Exercise! - Cardio Machines

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02-28-2008, 12:33 PM
Does anyone know what the most effective cardio machine is? I usually do 15-20 minutes on one and then I'll hop on another and then a third (if I'm feeling ambitious) but I'm wondering which ones actually work me the hardest? At my gym there are treadmills, stationary bikes, ellipticals, stair climbers, rowing machines and this other machine that seems like it works pretty much like an elliptical (not sure what it's called though). I know I don't want to just pick one machine and do it all the time because my body might get used to it...but I also want to maximize my calorie burn!

02-28-2008, 12:40 PM
From what I've read, it is the elliptical that will give you the best workout although I haven't read anything about arc trainers or other elliptical like machines.

The best way though is to use High intensity interval training (aka HIIT) with whatever cardio machine you use. If you are looking to maximize your workout that is.

02-28-2008, 12:43 PM
I have heard the same as nelie. The elliptical is best and also it's pretty easy on your joints, as opposed to running on a treadmill which is actually bad for your joints. I use the interval training and I work hard, I do 30min 4 days a week as well as 2 days upper body weight and 2 days lower body weights (usually). This works for me... but I think a lot depends on what you're comfortable with. I have a friend who can't stand the elliptical.

02-28-2008, 12:54 PM
It's all about heart rate. :) Your calorie burn is determined by your heart rate, regardless of which cardio machine you use. For example, if your HR is 150 on the elliptical, 150 on the bike, and 150 on the treadmill, then you're burning the same number of calories per minute on all three machines (of course, you have to completely ignore the fairy tale calorie readouts on the machines!)

So the most effective cardio machine is the one that 1. you like to use (very important!) and 2. will elevate and sustain your heart rate to your target zone.

Nelie's right about ellipticals being very effective for calorie burning. Some studies have shown that the perceived effort to use the elliptical is less than other cardio machines -- in other words, it seems easier to elevate your HR on an elliptical than on other cardio machines. You don't feel like you're working as hard as you actually are, so you can do it longer and more intensely.

I almost exclusively use an elliptical for cardio because of my rotten knees. Adaptation to a cardio machine isn't nearly as much of a problem as is adaptation to an weightraining routine, so don't be too concerned about using the same machine(s) most of the time. So long as your HR is where you want it to be, then you're getting an effective workout. If your body adapts by getting more efficient, then all you have to do is kick up the resistance to bump up your HR.

Nelie's also right about HIIT. Not only will you burn max calories during your workout, but your metabolism will be elevated for hours afterwards and so your calories burned will be greater. :carrot:

So bottom line ... your heart rate will tell you which is the most effective machine for you. :)

02-28-2008, 01:25 PM
I only started going to the gym this week, but the elliptical is by far my FAVORITE! I have a bad leg and it doesn't aggravate it at all. I have been doing 20 minutes on the elliptical and 15-20 on the recumbent bike, then I did 20 minutes on the treadmill and 20 on the bike again, since I didnt want to use the elliptical the next day due to a fall on the ice that hurt my shoulder...but I should be back on it tomorrow morning..

02-28-2008, 02:33 PM
I too love the elliptical and I feel like I get a good workout from it BUT I have been listening to Jillian Michaels (ftrainer rom the biggest loser) radio shows at work that I download, and I just listened to one where she was saying the elliptical is her least favorite form of cardio workout. Her reason was that it's a little TOO easy unless you've got the resistance way up (I usually do have the resistance high). BUT she also said if you have bad knees or joints it is the best form of cardio.

I think there are people who say the elliptical is good and bad - just like everything else in this world.

I think you should definitely NOT just use the elliptical though - like you said, your body can get used to it and you won't burn enough calories effectively after a while because your body is used to it. I say mix it up a bit - try the bike or stair stepper or treadmill.

Another thing Ive heard - no expert here just saying what I've heard - that you should try to aim for at least 30 minutes on whatever machine you are working at because if you workout less than 30 minutes you're not getting the complete your heart rate up to the max of where it should be. I don't know if this is true, but I usually stay on the first cardio machine I am on for at least 30 minutes, and then if I do another machine I hop on it directly after and go for another 20-30 minutes.

(Please take everything I just said with the idea that I am not an expert and I'm just repeating some things I've heard - I'm sure there are other people on here who know much more than me!)

02-28-2008, 02:42 PM
The treadmill and running is NOT bad for your joints. It's actually easier on your joints to run on a good quality treadmill than to run outside on a concrete sidewalk. Cheap treadmills might be harder on you but gym quality treadmills are cushioned better. If it's more of a high end gym a woodway treadmill is excellent to run on. Of course some people do have joint issues but they could have issues with other gym equipment and exercise in general. Of course some people hate to run but fast walking on an incline would be equivalent. Running does burn a lot of calories though.

The elliptical does get your heart rate up but it doesn't really strengthen the muscles like walking and other weight bearing exercises do since the machine does a lot of the work. However it's good for cross training. It's very possible to be able to do a lot of time on the elliptical and not be able to climb a flight of stairs because after a certain point it doesn't build any more strength.

Its most important to do what you like, so any mix of the machines is best. Also if they have a rowing machine, its a very good workout - cardio and strength if done correctly.

02-28-2008, 02:52 PM
MissGiggles - I was comparing the treadmill to the elliptical. The elliptical IS easier on your joints than the treadmill, but you're right... The treadmill is easier on your joints that concrete. At least this is what my doc told me so I go with his advice.

02-28-2008, 03:01 PM
The elliptical does get your heart rate up but it doesn't really strengthen the muscles like walking and other weight bearing exercises do since the machine does a lot of the work. However it's good for cross training. It's very possible to be able to do a lot of time on the elliptical and not be able to climb a flight of stairs because after a certain point it doesn't build any more strength.

I'd respectfully disagree. The elliptical is a weight bearing exercise although it isn't a weight pounding exercise. The machine does some work but your muscles do other parts of the work that you wouldn't see in walking/running. You can also do so much with an elliptical. You can change the resistance, you can go backward, if it has arms, you can use the arms mostly or legs mostly or switch it up. If it has an incline, you can also change that up.

I'd also the same for walking/running, at a certain point, they don't build any more strength either because well they aren't strength exercises, neither is the elliptical.

As for walking up stairs, one thing I've found is that in order to do a certain exercise, you have to train for that exercise. If you want to walk flights and flights of stairs, running/walking isn't going to train you for that, only walking stairs will train you for that.

02-28-2008, 03:04 PM
nelie: I agree with that. When I up the resistance and incline I actually feel the burn, particularly in my thighs. So it really does build some muscle.

02-28-2008, 06:13 PM
Technically, the treadmill burns more calories than the elliptical. When your feet are moving in circles, the pressure of one foot forces the other to come back, whereas on the treadmill, your legs must pick themselves up before coming back down.

Still, I opt for elliptical most of the time, because it is definitely much better on your joints than the treadmill.