The following post, a look at the 5 most popular cardio machines and the benefits of each, was contributed in partnership with Injinji.
When you first step into a gym, the assortment of cardio machines can be pretty intimidating. It can take a lot of confidence to climb onto a StairMaster or set foot on an elliptical – and let’s not even imagine the kind of tumble you could take off of a treadmill that’s going too quickly. But here’s the thing: Once you’ve got a handle on the different cardio machines that your gym offers, you’ll find that not only are they pretty tame, but they can be a great tool to help you reach your fitness goals. If you’re not the type to enjoy running outdoors or cycling city streets as exercise, then an indoor workout with machines that emulate these workouts could be the best option for you. Even better: Many of these cardio machines can fit into the average home, so you might not even have to leave the house to get your blood pumping.
So whether it’s bad weather outside, you’re rehabbing an injury, or you’d just rather workout indoors, pull up those awesome socks – and get ready to be acquainted with cardio machines you can use to succeed.
Choose Your Cardio Machine
Before you begin in the gym, it’s a good idea to take a step back and assess your goals. Although gym cardio can be overlooked in favor of lifting weights – or because many people tend to find cardio repetitive and boring – it’s still an important touchstone in developing and maintaining a healthy body, mind, immune system, and more.
“Minute per minute, cardio indisputably burns more calories than strength training, which could explain why compared to strength trainers, aerobic exercisers lose more weight in less time, according to a recent Duke University study,” states this article from Women’s Health. It’s true that a workout that includes both strength training and cardio exercises is the most effective – working with weights can build muscle tissues, which helps burn more calories – but for those whose fitness goals aren’t necessarily “get ripped for the summer,” cardio machines can provide a solid workout. If you’re the kind of person who needs to burn off stress at the end of the work day or get an adrenaline rush to wake you up in the morning, hopping on a cardio machine is just the thing.
Not sure which machine to try first? Here are five of the most common cardio machines, and the unique benefits of each:
The humble elliptical has faced its fair share of criticism: it’s too boring; it’s not challenging; none of the muscle movements are anything you’d use in everyday life. However, these are all minor criticisms when you consider the fact that the elliptical is good for everybody, from gym experts looking to warm up or cool down to workout newbies needing a machine they won’t be scared by. Greatist argues that the elliptical is a stellar piece of cardio equipment, readily available, and easy to use. Its intensity can be raised for a heavy workout or lowered for something lighter. Also, it has less impact on your knees than running. Embrace the ellipsis movement!
If the word “StairMaster” makes you think of mid-80’s fitness routines, you’re not alone. But thankfully, it’s not all leg warmers and puffy headbands – StairMasters have stood the test of time by being great emulators of stair-climbing. Athletes climb stairs to work on their stamina, up their heart rate, and improve their lower body cardio, and StairMasters perform the same function by providing a static, rotating set of stairs that keep you walking upward. As with the elliptical above, StairMasters are also easier on the knees and back than running, so they’re well suited to people who are working through injuries or just need a lighter-impact workout. For those who want something harder, crank up the intensity and pump your arms instead of hanging on to the sides.
“Why run on a treadmill when you can just run outside?” a lot of people might ask. The answer is, plenty of reasons – chief among them the amount of control you can have over your running on a treadmill. Unlike outdoor terrain that may contain obstacles, tripping hazards, and the potential for collisions with pedestrians or cyclists, a treadmill is an easy way to get a run in no matter what’s happening outside. Plus, with a treadmill, you can up the tempo, raise the track to simulate an uphill climb, and shift from various speeds to keep your heart going strong. Aside from paced running or all-out sprinting, treadmills can also be used for simple walking, which is a good workout for people of all ages (not to mention it can help anyone reach the recommended goal of taking 10,000 steps a day).
Not everyone has access to open water and a boat to row in – but most gyms do come equipped with a rowing machine or two. Even better news: Rowing exercises are being touted as one of the most effective workouts you can do. A report in Harper’s Bazaar notes that using a rowing machine to work your legs, core, and upper body can result in an elevated heart rate and a fierce calorie burn. As an added bonus, the article states that rowing exercises can help correct slumped-over posture – definitely a benefit for anyone working as a desk jockey during the day. Just make sure you’re working the rowing machine correctly.
As WebMD points out, a stationary bike is a little bit like a StairMaster – it’s the kind of standard workout machine that’s been around for years and generally gets used as a clothing rack rather than for its intended purpose. Yet the unsuspecting stationary bike is another great choice for gym-goers of all stripes: it’s low-impact, so it’s good on the knees; its resistance can be adjusted for a light workout or a hard ride; it’s not hard to use (who didn’t learn how to ride a bike as a kid?); you can go for a bike ride any time of day or night, in any weather. Stationary bikes are also the centerpiece of spin classes, which can burn hundreds of calories and build lower-body strength.
Hardcore gym enthusiasts and weight lifters may scoff at the array of cardio machines available, but for those looking for variety, options, and control over the speed and intensity of their workouts, you’re good to go with cardio. Any exercise is good exercise, so never feel as though a cardio machine is a shortcut or a dead end to your fitness goals – in fact, it could be having more of a positive effect in your health than you know.
What’s your favorite cardio machine? Tell us in the comments below!
Author Bio: This post was contributed by Injinji
Javier Sanchez-Mariscal is an integrity-driven, multilingual Consumer Insights and Communications Manager with a strong concentration and enormous success utilizing technology and sales strategies to support business objectives and revenue generation. With over 5 years of working with Injinji, Javier’s passion for fitness and the outdoors has only grown.