It's hard to walk into a modern health club and not feel overwhelmed by the choices. The floor is lined with cardio equipment designed to burn calories, improve health and build muscle. While most fitness equipment will accomplish one or all of these goals to varying degrees, trying to decide which cardio machine is best for you can be a daunting experience for even the most knowledgeable fitness enthusiast.
When choosing home fitness equipment, remember that there is no such thing as the best cardio machine. Everyone's needs are different. Each piece of fitness equipment has its own positive attributes and your best choice will depend on several factors: 1.
1. Your age and fitness level
2. Whether you have injuries or are prone to injuries
3. your fitness goals
4. your personal preferences
There are many reasons why ellipticals continue to be the most popular category of fitness equipment in health clubs and home exercise environments. First, while elliptical exercise is weight-bearing, it is also low impact, making it ideal for those who are overweight or want a joint-friendly alternative to high-intensity cardio (such as running). Second, ellipticals offer variety; including adjustable ramps, variable resistance and reverse motion. Some offer variable stride motion and upper body leverage for a total body workout. Combined, these features allow you to customize your elliptical workout, from the intensity to the specific muscles used.
So how does the elliptical stack up with other cardio options? Compared to running and stair climbing, studies have shown that elliptical training is at least as effective, and possibly more effective, at improving cardiovascular health. In addition, a recent study involving subjects with coronary artery disease showed that the elliptical machine elicited a greater cardiorespiratory response than walking on a treadmill at similar levels of perceived exertion. But the benefits of ellipticals don't stop there. Not only is the elliptical used during rehabilitation to increase aerobic strength and anaerobic thresholds in situations where high-impact training may not be appropriate, but because it closely mimics running movements, it is also an excellent way to cross-train and improve running mechanics. In fact, the
The elliptical is one of the best aerobic machines for weight loss and one of the best low-impact aerobic machines. How does it compare to other home fitness equipment? Let's take a look.
Treadmills are standard in almost all fitness environments, and for good reason. The treadmill is an extremely versatile piece of exercise equipment because it requires limited physical effort, can be effective in improving overall health, and has the advantage of weight-bearing exercise.
When walking or running on a treadmill, you are primarily using your leg and hip muscles. Because these muscles are larger, they require more energy. As a result, you can raise your heart rate and keep it in the target range without significant localized fatigue. The treadmill also allows you to vary the intensity by increasing the speed or increasing the incline. If you are a walker, you can still achieve an effective and calorie-rich workout by improving your performance. However, the treadmill is not without limitations. Because a treadmill workout is weight-bearing, it may not be suitable for people who are overly overweight or already or easily injured. For these individuals, more joint-friendly or non-weight-bearing aerobic exercises such as ellipticals or stationary bikes may be a better choice.
If you are using a treadmill to supplement your workout or in inclement weather, it is important to realize that running on a treadmill at home requires less energy than running at the same speed outdoors. To compensate for this difference, a good rule of thumb is to increase the incline of the treadmill by 1% to 4% if you typically run on a flat surface. However, if you run on hilly terrain, you may want to use your heart rate as a guide and increase the incline even more.
Stair climbers, or stair steppers, are also a weight-bearing exercise that targets the calves, thighs and glutes. With intuitive movements that are powerful and easy to learn, stair climbers are suitable for exercisers of all ages and abilities, making them one of the best cardio machines for beginners and an excellent choice for many home gyms.
Compared to running, stair climbers have less impact and therefore may place less load on their joints. That said, stair climbing is still a repetitive exercise activity, so be careful if you have a limited range of motion in your lower extremities or are prone to injury. In terms of energy expenditure, climbing stairs usually requires a greater power output than walking or cycling, and therefore burns more calories in the same amount of exercise time. However, poor posture can quickly erode this advantage. The most common mistake is to support your weight with your arms. This can reduce the efficiency of your workout by as much as 25%, not to mention the stress placed on your wrists and elbows.
Stationary bikes have been a mainstay of health clubs for years, and their popularity has grown with the advent of group fitness classes focused on cycling. Because cycling is non-weight bearing, it is an ideal cardio workout for those who are unable to participate in weight bearing exercises.
Cycling can cause localized fatigue while isolating the muscles in the legs and buttocks. As a result, it may be difficult to raise your heart rate to your target range and stay in that range for any length of time. However, there are many benefits to riding a stationary bike over riding on the street: smoother rides, greater aerobic efficiency, more options for workout intensity variation, and no traffic to dodge.
Recumbent bikes are becoming increasingly popular in many health clubs because they offer many advantages.
Increased back support, making them suitable for special populations
Increased safety because the base is wide and easy to set up and take down
Seats are often more comfortable than traditional seats.
They are low-impact and non-weight bearing.
One disadvantage of a recumbent bike is that it is more difficult to achieve a target heart rate than an upright bike due to the reclined position. Nonetheless, because the recumbent bike works the glutes and hamstrings better than the upright, it offers a change of pace for cyclists or anyone who just wants to add variety to their home cardio workout.
In contrast to the rows of treadmills, stair climbers and ellipticals often found in health clubs, rowing machines usually occupy only a few spots, if any. The reason for this has nothing to do with effectiveness and everything to do with the unfamiliarity of most users. Rowing machines require more skill to use and are therefore often considered difficult to learn. They are also known for being bad for your back. You can avoid this by starting the exercise correctly with your legs and hips.
The rowing machine works large muscles in the upper and lower body, making it an effective cardio exercise for raising and maintaining your target heart rate. Rowing is also a non-weight bearing and non-impact exercise, making it an excellent choice for individuals with and without restrictions. While the rowing machine may not be the first choice for most people, it is an excellent way to achieve an intermediate to advanced total body aerobic workout.
While all cardio machines are good for your health, there may be a cardio machine for your home gym that is better suited to help you achieve your personal fitness goals. Remember, if you want to improve your cardiovascular health, the intensity you choose will be more important than the specific home exercise equipment. However, if you are training for a specific event, then fitness equipment will also play an important role. For overall health maintenance or weight loss, choosing cardio equipment that can last from forty-five minutes to an hour is your best option. For individuals interested in maintaining or improving bone density, weight bearing but not necessarily high impact, exercise is critical. This may include elliptical training, walking or running on a treadmill, or climbing stairs, but not rowing or stationary biking. Most importantly, whichever home exercise equipment you choose should be pain-free and the exercise should feel smooth and comfortable.
The way you are training for a specific event will also play an important role. For overall health maintenance or weight loss, choosing a modality that will last from forty-five minutes to an hour is your best bet. For individuals, especially women, who wish to maintain or improve bone density, weight bearing but not necessarily high impact, exercise is critical. This may include elliptical training, walking or running on a treadmill or climbing stairs, but not rowing or stationary biking. Most importantly, whichever you choose, it should be pain-free and the movements should feel smooth and comfortable.