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Buying Guide

Cardio Machine Buying Guide

Getting Started

At the "heart" of cardio machines is the word "cardio". These machines are designed to help get your heart rate up, an important part of exercise and health. Many people often forget that the heart is not just an organ, but a muscle. Just as you work out your legs and arms to help to make movement easier and faster, your heart must also get its proper amount of work. Cardio machines emphasize whole-body exercises that require sustained movement, raising your heart rate, and giving your heart the necessary workout.

The desired goal for cardio workouts is a minimum 50% increase in your heart rate. According to the Mayo Clinic, a stronger heart pumps blood more efficiently, while aerobic activity common with cardio machines has the added benefit of boosting "good" cholesterol in the body, lowering bad cholesterol, and reducing the buildup of plaque in your arteries. The significant benefit here is decreasing your chances of getting heart disease.

Additionally, cardio machines benefit the entire body. That means stronger lungs, weight loss, better bone density, increased energy, and even better sleep. At a minimum, you should include 20 minutes of cardio workout, which means a sustained 20 minutes, not spread out in smaller increments. If you're just getting started, 20-minute sessions 3 times a week is a good first step.

Types of Cardio Machines


Treadmills benefit those who enjoy running outdoors without the need of being outdoors. This is great if you live in an area where there aren't many good places to run, or for when weather makes it a bit too difficult to effectively run outside. Not to mention, treadmills come with many desirable features. When buying a treadmill, you should consider things such as track size, variable speed, overall size, motor strength and weight capacity. Treadmills are extremely beneficial in helping you build up your walking and running stamina at your own pace. Furthermore, the treadmill is the best cardio machine for weight loss as it's the most natural and requires the most physical exertion on the body.

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Elliptical machines are designed to mimic walking, running, and stair climbing, all at the same time. Ellipticals work through pedal action and include arm handholds to keep your body steady. This action is powered by a drive wheel located either on the front, back or center of the machine.

Ellipticals are a popular machine for those who may have joint related issues. Running tends to put a lot of strain on joints and can wear them down, for this reason many people prefer to use an elliptical as their cardio workout machine instead of a treadmill. Ellipticals offer very similar benefits to treadmills, but often cost more due to the larger level of complexity. An elliptical machines focus will be on working out your quads, hamstrings, and glutes.

Much like treadmills, you can adjust the incline settings on many ellipticals. As an added benefit, you can also increase the resistance, meaning you can make it more difficult to operate the pedals on this machine. Plus, an elliptical machine's movement is far more restrained than a treadmill, but for some people it can be a lot more beneficial. For example, the smooth motion can help people with aches and pains in their joints, while also allowing for a great cardiovascular workout. So, to further challenge yourself and get more out of your workouts, simply up the resistance levels on your elliptical machine.

Remember to consider resistance levels, size, stride length, step-up height, ergonomic design, and weight limits, when browsing ellipticals.

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Exercise Bikes:

Perhaps one of the easiest home gym equipment types to understand, exercise bikes provide all the same benefits of a regular bike without the need to go outdoors for some exercise. An exercise bike holds similar benefits to other cardio machines, providing the benefit of an intense cardio activity that can be adjusted to suit your desired strength and endurance-building goals. As the concept is fairly low-tech, exercise bikes are among the least expensive cardio machines you can purchase. Some even operate as just a stand that utilizes a bike you may already own.

The health benefits of an exercise bike are comparable to the benefits of a regular bicycle. Exercise bikes help workout leg muscles and provide an easy way to raise heart rates and strengthen bones. Plus, by increasing the resistance, you can help build your endurance as well.

Exercise bikes come in many shapes and sizes. However, before you buy, consider speed adjustment, resistance levels, seat comfort and adjustability, and additional features such as LCD screens, built-in programs, noise reduction, and built-in fans. Also, consider what type of bike you want (recumbent or upright) and whether you want a manual or electric bike.

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