strain your neck. The walking cycle of your body can also be impacted by walking too near the console or holding onto the rails. She advises not to grasp on and to try to stay in the center of the belt. (Another machine could be a better choice if using a treadmill safely requires holding on. (See under.) A higher-intensity activity can also include using the treadmill. Despite the fact that running or walking on a treadmill is not as detrimental to the joints as running on concrete, according to Summerville, working out on a track or on the grass outside is better for the joints.

What an Exercise Bike Is There are several different types of indoor or stationary exercise bikes, including air bikes (where pedaling forces air through the wheel to provide resistance), spin or indoor bikes (where resistance may be manually adjusted), and recumbent bikes (where you sit in a reclined posture).

muscles aimed at When cycling, your hamstrings, and quadriceps carry the load. Building lower body muscle is another benefit of stationary biking. You may combine a big strength-building workout with your cardio by upping the resistance, advises Summerville.

Perks According to Summerville, some bike models allow you to raise the resistance while standing up to the pedal, simulating the ascent of a slope. In addition, he advises those who are recovering from injuries to the lower extremities to bike indoors. A stationary bike is a wonderful choice for you if you struggle with balance because your feet are in a fixed position. (as opposed to a treadmill or stair machine).

Considerations Summerville advises switching to the elliptical machine if you have anterior knee pain because the pedaling motion on the bike may exert too much force on the knee, despite the fact that it is low-impact and gentle on the joints.

Exercise Machine
What It Is A stationary elliptical has handlebars that move back and forth and two sizable pedals that travel in a circular motion through space. The elliptical is used while standing.

muscles aimed at This kind of workout works the quads, hamstrings, and calves, especially if the resistance is raised. According to Summerville, this is mostly an aerobic workout without the use of difficult resistance.

Perks According to De Carlo, the elliptical is the best low-impact exercise machine for novices, persons recovering from injuries, and those undergoing physical therapy. Your feet never leave the pedals they’re on, she claims; there is no pounding. For people with physical impairments like cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis, an elliptical (as well as a rower, below) may be an alternative, according to a study published in the Journal of Sports Science & Medicine.

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Considerations Avoid classic elliptical errors like hunching, elevating your heels, and leaning too far back. She instructs, “Maintain the proper center of gravity on the machine.”

What Is a Stair Climber? A stair climber is a device that mimics climbing stairs, as the name suggests. There are several different kinds of stair climbers, including step mills (revolving steps that resemble escalators), stair steppers (which have a pedal for each foot that is stepped on), and vertical climbers. (ladder-like steppers).

muscles aimed at Summerville claims that the stair stepper “really activates the glutes, quads, and calves.” According to him, a stair stepper allows you to change the difficulty, whereas a step mill-style climber will be more of a cardio-based workout (you adjust the speed).

Perks Typically, stair climbing is a strenuous exercise. As a result, Summerville claims that one of the most effective cardio machines is the stair stepper.

Considerations You might not be able to do this type of workout for as long as a less strenuous activity because it is a higher-intensity exercise.

Summerville advises against using a stair machine if you have knee or hip issues since it could make them worse. On a step mill, it can be normal to use the handrails to support your weight and relieve some of the strain from your legs, but De Leon notes that this can place too much strain on the shoulders and wrists. Reduce the speed if you’re having trouble keeping up with the machine.

What a Rowing Machine Is On a rowing machine, you sit on a sliding seat and move back and forth by pulling a handle with both hands to simulate the motion of rowing.

muscles aimed at During the pushback and pull phase, muscles in the upper back, shoulders, quadriceps, and glutes are exercised.

Perks A one-stop store is possible with the rower. It’s a machine for conditioning the entire body. You build your upper and lower bodies while also getting cardio, according to Summerville. Additionally, you can modify it to achieve the workout you choose. He explains that increasing the resistance will result in more muscle activation while decreasing the resistance would result in a workout that is largely aerobic. Another low-impact workout that is easy on the joints is rowing.

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Considerations If you’ve never used one, it could seem scary, but after you get the idea of the push-pull rowing motion, you’ll feel more at ease. As you grow more at ease using the machine, raise the resistance from the lowest setting. (and as your stamina improves).

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