Which Cardio Machine Works Best For Me?

The cardio machine that will work best for you depends on your fitness level and your fitness goals. Adding variety to your regular fitness routine will help you stay motivated and keep your fitness program challenging and exciting. Cardio means you are working your heart muscle, and the way you strengthen that muscle is to get it pumping (working) for at least 20 minutes, 3 to 4 times a week.

In order for fitness equipment to qualify as a cardio machine, it will have to require you to work your body so that you get your heart rate up to at least 65% of its maximum heart rate. Familiarizing yourself with the most popular cardio fitness equipment that is available at a gym, or for home use, will help you sleect the best equipment for you. It will also prepare you for new challenges as your fitness level or fitness goals change.

The Treadmill

The treadmill is a very versatile cardio fitness machine because it can be used in a variety of ways and be effective for many people, from beginners to the most advanced athlete.  For beginners it is great for fitness walking.  If your goal is to lose weight, you can extend your time on this machine with very little injury to your body.  For the intermediate to the advanced exerciser, the treadmill can be used to simulate hill climbing by increasing pace, height, and stride of your walk.  It also provides everyone with a ‘no excuse’ reason for getting in your workout.  It is so versatile that it can even be used by the athlete who is in rehabilitation.

The Elliptical

The elliptical trainer will be a challenge for first time gym goers or beginners. It is best to introduce yourself to this machine by training on it for a few minutes at a time, and then building up to 20 minutes.  The elliptical trainer offers a variety of pre-programmed routines for the average to advance exerciser for continued challenges.  This trainer will add stress to the knees and should be used with caution if you have prior knee injuries.  Proper align of the body is critical to getting the most out of this machine.  If you have repeated pain in one or more areas after regular use, examine your posture.  Adding Pilates classes to your regular workout routine will strengthen your core and help you get the most out of your elliptical cross trainer.

Exercise Bikes

The exercise bike is great for beginners and for those with joint problems.  It is very low impact, and it allows you to get your heart rate up while reading, watching television, or listening to music.  It is a good machine for the regular exerciser who is in rehabilitation or wants to burn additional calories with very low impact.  Spinning would be a better choice for the intermediate or advanced exerciser.  The exercise bike is a great preparatory machine to introduce the beginner to spinning, and it should be used for several weeks before actually taking your first spinning class.


The stepper machine strengthens the lower body by engaging the large muscles of the legs and buttocks.  It can be used by the beginner in a very slow pace or at a faster pace for the average to advanced exerciser.  It puts less stress on the joints than running on the treadmill and could be used to as part of a cross training program to incorporate your aerobic and strength training.  Be prepared to work hard because steppers are not for the faint hearted.  A good work out on the stepper will leave you filling very accomplished and sweaty.  Another benefit is that the stepper is ideal for home use, as it takes up the least amount of space of most cardio equipment.

Combining two or more cardio fitness machines will create a great cross training program.  You will be challenging the muscles at different angles, with various intensity levels and resistance. It will give you an overall great total body workout that can grow as your fitness level increases.  Any of these cardio fitness machines will give you a great workout without injury if you challenge your body with resistance and increase the intensity at a moderate rate.  Which one you choose should match your fitness goal and fitness level, and after that criterion is met, pick the one that suits the athlete in you.


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