Best Cardio Machines to Meet Your Fitness Goals

26 Jan.,2024


Whether you are going the gym or trying to pick out the best cardio machine for your basement, there’s one simple answer to the question of which exercise machine is the best: the one you will use regularly.

“If you buy a piece of equipment you don’t like, then it’s going to be a really expensive coat rack,” says Paula Papanek, PhD, professor and founding director of the exercise science program in the department of physical therapy at Marquette University in Milwaukee. “If you don’t like to run or walk, buying a treadmill is probably not your best investment.”

You can get a great workout on any type of machine, according to Sabrena Jo, senior director of science and research at the American Council on Exercise. And the workout you get from a particular cardio machine depends partly on your own fitness, exercise intensity, and the machine being well set up for the user’s body mechanics, Jo says. 

Yet there are factors that might give some types of exercise machines an edge for you personally. Certain people have physical limitations that might make an elliptical or an exercise bike a better choice than a treadmill or a rowing machine (known as a rowing ergometer, or just an “erg”), for example. Others may be looking to train for a specific event, like a 100-mile “century” bike ride. And others may be looking for the best full-body workout or the quickest ways to burn a large number of calories.

We’ve spoken to a number of experts about the benefits and potential limitations of popular cardio machines, plus what people should know before trying a machine for the first time. Still, if you’re looking to purchase exercise equipment for your home, you should go to a gym and try it first. You don’t want to bring home an exercise bike only to realize you can’t stand cycling.