Cardio machines are popular choices for people who want to exercise at home, and there are a lot of choices. In fact, there’s so many choices that it’s hard to know what is the best cardio machine.
Like anything, these machines come in varying degrees of quality and features. And the quality determines the life of equipment, and that and the features usually determine the price. If you’re financially able to spring for the most recognized names in the fitness industry, you can expect their product to last a lifetime.
However, there are less expensive brands that are very high quality, but usually have less features. And most of those features have nothing to do with the quality of your workouts or exercise routine. With or without the features, Cardio equipment can be broken down into 5 major categories. I’ve listed each with a brief explanation of each below to help you decide what choice is best for you.
5 Basic Types of Cardio Exercise Machines
The main purpose of stationary bikes is to engage muscles and the cardiovascular system while sitting and pedaling with your legs. They are in the same class of exercise as walking, rowing, jogging, or street bicycles.
Any type of stationary bike is good for strengthening your cardio system, legs, quads, glutes, and hamstrings. However, some bikes can produce a whole body workout. I generally consider that there are four types of stationary bikes and I’ll give a brief explanation of each below.
Stationary Upright Bikes
Schwinn AD7 Airdyne Bike
With upright bikes you sit in an upright position just like riding a bicycle down the street. Because you sit in this upright position with the handles in front of you, your legs, feet, and pedals are pretty much underneath your body.
Most upright and stationary bikes that aren’t folding models have some type of wheel in the front. Some of the wheels are used as a fan, and some are only for a method to control the resistance levels.
My favorite upright bikes have handlebars that move in unison with the pedals and allow me get an upper body workout at the same time I’m working my lower body. These bikes provide a full body workout.
Stationary Upright Folding Bikes
Exerpeutic Folding Exercise Bike
If there is a problem with owning your own home exercise equipment, it’s almost always space. Stationary bikes have a pretty large footprint, and it’s hard to find a place for them when not in use.
Folding exercise bikes solve the space problem beautifully. Folding exercise bikes don’t use wheels at all, but the pedals are connected to a magnetic device to control the tension when pedaling. Most have adjustable tension and many have most of the features you would expect from an upright bike.
Stationary Recumbent Exercise Bikes
The exerciser sits above the pedals on upright models, but the pedals of recumbent bikes are in front of the rider. The seat is a “bucket seat” with a back and often with armrest. People with lower back pain find the back support of recumbents much more comfortale for a workout than an upright.
Partly because the pedals are out in front of the rider while exercising you won’t burn quite as many calories. I’ve noticed most people ride recumbents pretty slow and relax more during their exercise routine.
Under Desk Exercise Cycles
Under Desk-Desk Cycle
Under desk exercise cycles are devices with only the pedals and a tension adjuster. They are important to keep blood from pooling in legs and feet while sitting hours at a time. You merely sit at your desk and either slowly pedal for long periods of time, or exerting more speed for shorter periods during your work day.
These devices are important to counter the effects of sitting for many hours and can be used at home as well as at the office. Just like the other cardio machines, under desk exercise cycles come at different prices, with different features and quality.
Rowing machines are a great way to get a full body workout while getting your cardio exercise. You’ll strengthen your entire cardiovascular system, arms, legs, back, and shoulders with a low impact exercise.
There is, however, a caution with rowing machines. People with existing back problems can strain and overwork back muscles when rowing. Even with no back problems the key to getting the most from a rowing machine is to start slow, just like with any other exercise or cardio machine.
These machines come with different methods of resistance to your efforts. Some use air, some rowing machines use a series of resistance bands, while others use water flywheels. Most are quiet, and store away easily.
Stair Climbers for Cardio
There are several different types of steppers. Some are small floor models with a place to put each foot. As you shift your weight from one foot, the other raises up. Some have resistance bands attached to the base with handles for you to pull up as you step for a full body workout. Other stair steppers are tall, with handles attached to pull on as you step up and work with hydraulic tubes for resistance.
If you need to work and tone your calves, thighs, hips, butt, and lower back while you get your heart pumping for cardio, stair climbers are perfect. Walking, jogging, or running gives those same muscles a workout, but stair climbers provide a more intense workout.
However, if you have any problems with your knees, these cardio machines may not be your best option. Running or jogging is hard on your knees, but climbers are even more so.
Elliptical Trainers for Cardio
Some people compare elliptical trainers to a treadmill because they are designed to mimic the human gait as we walk. However, with ellipticals, you never pick your foot up from the pedal. They are also compared to the movements of walking with snow skis due to the tall handles in front of you.
These cardio machines are best for people suffering with arthritis or any lower limb injuries that are ready for exercise.
Treadmills for Cardio
NordicTrack T Series Treadmill
Treadmills could have gone at the top of the page based on their popularity. Treadmills are one of the most popular cardio machines for home use. Walking, running, or jogging is the ideal method of increasing cardiovascular and pulmonary strength and capacity. They allow you run or walk at what ever pace is comfortable for your exercise.
However, there is one big exception: Treadmills cushion and minimize the stress on your body and joints. The shock of your feet striking the surface is greatly absorbed by the cushioned deck of the treadmill, which makes a perfect choice for many people.
So, if you are overweight or have any type joint or bone problems, treadmills are the way to go. They are a great way to raise your heart rate and breathing to burn calories and give your heart a workout.
Choosing the Best Cardio Machine
The internet is crowded with choices from so many brands and models of cardio machines that figuring out which is the best for you seems daunting. Look over these 6 tips to choosing the machine that meets your needs.
—It’s About Your Heart
The first thing to remember is that the purpose of any cardio machine is to first and foremost raise your heart rate. Because your legs are the biggest and most dense muscles, cardio exercise is always about exercising them. As you give your legs a workout the heart, cardiovascular system, lungs, and pulmonary system go to work pumping oxygen rich blood and exercising muscles.
—Best Is A Relative Term
Remember that best for you may not be best for me. Most of us find even the less expensive cardio equipment an investment worth considering. So, it’s important to consider things like:
- Is quietness a factor?
- Where will it be when not in use?
- Exactly which features am I willing to pay extra for?
- Which machine best fits my own physical abilities right now?
—Will You Enjoy Your Purchase?
If you haven’t been exercising, I can tell you sometimes it’s a chore to motivate yourself to workout. That’s why it’s important to think about which machine you will enjoy using the most. Sometimes, that is more important than thinking of which will produce the best or fastest results?
If you can’t find anything about your enjoyment of the purchase, someone else will wind up with it from a garage sale.
If you think about it, you will agree that all machines wear, break, and require some degree of maintenance at some point. An important thing to remember is this: Generally speaking, the more the initial investment, the less the long-term maintenance cost.
So, do your homework and read the reviews. Once I went against advice and bought a very inexpensive bike. In no time it had to be replaced, and once again I thought I would save money with an inexpensive model. When it too was replaced I realized I had invested enough money in the first two to had bought the third that has lasted many years.
Keep that in mind because spending your time exercising is more enjoyable than stressing over a broken cardio machine. It could be worth the extra cash to buy quality the first time.
—Safety as a Priority
No exercise with a machine, or otherwise is worth injury. These machines are always designed for people who can safely use them, and every person is not safe on every machine.
If you have been spending your life sitting all day, you can safely start building strength with an under desk pedal machine. On the other hand, going from no exercise to seeing if you can run on a treadmill may get your heart to pumping, but break a leg in the process.
Give yourself a break and think of which equipment you will be safe on today.
Some of us are forced to choose affordability over best sometimes, and that’s a valid concern. If that’s you, then definitely consider your budget to determine what your best options are. I can tell you that exercise is the most important consideration, and your better to get that with what is affordable.
Shop for the best quality with less features and get the most bang for your buck. Sometimes you can add features later, or simply do without them.
Humans are designed to move, and sedentary lifestyles are responsible for most of our health problems today. In fact, a new medical term “sitting disease” is fast becoming known as the “new smoking” problem because they both shorten lives.
Regular exercise is definitely the antidote to obesity and the myriad of health problems that come with it.
Cardiovascular exercise is the best and cardio machines at home is often the best solution .