Are you looking to lose weight with a good cardio workout? It’s easy to get lost with the plethora of cardio exercise equipment available. Exercise bike, treadmill, elliptical, stepmill… all have their pros and cons. Which one is best for you?
That depends on many factors like your weight, physical condition, age, fitness level and previous injuries. Fortunately, we are here to help you find your personal best cardio machine for weight loss.
Best Cardio Machines For Weight Loss
Treadmill is the best cardio machine for weight loss. If that is your only goal and if your health permits, that is. According to this article, treadmills come first when calorie-burning effect is considered. Of course, it depends on your own effort. A leisurely jog on a treadmill will burn much less calories than an intense cycling session.
With many pre-programmed workouts and varied levels of incline, treadmills will give good training for any runner. In fact, some people with joint problems will find treadmills much more forgiving than asphalt. Most mid and high-range treadmills offer special cushioning, which can reduce impact of running up to 50%.
That’s where treadmill benefits end. Despite cushioning, running can still aggravate your chronic injuries (particularly back and joint issues). And if you are a sprinter, amateur or professional, a treadmill won’t be enough.
It will help your training, but you will still need to run on track to improve your time.
Rowing machine can rival treadmill in intensity and weight loss effect it provides, but its benefits don’t end there.
Rowing machine won’t aggravate your joints as much as a treadmill will. And it can also help you build muscles and strength in your whole body! For that, you will need a powerful rowing machine that offers plenty of intensity, but the results will be worth it.
On the flip side, rowing machine requires a bit of training to use correctly. Don’t just jump on a rowing machine, crank up the intensity and start sweating. That is a very good way to injure your back. Instead, learn the correct way to use the machine, and use a proper level of intensity. Unfortunately, even then rowing machines can aggravate existing back injuries.
Exercise bikes let you train without subjecting your joints and other structures to impact stress. They are also great for HIIT-type workouts.
In fact, exercise bikes are what Izumi Tabata – one of the early adopters of HIIT training – used for his Olympic athletes. Of course, exercise bikes also lend themselves well to more traditional types of cardio equipment as well.
Exercise bikes are also great for those with chronic back issues. Upright bikes are recommended for those with spinal stenosis and osteoarthritis. Recumbent bikes might be the best type of bike for people with degenerative disc disease.
However, exercise bikes can still aggravate existing soft-tissue problems if you use them improperly. Key points are proper technique and proper pedaling rate (cadence) and resistance.
You should never forcefully push pedals, even when doing a HIIT-type workout. Instead, gradually work up to an intensity where you can pedal with a cadence of 60-80 rpm or more (this should be shown on display).
How about the rest?
Like exercise bikes, elliptical machines are good low-impact cardio machines for fat loss.
They don’t stress your soft tissues or spine that much, and can provide a good workout. You can use a bit more effort than on an exercise bike. In fact, if you don’t feel your muscles contracting, you should increase resistance. Aim for a stride rate of 120 or so.
Unfortunately, elliptical machines don’t provide as much weight loss benefit as treadmills, rowers and bikes.
To get the best possible results, don’t use the rails. Instead, keep using your arms, as that can account for 30% more calories burned, best case. On average it’s closer to 10%. And no, your arms won’t get much stronger with elliptical machine.
Airdyne AKA fan bike
A cross between an elliptical and an exercise bike. The faster you pedal, the more resistance you have to overcome, all while pushing and pulling with your arms. It’s low impact, and can provide a benefit similar to that of an exercise bike. It will help you lose weight, but for serious workouts other options are preferable.
There is one big problem with the fan bike. You can’t go all out pedaling like you can on an exercise bike.
You have to spend a bit of conscious effort to push and pull with your arms. And arms are much weaker and smaller compared to the legs, so they don’t burn as much calories. Bigger, stronger muscles worked – more calories burned, fitness experts agree.
In other words, pulling and pushing with your arms doesn’t add much. It’s better to work your entire body, or failing that, concentrate on legs and butt – your biggest and strongest muscles. At least when doing a HIIT-type workout. Traditional cardio-wise, fan bike and exercise bike are approximately equal.
I think stepmills are as far from the best cardio machines for weight loss as they come.
Livestrong says they can aggravate knee, ankle and hip injuries. It also doesn’t burn much calories. You can’t go fast on it and you can’t increase resistance.
Another problem is the small range of motion. This means your muscles don’t get to do significant work.
I think this list covers all the common cardio machines out there.
To recap, treadmills have the potential to burn the most calories but can aggravate injuries. Rowing machines are perfect for overall fitness, and exercise bikes are great if you have chronic injuries. These three, in my opinion, are the best cardio machines for weight loss.
The rest? Use them if you like it.