Cardio conundrum – Which cardio machine is the best?
Gyms have so many different pieces of cardiovascular equipment. You may be wondering how to choose which is best for you. Are some better than others? Which cardio machine is the best? Which is most effective? You’re there to nuke fat and would love it if someone could just tell you which machine will help you do that best. Allow us to do that for you. We hope this post will answer all your questions about choosing the best equipment for cardiovascular training.
Choosing your cardio activity/equipment
The purpose of cardiovascular exercise is to elevate your heart rate and respiration for a particular length of time. Cardio doesn’t tax your muscles enough to stimulate much muscular development, so asking which cardio gizmo works your legs more (or hips, or butt, or whatever body part you’re trying to target) is moot. Your level of exertion — how high your heart rate gets and how hard you breathe — determines how many calories you burn. Whether you’re jogging, cycling, using the elliptical machine, jumping rope, or swimming, the benefits are determined by how hard you exercise, not by the kind of cardio you pick.
Some cardio machines really do burn more calories. However, this fact is not decisive. The differences in calorie consumption are not so great. You will burn lots of calories on any cardio machine if you exercise hard. Fat-burning effect is not the only thing you should consider when choosing the right cardio machine.
What about fat-burning effects?
Little research compares the fat-burning effects of all the different cardio machines — treadmill, stationary bike, stair-stepper, elliptical, etc. However, there is research that compares the amount of fat burned on a treadmill vs. a stationary cycle. Scientists from the University of Birmingham (England) discovered that when male athletes exercised on a treadmill, they burned almost 30% more fat than when they used the stationary cycle at the same exercise intensities.
Although fat burned on other exercise equipment wasn’t measured, you can reasonably assume that the same results would apply to other challenging upright exercises. An elliptical or cross-trainer machine, for example, involves the coordination of your lower body and upper body; thus, you consume more oxygen and burn more calories. If you avoid using the support rails on a stair stepper or step mill, you can achieve similar effects, along with an additional muscle-building — and calorie-burning — element.
So although a stationary cycle is still a viable option as a cardiovascular activity, you may want to choose a treadmill to burn the most fat; or hop on an elliptical, cross-trainer, step mill or stair-stepper for similar results.
Cardio equipment according to calorie consumption (from the highest consumption to the lowest).
- Elliptical trainer (or cross-trainer machine)
- Rowing ergometer (rower)
- Stair stepper
- Step mill
- Stationary upright bike
- Stationary recumbent bike
- Upper-body ergometer (UBE)
Low-impact & High-impact cardio machines
Impact is a force at which a body part contacts the ground during exercise. If you have joint problems or are obese, high-impact exercise can be contraindicated, putting you at risk of doing more harm than good. In other words, these exercises can be uncomfortable or even painful for those suffering from bone deterioration or connective tissue ailments, such as osteoporosis and arthritis.
Low-impact exercise machines, on the other hand, can give you a safe and functional cardio workout without having to worry about the repercussions of the constant high-impact pounding.
The treadmill, stepper (stair climber), elliptical, and arc trainer are cardio machines that involve your entire body weight. They require an upright body position. If you are a beginner or have health problems (obesity or joint problems), you may want to use these types of machines every other day in order to give your joints (ankles, knees, and hips) a rest. However, there is one exception here. The elliptical trainer offers an excellent rehabilitation opportunity for people with foot or lower extremity injuries, as it limits weight bearing and does not require much ankle motion. This cardio machine will, therefore, allow you to burn almost the same number of calories as high-impact exercises without placing stress on your back, hips or knees. On the other hand, treadmills and stair steppers can easily cause high impact on your joints/knees/hips.
The upright stationary bike, recumbent bike, rower, seated stepper, and UBE (upper-body ergometer) machines are all performed seated, which takes the issue of body weight from the joints. Remember that all of these cardio machines work the large muscles of the body and can be effective for those at every fitness level.
Cardio equipment from highest to lowest impact on youk back, kness, joints, ligaments.
- Stair stepper
- Step mill
- Rowing ergometer (rower machine)
- Elliptical trainer
- Upright stationary bike
- Seated stepper
- Recumbent bike
- Upper-body ergometer (UBE)
Mingling with other pieces of equipment
We often see people working on the same type of cardiovascular machine on a daily basis. Often this is because they have truly fallen in love with this particular machine. Mingling with other pieces of equipment is very healthy. There is much to be said for cross-training. It will allow you to develop strength in different skills and limit the possibilities of overuse injuries. Be adventurous, and every now and then, try a different machine.
Closing thoughts (the real truth)
Which cardio machine is the best? There is no perfect answer to that question. It all depends on your specific fitness goals, physical conditions, and personal preferences. For example, from the calorie burning point of view, running is a good way to go. If you don’t enjoy running, however, you’d probably work more passionately and burn more calories working on something you really had an affinity for. If you have vulnerable joints, it is also probably not the activity we would advocate. Conversely, if you are training for a marathon, aside from a road outdoors, the treadmill should be your best friend. So, once again, there is no “best”—there’s only what works best for you. You can achieve all you fitness goals on any of these cardio machines if you use them properly and sufficiently intense.