Cardio machines include a wide range of fitness machines that allow you to get a full cardiovascular workout indoors. Research has shown that cardio machines can be as effective as outdoor running and cycling for improving overall health and losing weight.
People with heart conditions should speak to their doctor before using a cardio machine, as they are at a greater risk of having a cardiac attack while exercising.
Best Cardio Machines
1. Xterra Fitness FB 150 Folding Exercise Bike
The Xterra Fitness FB 150 Folding Exercise Bike is our #1 pick and is designed with a X-frame that makes it easy to store when not in use. It comes with a large seat and padded handlebars, so you can stay comfortable during even the longest rides.
With 8 different levels of manual resistance that are controlled with a tension knob, you can easily tailor your workout to your individual fitness level. The balanced flywheel is precise and uses a friction free resistance from magnets for a smooth and quiet ride.
2. Sunny Health and Fitness SF-RW1205 Rowing Machine
The Sunny SF-RW1205 Rowing Machine provides 12 separate levels of hydraulic resistance, creating a smooth and quiet row without the harmful impact on your joints. It’s also engineered with comfort in mind, providing foam handlebars and a think cushioned seat.
The frame also folds and is easily compacted, allowing you to easily move your rower from room to room for storage. It supports up to 220 pounds and can target your entire body with just one workout.
3. Body Max BRM3671 Body Champ 2-in-1 Cardio Dual Trainer
The Body Max BRM3671 Dual Trainer works like an elliptical and upright exercise bike, offering 2 great ways to train. It’s also got a programmable LCD console that has 12 preset workout programs.
With horizontal and vertical adjustments, you can pick the optimal workout position for your specific biomechanics. This machine also comes with 2 sets of handlebars and bidirectional foot pedals for comfort and safety.
4. ProForm Cardio HIIT Elliptical Trainer
The ProForm Elliptical Trainer has a backlit display that tracks your workouts, and includes syncing with over 32 different workout apps. With 24 different levels of resistance, you can easily tailor your workouts to your goals.
This elliptical can support up to 350 pounds and even offers a 10 inch vertical path for climbing.
5. Sunny Health and Fitness SF-E902 Air Walk Trainer
The Sunny SF-E902 Air Walk Trainer can handle up too 220 pounds of weight and offers a 30-inch stride length, so all heights will find a comfortable and natural movement. It also includes non-slip pedals that will help you stay safe, whether you’re walking or running.
The built-in LCD monitor tracks and displays your exercise time, distance, and calories burned, making it easy to hit your workout goals.
6. Body Max Body Rider BRD 2000 Elliptical Trainer and Exercise Bike
The Body Max Rider 2000 is another great dual trainer for cardio workouts that includes both an exercise bike and an elliptical machine. Engineered with a smooth flywheel system and a resistance level that adjusts at the turn of a knob, this cardio machine helps prevent joint stress.
It can handle up to 250 pounds and has a dual adjusting seat that can keep you comfortable. The built-in digital tracker monitors your speed, distance, time, and the calories you’ve burned.
7. Gazelle Edge by Tony Little
The Gazelle Edge is a popular cardio exercise machine that offers almost no impact on the joints while still providing a great cardio workout. The glider offers a massive range of motion and can handle slow walks or full speed runs.
The Gazelle Edge is very easy to use and offers 5 different workout functions, while still tracking vital information like your distance, speed, and time. The handlebars are padded for comfort, and the foot platforms are very wide and offer skid resistance to prevent you from slipping off during workouts.
8. Sole Fitness E35 Elliptical Machine
The Sole Fitness E35 Elliptical machine offers a great workout that will challenge you to improve your cardio activity. It comes with an LCD screen that will display all your metrics and offers 6 standard programs based on different exercise goals.
This cardio machine is also designed to be as comfortable as possible, offering adjustable pedals, stride length and incline settings.
9. Water Rower Classic Rowing Machine
The Water Rower Classic is a handcrafted rowing machine, offering a great flywheel that replicates a true rowing stroke. This wheel actually sits in a water tank providing a very smooth and quiet resistance while the monitor tracks the intensity of your workout, including your heart and stroke rates.
Being made of walnut, this cardio machine will absorb sound and vibration, while offering unparalleled stability.
10. Body Champ 3-in-1 Trio Trainer
The Body Champ Trio Trainer offers three different types of workouts and can be used as an elliptical, recumbent bike, or as an upright bike.
There are three sets of handlebars for your desired comfort level. This cardio machine features 21 different training programs with integrated hand pulse monitoring to ensure you hit your fitness goals.
How We Ranked
Machines that are uncomfortable not only deter people from working out longer, but also put them at risk of serious injury. As such, all the products that made our list, like the Xterra bike, included additional comfort materials like oversized padding and ergonomically designed handle bars.
Exercise machines must be durable enough to handle your weight while moving, but sleek enough to be able to move at high speeds. Products like the Sunny SFE902 Air Walker, ranking highly because they included an adjustable abdominal pad that increased your stability. Other products like the Body Max, included pedal straps to sneers you don’t slip off when maximizing your speed.
Very few people actually have an entire room to dedicate to a home gym, so they want their equipment to be able to fit in small places or have the ability to be stored easily when not in use. We rewarded products like the Sunny SF-RW1205 Rowing Machine and the Xtreraa X-bike that didn’t compromise on quality but provided a design that was both compact and easily stored.
Running and jogging on hard pavement puts a lot of stress on your joints, especially if you are overweight. All the products that made our list, like the Body Max Trainer, offer great cardio and resistance training without the added stress on the joints.
1. Cardio machines can increase stamina. Aerobic exercise makes your lungs and heart go into overdrive, increasing their capacity, and helping deliver more oxygen to your muscles. Regular use of cardio machines can help improve stamina in a wide range of workouts, helping you push your body further. It strengthens your heart, making it more efficient at pumping blood throughout the body.
2. Cardio machines can protect your joints and knees. Cardio exercises such as running have a wide range of health benefits, improving heart health to lowering the risk of weight gain and diabetes. But running can put a heavy strain on your knees, leading to joint damage over time (1).
Low impact cardio machines offer most of the health benefits of running with fewer side effects. They put less strain on joints, leading to less wear over time. Since your body is less sore after a workout, it makes it easier to stick to an exercise routine and lose weight.
3. Cardio machines help you lose weight. Cardio has long been the favored exercise for losing weight. It can help you burn a significant amount of calories and shed excess body fat. Cardio machines are as effective as other forms of cardio exercise for weight loss and fat burning. Experts recommend around 150 minutes per week of cardio at a moderate pace if you want to lose weight (2).
4. Cardio machines help tone glutes. There are a number of cardio machines designed to help tone your glutes. Stair steppers are one of the most effective ways of building up your glutes and increasing muscle tone. Other common cardio machines such as ellipticals also target your lower body, helping you tighten up muscles and burn off fat.
5. Cardio machines work both the upper and lower body. Traditional cardio exercises, such as running and cycling, are excellent workouts that can help you burn calories and lose weight. However, they don’t do much to engage muscles in the upper body.
Many cardio machines such as ellipticals are designed to engage both your lower and upper body at the same time. In addition to your glutes, hamstrings, calves, and quads, you’ll engage your biceps, triceps, shoulders, and core. This can increase the number of calories you burn per workout, leading to faster weight loss. It also helps improve muscle tone throughout the body, as a greater number of muscles are engaged.
6. Cardio machines let you exercise no matter the weather. While there are benefits to exercising outside, inclement weather often causes people to miss workouts, or gives them an excuse to skip a day. Cardio machines make it easier to stick to an exercise routine and lose weight. Designed for indoor use, you won’t have to worry about a rainstorm putting a stop to your workout.
7. Cardio machines help you vary your workouts. There is a range of different cardio machines that target slightly different muscle groups. This makes it easy to vary your workout to ensure that all of the core muscles in your body are engaged.
Treadmills are effective for working most of the muscles in the legs. Ellipticals allow you to target these same muscles while also engaging your upper body. Other machines such as stair steppers are specifically designed to target the glutes and calves, helping you improve muscle tone. By varying workouts, you can reduce wear to your body and lower the risk of muscle strains or other injuries.
Studies have shown that a mix of different exercise types can improve bone density, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, and improve energy levels (3).
Cardio machines give you the variety of exercises needed to engage the body fully.
8. Cardio machines lower your risk of injury. Outdoor cardio exercises such as running and cycling are an effective way of losing weight and improving overall health. However, they come with the added risk of injury from falls and accidents. Studies have reported hundreds of thousands of knee injuries per year due to running. Research has also shown that there are upwards of 50,000 cycling-related accidents every year in the United States (4, 5).
Cardio machines offer the same benefits as running and cycling with a significantly lower risk of injury. Many of the machines have little or no impact, putting less strain on the knees and on joints throughout the body.
Furthermore, there is little risk of falls or accidents while exercising. This makes it much less likely that you’ll be sidelined with an injury.
9. Cardio machines help you exercise even if you’re injured. Many people struggle to stay in shape after an injury, as limited mobility keeps them from running or cycling. This can lead to weight gain, as well as have an impact on your mood and energy levels.
Many cardio machines are designed to put minimal impact on your joints, so you can continue to exercise after an injury. Machines such as ellipticals and stationary bikes are commonly used after leg injuries to maintain muscle strength and increase blood flow to the damaged area (6).
Although some cardio machines are safe to use after an injury, some are not. To avoid reinjuring any damaged areas, speak to your doctor about the exact workout you plan on doing. A large portion of reinjuries are caused by people exercising before they have healed enough. Even with low impact cardio machines, you should start at an easy pace and slowly work your way back as you regain strength.
10. Cardio machines can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Cardio exercise has long been recommended as one of the best ways to protect your heart as you age. Combined with a healthy diet, it can lower the risk of mortality from a wide range of cardiovascular diseases.
Studies have shown that elderly people who get as little as 10 minutes of cardio exercise per day show have significantly lower mortality from heart disease. People who exercised more than 10 minutes per day saw even greater improvements in heart health (7).
11. Cardio machines can lower the risk of depression. Studies have linked depression and low exercise levels. People who exercise less are significantly more likely to develop depression and other mental health issues (8).
Cardio exercise has been shown to be one of the most effective ways of preventing depression. Although the exact mechanism is unknown, studies indicate that daily cardio significantly lowers the risk of depression (9).
Cardio machines make it easy to get daily exercise, helping you lower the number of workouts you skip. They may also help you sleep better, which is one of the most effective ways of maintaining good mental health and preventing depression (10).
Research has indicated that, in addition to preventing depression, exercise may also be effective for managing symptoms. People with depression who exercised more frequently reported improved mood and better energy levels.
12. Cardio machines can boost energy levels. Although cardio exercise can take up a lot of energy, studies have shown that it boosts energy levels long term. People who exercise less are more fatigued and less energetic throughout the day. They often don’t sleep as well, which can further sap energy levels.
Cardio machines can help improve your energy levels and give you enough fuel to get through your day. Furthermore, exercise can help you cut back on stimulants such as coffee, which often lead to energy crashes and poor sleep quality.
13. Cardio machines can improve your sex life. Studies have shown that increased cardio exercise can lead to significant improvements in sex life. People who exercise 3 to 4 times per week had greater stamina during sex and were also less likely to have performance issues (11).
In addition to boosting performance, cardio exercise may also increase libido and desire.
14. Cardio machines lower the risk of diabetes. Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects your body’s ability to manage sugar levels. It can lead to weight gain, as well as cause a range of heart problems, neurological issues, and vision loss. Along with a healthy diet, cardio exercise has been shown to be one of the most effective ways of preventing diabetes. Research has indicated that people who get 10 to 30 minutes of cardio exercise are significantly less likely to develop diabetes (12).
Furthermore, cardio exercise is an effective way of managing diabetes if you already have the condition. Patients with diabetes who were put on a regular cardio exercise regimen had increased insulin sensitivity and were less likely to gain weight.
15. Cardio machines can reduce stress. Research has shown that nearly ¾ of Americans suffer from symptoms related to excess stress, including fatigue, anxiety, headaches, and poor sleep quality. This can have a significant impact on job performance and on your social life. Studies have linked high exercise levels with lower amounts of stress. Cardio exercise lowers the risk of anxiety and can boost mood and energy levels (13).
Cardio exercise helps reduce levels of cortisol and adrenaline, two molecules that drive the stress response in humans. It also releases endorphins, molecules that boost your mood and make you feel happier and more energetic.
1. Cardio machines can cause injury. Many cardio machines have a lower risk of injury than running or cycling, as you are unlikely to fall or trip as you exercise. However, muscle strains and other injuries can still occur, especially if you push hard while working out. Cardio machines are designed to put less strain on your legs and back than running.
Although this does reduce the risk of lower-body injuries, it also means that certain leg muscles may not get as strong. It’s important make sure that any loose clothing or headphone cords are tucked away as you exercise, as they can get caught on parts of the machine as you move.
2. Cardio machines may not improve bone density. Studies have shown that certain types of resistance and impact exercise can help strengthen bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis as you age. Since cardio machines such as ellipticals don’t put any impact on your legs, they do little to help improve bone density.
3. Cardio machines may be harmful for those with health issues. If you have a heart condition, speak to your doctor before using a cardio machine. Although often safe if you exercise at a moderate pace, you should make sure your heart rate doesn’t get too high. If you are using a stationary bike, make sure that the seat is properly adjusted so that you don’t have to stretch to reach the pedals. If the seat is not in the correct position, you could strain your hips while exercising.
Most cardio machines will be safe for women who are pregnant. However, you should speak to your doctor about your exercise routine to make sure that your workouts are safe.
Cardio machines vary widely in terms of features, so follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer for best results. Studies have shown that as little as 10 minutes of cardio exercise per day can significantly lower the risk of mortality from cardiac events.
If you are exercising to lose weight, experts recommend that you get at least 150 minutes of cardio exercise at a moderate pace per week. Research has shown that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) may be more effective for burning calories and losing weight. This type of exercise involves short bursts of intense activity, followed by a rest period at a slower pace.
If you have a heart condition, speak to your doctor before using a cardio machine. Although most are safe, your doctor may recommend that you exercise at a slower pace and monitor your heart rate. Although the use of cardio machines alone will be effective for losing weight and improving health, they are most effective when combined with other forms of exercise, such as resistance training.
Are cardio machines as effective for weight loss as running? For most users, yes, cardio machines are as effective for weight loss as running. Studies have shown that a range of different cardio machines are effective for weight loss and fat burning, burning a similar amount of calories as running while putting less strain on the body.
How often should you use a cardio machine? For general cardio health, as little as 10 minutes per day has been shown to have proven benefits, reducing the risk for a range of cardiovascular diseases. If you are exercising to try to lose weight, then you’ll likely need to increase the length of your daily workout. Experts recommend around 150 minutes of cardio exercise per week to shed weight and help burn fat.
Are cardio machines safer than running? In general, yes, cardio machines safer than running. Cardio machines have a lower risk of falls or other accidents, and tend to put less strain on your legs and back than running. They are also considerably safer than cycling, as there is no risk of getting in a road accident as you exercise.
What type of cardio machine is the most effective? Treadmills are one of the best options for burning calories quickly, although they can put plenty of strain on your legs. Ellipticals won’t burn quite as many calories, but they are gentler on your joints. Bikes are great for building lower body mass, while stair climbers are great for maximum intensity workouts.
Can cardio machines replace running outdoors? Yes, cardio machines can replace running outdoors. You’ll get most of the same health benefits with a slightly lower risk of injury. However, those training for long runs should not use cardio machines as a full replacement for regular running.
Cardio machines can help improve lung capacity and heart health, and they can help you rest tired muscles while still continuing to train. However, cardio machines will do little to improve athletic performance in other activities such as running and cycling.
Are stationary bikes as effective as road cycling? Yes, stationary bikes can be as effective as road cycling. Stationary bikes will allow you to burn an equivalent amount of calories as road cycling, provided you ride at a similar pace. However, there are some benefits to road cycling such as turning and maneuvering the bike, which engages a number of muscle groups throughout the body that stationary bikes won’t.
How high should your heart rate get on a cardio machine? The target heart rate will depend on your age and fitness goals, as well as the type of workout you’re doing. During high-intensity interval training (HIIT), you’ll often get to around 80% of your maximum heart rate. For more moderate cardio, you should aim for a heart rate that is around 50-60% of your max. To calculate your max heart rate, take your age and subtract it from 220. For example, someone who is 50 years old will have a max heart rate of around 170.
How expensive are cardio machines? There are a number of different types of cardio machines, so cost can vary widely depending on the machine you choose. Some ellipticals can be found for only a few hundred dollars, whereas many stair climbers will cost a few thousand.
Are stair steppers as effective for weight loss as treadmills? Stair steppers can be an effective way of losing weight, provided that you exercise at a moderate pace and get your heart rate up to around 60% of your max.
Do cardio machines help you shed pounds? Yes, cardio machines can help you shed pounds. They burn as many calories as other forms of aerobic exercise such as running and also help you target muscles in your upper body. Studies have also shown that cardio machines are an effective way of maintaining good mental health. They can lower the risk of depression and also help fight off the effects of excess stress.
Can cardio machines lower the risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease? Yes, research has shown that cardio machines can lower the risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease.
Do cardio machines help fight depression? Yes, cardio machines can help boost energy levels and improve sleep quality, both of which lower the risk of developing depression.
Do cardio machines help with diabetes? Cardio machines may lower the risk of diabetes. Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects your body’s ability to manage sugar levels which can lead to weight gain, and cause other serious issues such as heart disease. Cardio is a proven method of reducing the likelihood of developing diabetes.
Do cardio machines help manage stress? Yes, cardio machines can help reduce stress. Specifically, the addition of exercise can improve your stress tolerance, lower stress levels and boost energy and mood.
How much exercise per day is needed on a cardio machine to see the benefits? Just 10 minutes per day of exercise can lower the risk of death from a heart attack.
Can aerobic exercise improve sleep quality? Research has shown that regular aerobic exercise can improve sleep quality, reducing the number of disturbances, and increasing the amount of rest you get every night. It has also been shown to improve your sex life, increasing stamina, energy levels, and libido.
Why do cardio machines help people stick to their exercise regimen? Cardio machines are also some of the most widely available gym equipment, and they can be used no matter the weather. This makes it easier to begin and stick to an exercise regimen.
Should cardio machines be uses as a substitute for running or cycling? They should not be used as a substitute for running or cycling if you are an athlete training for competition.
Can cardio machines help benefit your mental health? Studies have linked higher rates of aerobic exercise with a lower risk of depression and anxiety. They also release endorphins and reduce levels of cortisol and adrenaline, helping you feel more energetic and less stressed.
Cardio machines are an effective indoor substitute for aerobic exercise such as running or cycling, offering many of the same overall health benefits with a significantly lowered risk of injury. Studies have shown that cardio machines can help you burn fat and lose weight.
Furthermore, regular use of a cardio machine can have a positive impact on your mental health. You should speak to your doctor before using a cardio machine if you have a heart condition.
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