The Best Cardio Machine For Your Fitness Goals

Maybe you love cardio and look forward to the big sweat. Or maybe you loathe cardio because you find it incredibly boring. These days, when it comes to a cardio workout machine, you have plenty of options ranging from the treadmill to the ski machine. The elliptical machine can be easy on your joints, and the VersaClimber can make you feel like you're scaling El Capitan. If you're over 50 and struggle with joint pain, a Cybex arc trainer can lower cholesterol without impacting your joints, according to a 2020 study in the Journal of Population Ageing. Into stationary bikes? You can opt for the AirDyne bikes that work your arms and legs, or you can grab your favorite book and read while cycling on a recumbent bike. And let's not forget about the great spin bikes that let you rock to your favorite music while building strong legs.

The right cardio machine can help you meet any fitness goal. Some people might be recovering from an injury, while others might be looking to PR their next race (via Consumer Reports). We've broken the best cardio machines into two categories –- torching calories and working the whole body.

The best calorie torchers

According to Consumer Reports, the treadmill is great for a quick workout, and it's also a perfect option for training for your next half marathon. A 2019 study in the International Journal of Research in Exercise Physiology compared the treadmill, step mill, rower, upright stationary bike, elliptical trainer, and five other cardio machines to see which required the most energy.

The study recruited 16 people aged 18–25 to test all 10 cardio machines. The researchers measured the heart rate and energy expenditure of all the participants while they exercised at different intensities. At varying levels of effort, the treadmill and stair stepper both surpassed the others in terms of heart rate and the amount of energy required. The AirDyne cycle, elliptical trainer, and upright stationary bikes required significantly lower amounts of calories per minute.

The study pointed out that at a moderate intensity for 30 minutes, you can burn 378 calories on a treadmill and 354 calories on a stair stepper. This study used the step mill, which is a revolving staircase that requires you to pick up your feet after each step, rather than a step machine, where your foot stays on the stepping pedals.

The best for working your whole body

Many cardio machines like the treadmill and stair stepper emphasize the lower body, but you can't beat the rowing machine for a full body workout (per Today). According to Healthline, you'll recruit the quads, glutes, and calves in your lower body and the pecs, abs, and arms in your upper body. You're also not stressing your joints, which allows you to improve your cardiovascular endurance while recovering from other workouts. However, to ensure you're getting the best workout from the rowing machine, be sure to use the correct form by engaging your core with each row and pushing with your legs first.

Even if it's not quite the same as the treadmill for energy consumption, you'll still get a good calorie burn with the rowing machine. According to Harvard Medical School, a 155-pound person can burn 369 calories in 30 minutes by rowing at a vigorous pace. While there are countless options for cardio, Consumer Reports says that ultimately, the best cardio machine is the one that you'll actually use.