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The Best Cardio Workout Machines

by 
author image Henry Halse
Henry Halse is a Philadelphia-based personal trainer, speaker, and writer. He's trained a wide variety of people, from couch potatoes to professional athletes, and helped them realize their own strength, determination and self-confidence. Henry has also written for various fitness and lifestyle publications, including Women’s Health, AskMen and Prevention.
The Best Cardio Workout Machines
The Best Cardio Workout Machines Photo Credit: Halfpoint/iStock/GettyImages

Cardio machines help you burn calories and improve your health because they make working out so convenient. If you're looking to get the best workout possible, a treadmill is the best thing out there. However, each cardio machine has unique perks that you might find more appealing.

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Working out on a machine isn't as fun as doing outdoor activities like sports or hiking. However, you can use them rain or shine. The biggest benefit is that they're extremely convenient. Most cardio machines even keep track of your progress by measuring your heart rate, speed and distance.

While the treadmill is one of the most well-known pieces of cardio equipment, it's not the only thing out there. There are stair climbing, rowing and biking machines, and each pose a unique challenge.

Treadmills

Despite all of the great options you have when it comes to cardio equipment, the treadmill is the most taxing aerobically. According to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the treadmill burned more calories than a stair stepper, Airdyne bike, cross-country skiing simulator and regular exercise bike. The stair stepper came in a close second.

Treadmills are among the most popular pieces of exercise equipment at gyms, and for good reason. They'll help you get into shape quickly because they're so demanding on your body. If you're looking to lose weight, get in shape or improve your health, try using the treadmill.

Treadmill technology is increasing rapidly and more advanced treadmills are coming out every year. Now, you can buy curved treadmills that curve up in the front and back to enhance your natural running form.

Stair Climbers

Other than the treadmill, this is one of the most taxing cardio machines you can use. There are a few different variations of this machine. One of the most popular versions is essentially just a staircase that rotates around a belt. You stand in place and climb the stairs as they come around. You can set the machine to move faster or slower.

Read More: Is the Stair Climber a Good Workout Machine?

The other kind of climber, or stepper, has two independent footholds that follow your foot up as you lift it in a stair climbing motion. You have a little more control over this style of machine because you can use longer or shorter strides.

While the treadmill is the top machine in terms of aerobics, the stair climber is the most taxing on your leg muscles. A study in The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness showed that people produced more lactic acid in their leg muscles when using the stair master than the treadmill.

Lactic acid is produced when your body is creating energy from sugars in your muscle, so the more you have in your muscles the harder they're working.

Row Ergometers

While they're meant for use by the general population, row ergometers are also used by crew athletes when they can't get out to the river. If they're challenging enough for athletes, you know they'll provide you with a solid workout.

Read more: Benefits of a Rowing Machine

The row machine is one of the best pieces of cardio equipment because it gets your upper body involved in the movement while still working your legs. It works your arm, shoulder and back muscles. Similar to rowing a boat, you push with your legs, pull in with your arms and lean back.

You can row for distance, for example, 1,000 meters, or row for time. Interval workouts also work well on these machines. An interval workout might involve several rounds of 30 seconds of work followed by 30 seconds of rest.

Rowing machines are one of the most unique cardio machines.
Rowing machines are one of the most unique cardio machines. Photo Credit: microgen/iStock/GettyImages

Ellipticals

Ellipticals use a similar motion to running but your feet never leave the pads of the machine. It uses a smooth, gliding motion that mimics running form. Since your feet never have to leave the foot pads, there's no impact, which makes this machine ideal for someone whose joints can't handle the stress of running.

Since this machine is low-impact, it's a good choice for a person with a lower-body injury but who still wants a good workout. Some ellipticals have handles that you can use to add upper-body resistance and some only have foot pedals. If you opt for the elliptical with handles you can get a full-body workout.

The AirDyne is the elliptical of exercise bikes.
The AirDyne is the elliptical of exercise bikes. Photo Credit: jacoblund/iStock/GettyImages

Exercise Bikes

Bikes come in many forms. There are spin bikes, which are simple and typically don't come with many gadgets or readouts. You can also buy standard exercise bikes that look more like a cardio machine, with a screen on the front and more accessories that sense your heart rate and distance pedaled.

There are also AirDyne bikes, which are one of the most effective pieces of cardio equipment out there. They combine the leg-burning intensity of cycling with a pushing and pulling motion from the upper body.

AirDyne bikes have a large fan at the front of the bike that gives you more resistance as you pedal harder, as opposed to spinning bikes or exercise bikes which require you to manually control the resistance.

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