What Cardio Machine Gives You the Best Bang for Your Buck?

Kelley’s Corner

-written by IHC’s Health Coach Kelley Gilbert

You made it to the gym- yay!!!  Now that you have gotten yourself here, you want to make sure you are using a machine that will actually help you achieve what you came here to do. So let's look at the most common gym cardio machines and see which machine is best for you. Just note as you read through, we are strictly talking about cardio machines, not classes.  Also, we aren't looking at strength training here, which should play an essential part in any workout routine, but we'll get to that later.

Treadmill: If your goal is to lose weight, the treadmill is the best option for you as it is mostly cardio and therefore burns the most calories. On the treadmill, HIIT (high intensity interval training) is the most efficient way to burn fat. An example of this would be doing a five minute jog to warm up and then running as fast as you can for 30 seconds and then doing a slow jog for one minute. You would repeat that 8-12 times before doing a cool down. 

Elliptical: The elliptical is great for people who want a full body workout or a low impact workout. The elliptical has minimal impact on the joints for people that have knee, hip, and ankle problems or are just looking lessen impact on their body. It also engages your core and arms as you move the handles on the machine.

Stair Master: The stair master is also a great piece of cardio equipment for losing weight and also helps tone your lower body.  Strictly speaking, if you were to do a high intensity workout on the treadmill, you would burn more calories than a high intensity workout on the stair master because the treadmill is strictly cardio while the stair master is strength and resistance training. However, the stair master can act as a two-in-one workout as it will offer strength training for your legs, as well.

Stationary Bike:  The stationary bike is good for people who have an upper body injury or are looking to give their upper body a rest.  It does not burn as much calories as other cardio equipment at the gym but is a great option for people who have stability problems or want to completely lay off exercising their upper body.

Rowing Machine:  This is one of the most underutilized pieces of equipment at the gym but also one of the most effective machines.  It engages 85% of your muscle activation, making it more effective than the treadmill or elliptical for a full body workout. While it can be used for endurance, aerobic, and anaerobic training it is also low impact so it lowers your risk for injury. You can get a great full body workout on this machine in just 20-30 minutes. The most important thing on this machine is to make sure you are using it correctly to ensure you get the most out of your workout and avoid injury. 

The Takeaway:  Each machine offers different benefits, which really means you should mix up your workout routine and rotate through at least three of them. This will also help prevent injury from repeatedly doing the same movements every day, which can cause joint damage. Use the best information to tailor your rotation to your fitness goals. For example, if you are trying to lose weight, maybe rotate through the treadmill, rowing machine, and stair master. If you are looking for a full body workout, consider trying the elliptical, rower, and treadmill.  The most important thing though is to just get moving!

Have a great workout!

Your Health Coach, Kelley


Ana Temple