By: Christine Dailey
Posted on May 22, 2015
There are lots of myths and theories about your favorite cardio machines at the gym. Ultimately, you want to cut through the static to use the ones that will be best for you and your workout. So where do you start? The most important thing is choosing the right equipment for your body, considering injuries, rest days, intensity, and physicaly ability. Let's break down the pros and cons and learn the truth about the cardio equipment at the gym. Read this, then go break a sweat!
The stationary bike provides a low impact workout – easy on the joints - and gets your heart rate up to help burn calories and fat. It’s also an ideal cardio workout for someone coming off an injury. For someone with knee issues, the stationary bike might be a perfect way to get in some cardio work, increase your range of motion and segue back into running.
Indoor cycling in a group class is also a great workout as long as you’re putting in the effort. Classes tend to torch lots of calories and leave your legs burning.
Riding the bike doesn’t work your upper body, so you’d need to find a way to make it part of a greater workout routine. Riding a stationary bike also won’t increase your heart rate as much as running or other cardio exercises, so you will have to spend a longer time on the bike to reap benefits.
It can also be boring doing it by yourself; you tend not to exert as much energy since you don’t have the motivation and excitement of a class.
Like the bike, the elliptical is easy on your joints. The benefit of the elliptical is that it actually imitates the motion of running without the impact, which is convenient for people with injuries or joint issues. Most elliptical machines these days now allow for reverse stride, which means you can move forwards or backwards, allowing you to activate different muscles during your workout – quads, glutes, hamstrings etc.
It’s easy to go too fast with no resistance (looking like you’re working hard without actually putting in the effort). On top of that, calorie calculators on elliptical machines can often overestimate total calories and fat burned and consequently trick you into thinking you’re getting a better workout than you actually are.
A stair climber is a great way to get your heart rate up, burn calories and work the muscles in your lower body as well as your core. Unlike many other cardio machines, the stairs specifically target your butt and glutes and ultimately strengthens and tones your legs. On top of that, you’ll increase your core strength because it requires you to activate core muscles with every step ensuring that you’re completely balanced and keeping up with the moving stairs. With a variety of resistance and speed settings, the stairs can offer an assortment of intensities and workouts for people of varying fitness levels. It’s also a low impact workout which allows for people with lower back or knee issues, as well as people with injuries, to partake in high intensity workouts.
In just 20-30 minutes you can burn a significant amount of calories, reach your fat-burning zone, tone your legs and achieve a high intensity workout.
It’s easy to cheat yourself of a workout by relying heavily on the hand rails. Ever see that person going at a sprint pace but gripping onto the hand rails for dear life? Yeah – don’t do that. That’s robbing yourself of an effective workout and also asking to trip and fall. Try holding the hand rails lightly for balance and once you're comfortable try not using them at all – this will increase the amount of work your muscles have to do in order to hoist your body up the stairs.
The treadmill is a great substitute for someone who would like to run outdoors but the weather won’t permit. It’s convenient that you can jump on and go for a run any time or anywhere and still reap the benefits of a long hard run. Despite people arguing that running on the treadmill isn’t as effective as running outside, it’s actually a great way to train for a race because you can accurately control your pace and work towards a precise goal.
It can be pretty boring. It’s easy to fall into a rut running at the same speed and incline for the duration of your workout. Don’t set it and forget it, do intervals, change incline and mix up your workouts during your treadmill session. Like running outdoors, the treadmill is a higher impact workout than other cardio machines. That being said, it’s manufactured to absorb shock so it’s not as rough on your knees and some people might suspect.