Choosing the Best Cardio Machine for You

Your choice depends on your personal preferences, your age and fitness level, any injuries or sensitivities your body may have, and your fitness goals. A personal trainer can help you look at each machine and decide on a good fit, but here is some information to get you started.


The treadmill is and has been a standard in gyms for decades. It is extremely popular because it is so versatile: you can walk, trot, or run on it, with or without an incline, for varying times and at varying intensities. It’s useful for almost anyone, and is a weight-bearing exercise machine, which is great for the bones and muscles of people who can tolerate weight-bearing exercise. Treadmills use the large muscle groups of the legs, which require a lot of energy, so it provides an effective workout even without significant impact on the feet (for example, walking on an incline). It’s very easy to adjust the intensity of the workout on a treadmill, making it an excellent choice for gradually increasing your workouts and your fitness level over time. It is important to note that running on a treadmill is easier than running outside, so to maintain the same training intensity on a treadmill you should increase the incline 1-4%.

The treadmill may not be the best choice for people who are overweight or who have injuries that make weight-bearing exercise difficult. For those people, an elliptical trainer or stationary bike might be better.

Elliptical Trainers

Elliptical Trainers are the fastest growing exercise machine in gym and home settings, and for good reason. Not only do they provide a workout that’s at least as intense as a treadmill, they offer that intensity at a far lower impact and force on the feet. In other words, it’s a joint-friendly alternative to running. Elliptical trainers also offer good variety, with adjustable inclines, variable resistance, and reverse motion. Some trainers offer upper body action with levers for the arms. Elliptical trainers are being used for all fitness levels, from beginners to rehabilitation for injured runners to training for elite athletes. In fact, no matter which machine you ultimately choose, it would most likely be an excellent idea to add some elliptical training to your workouts as a cross-training modality. There are simply no major disadvantages to this particular machine.

Stationary Bikes

Stationary bikes have evolved from the simple workout bikes of the 1970s to the sophisticated spinning class cycles of today, with many varieties and body positions now available.  Cycling is an ideal exercise modality for people who for whatever reason cannot participate in weight-bearing activity, and offers good variety in terms of intensity levels for the workouts. Riding on a stationary bike is also smoother, more comfortable, and more controllable in terms of intensity than riding on the streets – not to mention safer!

One problem with stationary bikes is that they tend to cause fatigue in the legs, particularly in the quadriceps and gluteals. For that reason many people find it difficult to maintain their heart rate in their target range for a long enough time to get a good workout. However, the stationary bike is an excellent option to add cross-training and variety to any other modality and is recommended particularly for special populations who may not be able to tolerate other modalities.

Rowing Machines

Rowing machines typically have not had as much presence in gyms and homes, because they are perceived to be more difficult to use. Some people may also find them difficult because of back problems, but this is actually a problem of technique. Rowing machines do not strain the back if used properly. A qualified personal trainer can help you learn to use a rowing machine without undue strain on any part of the body.

The best thing about rowing machines is that they use the large muscle groups of both the upper and lower body, making it a tremendous workout that is excellent at raising your heart rate for an extended period of time. It is also non-weight bearing, making it excellent for people who have limitations in terms of their joints.


A recurring theme you might have detected in this article is the value of using more than one machine to achieve your fitness goals. Combining two or more modalities is an excellent way to cross-train more muscle groups and gain greater strength and flexibility all around, while reducing the risk of injury. If you are training for a specific event, you may want to focus on one machine to improve your skill in that particular area. If you are trying for general fitness and health, choose a modality you feel comfortable maintaining for 45 minutes to an hour. Finally, if you have any injuries or are overweight, choose machines that are non-weight-bearing and that feel smooth and comfortable. Remember if you have any questions about the right machine(s) for you, you can take advantage of our online personal trainers who can assist you personally.



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