Cardio training is the way to go if you want to get in shape and lose excess weight. Cardio workouts condition your cardiovascular system by elevating your heart rate through repeated action like running or cycling.
To make cardio workouts more accessible and convenient, there is a wide range of cardio equipment that you can use. Some of the most popular cardio equipment we recommend include elliptical machines, personal fitness trackers, heart rate monitors, recumbent bikes, rowing machines, spin bikes, treadmills, and treadmill desks.
Navigating the cardio equipment market can be challenging due to an overwhelming number of options. To help you in your search, we have put together comprehensive cardio equipment guides and reviews.
Read our elliptical machines reviews
Elliptical machines offer lower-impact workouts compared to a treadmill or running outdoors. They often include some of the most innovative and beneficial design features.
We can see this with the variable stride machines or those with an incline. In these cases, you don’t have to worry about matching your stride length to the length of the machine.
Part of what makes elliptical trainers such effective cardio machines is that you can turn a basic training program into a full-body workout. While the elliptical stride trains the lower body (quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves), the moveable arms can be used to train your upper body (chest, back, biceps, and shoulders).
What are elliptical machines?
Elliptical machines, also known as elliptical trainers or cross-trainers, are stationary cardio machines that are used to perform exercises like climbing stairs, walking, or running. These machines are designed to be impact free so that the joints are not put under too much pressure.
What elliptical machine should I buy?
The price range of elliptical machines is the widest we’ve seen from any cardio equipment. While entry-level ellipticals are available for as low as $100, you can expect to pay up to $9000+ for the top-end commercial models with full entertainment features.
We have created an elliptical machine buying guide that goes through all the different price options.
You can also read our elliptical machine reviews for more detailed information about the machines.
Commercial models often feature a much more comprehensive range of entertainment options and mode settings. Although, we’re also seeing lower-priced machines start to integrate tablet holders and smartphone connectivity into their consoles.
Some of the Yowza Fitness CardioCore models even feature a unique pivoting arm motion to increase core muscle activation to help tone your abs and obliques.
In addition to providing some of the most effective cardio workouts in terms of calorie burning, ellipticals are often packed with features to make your training more enjoyable and efficient.
They often include telemetry heart rate monitoring, performance tracking, fitness app synchronization, an adjustable incline, and tablet connectivity, which act as a high-quality display screen for your workout feedback.
Personal Fitness Trackers
Read our personal fitness trackers reviews
Just because you’re not running on a treadmill or cycling on a recumbent bike doesn’t mean you aren’t burning calories. Simple everyday tasks such as climbing stairs, walking to the shop or cycling to work all form part of your daily fitness routine.
If you are looking for a way to track all of this everyday activity and get feedback that can give you a clear picture of your daily activity level, personal fitness trackers are the way to go.
Fitness trackers are mainly designed as wristbands, watches, or pedometers to attach to your wrist or clothing easily. These personal fitness trackers have been available for several years, yet they continue to increase in popularity.
What are personal fitness trackers?
Personal fitness trackers are wearable computers that monitor and track all kinds of fitness-related information. They can typically connect to an application where you can see all of your data.
Personal fitness trackers are designed to be light and discreet enough to wear at all times, whether jogging on a treadmill or when sleeping. Sleep cycle tracking and advanced analysis of your sleep patterns have become some of the most popular features.
What personal fitness tracker should I buy?
FitBit was one of the first names to enter this market, and it quickly dominated the industry with several lightweight, aesthetically pleasing, and relatively inexpensive personal fitness trackers.
Some of the most popular FitBit models include the Zip, One, Flex, and Charge. They’ve now also started branching into the smartwatch sector with their Surge design.
Other than FitBit, you can find innovative and attractive fitness trackers from brands like Jawbone, Misfit, Garmin, and even Swarovski.
It’s not just cardiovascular exercises that you can keep track of using this equipment. Companies like Atlas Wearables are working on devices to track your resistance training workouts. It can record data related to your number of repetitions, exercise, and amount of weight used.
Heart Rate Monitors
Read our best heart rate monitor reviews
Heart rate monitors have become an invaluable piece of training equipment for many people. It works great for tracking your heart rate to keep it within a specific range or to keep it from going too high.
Many elliptical machines, exercise bikes, and treadmills claim to accurately track your heart rate while you exercise, but these machines are often less accurate than a specialized heart rate monitor.
This is particularly true of the lower-priced machines. With many entry-level machines, you do not have the option to create a user profile that contains info like your age and gender. This information is important for calculating your maximum heart rate and training zones. With this, you can get accurate training feedback.
What are heart rate monitors?
A heart rate monitor is a personal monitoring device that tracks your heart rate in real-time and records the data for feedback and stats.
This sounds similar to the personal fitness trackers discussed above. So what’s the difference between heart rate monitors and personal fitness trackers?
The lines are becoming blurred between these devices. Heart rate monitors used to be specialized devices. As technology advances, fitness devices like smartwatches offer a wider range of features with increasing accuracy.
What heart rate monitor should I buy?
Some of FitBit’s latest designs (Charge HR and Surge) offer advanced heart rate monitoring as one of their main features. The Surge even has a screen where your heart rate is displayed. Smartwatches are taking over many of the markets that used to belong to traditional heart rate monitors.
However, smartwatches and personal fitness trackers operate at a different frequency than heart rate chest belts. Fitness equipment consoles that support telemetry heart rate monitoring tend to rely on the signal being sent over a specific frequency, which is where Polar devices have been so effective.
Polar is also one of the few heart rate monitor companies to offer online performance tracking and analysis of your heart rate, similar to how SchwinnConnect, NautilusConnect, and ViaFit (Horizon Fitness) let you track overall workout performance.
Read our recumbent bikes reviews
Recumbent bikes could be a great option if you enjoy cycling but do not enjoy the harsh impact on your joints. Recumbent bikes offer improved lumbar support and good seat comfort.
By cycling from a reclined position, your weight is much more evenly distributed, which reduces any pressure on your knee and ankle joints.
Although you’ll not be burning calories at the same rate as a spinning-style bike, the electromagnetic braking systems mean you can quickly adjust the intensity at the touch of a button. This feature will differ depending on the bike’s quality.
What are recumbent bikes?
A recumbent bike is a bicycle that places the rider in a laid-back reclining position. They are a popular choice for ergonomic reasons. The rider’s body weight is more evenly distributed than a traditional bicycle.
What recumbent bike should I buy?
Many recumbent bikes now have additional features to improve your training and fitness tracking experience. Most models now feature touch and telemetry heart rate monitoring with sensors built into the bike’s handles.
It’s worth bearing in mind that the footprint of recumbent bikes will often be larger than their upright or spin-style counterparts. The bigger size will also mean they are heavier. However, for almost every recumbent bike that we’ve reviewed, transport wheels have been fitted to one of the stabilizers to make the bike easier to move around.
If you enjoy watching your favorite movies or listening to music while you work out, you’ll want to look for designs that feature a media shelf and, ideally, a USB charging port. When you are searching for the right bike to buy, you don’t have to spend thousands on a top-of-the-line model to benefit from these features.
Several high-quality designs offer tablet and smartphone support, as well as the option to sync your workout data to a fitness app. These models are available for around $300. These models are highlighted in our recumbent bike buying guide.
Read our rowing machines reviews
Modern rowing machines have come a long way since the first hydraulic-based damper design was patented back in the late 1800s. Today’s rowing machines focus on emulating real-world rowing conditions from the comfort and convenience of your own home or gym.
All rowing machines fall into one of two categories:
- floating head rowing machines
- fixed head rowing machines
RowPerfect is one of the best-known examples of a floating head erg. This means that the flywheel carriage slides along the rail instead of having a seat slide along the glide rail, and the foot plates remain stationary. This creates a dual motion that accurately recreates the feeling of rowing on water.
What are rowing machines?
Rowing machines are indoor exercise machines that simulate watercraft rowing. They usually consist of a moveable seat that has a rowing bar with resistance in front of it.
Rowing machines offer a great full-body workout that strengthens and tones your back, biceps, quads, hamstrings, shoulders, and hip flexors.
What rowing machine should I buy?
To help you find the best rowing machine, you have created the ultimate rowing machine buying guide.
To get more info on specific models, read our rowing machine reviews.
You can also choose from various resistance systems, including water, air, and hydraulic. Hydraulic resistance rowers tend to be the most popular among the lower price brackets, and water resistance rowers are more common in the $1000+ price bracket.
Regardless of their design, rowing machines remain one of the most effective pieces of cardiovascular equipment for anyone looking to improve their overall fitness.
Rowing machines can appear limited in their display console functions, particularly when compared to ellipticals and treadmills. That being said, you can still benefit from some incredibly valuable feedback beyond basic time and distance measurements.
This ranges from more straightforward metrics like your 500m split time and stroke rate all the way through to your force curve data in the case of the RowPerfect3 and Concept2. Some of the more advanced software even lets you race against opponents on the other side of the world.
An indoor spin bike could be your best option if you’re less concerned about entertainment features such as cooling fans and speakers and more concerned about high-intensity workouts.
A spin bike’s frame design promotes a posture similar to riding a road bike. That means the cycling you perform indoors can have direct benefits to any road cycling.
What are spin bikes?
Spin bikes are what you see at your gym’s spinning class. They are stationary bikes that resemble road bikes without wheels.
What spin bike should I buy?
Finding the perfect spin bike can be challenging, but using our spin bike buying guide can help simplify the process.
You can also read our spin bike reviews to see which options are the best.
Indoor spin bikes have a high-quality and simple design. They will rarely provide a display console, but when they do, they will only provide you with essential feedback, such as time and distance.
You’re also going to be without any form of the preset training program, with HIIT and Tabata workouts proving to be popular and effective replacements.
To help with the adjustment when switching between your road bike and an indoor spin bike, a common feature is an ability to change the stock pedals for a set of your own. This is also sometimes possible with the seat.
Ergonomic handlebars are also a popular feature to include, offering a variety of grip positions to support the different training intensities.
Treadmills are the most well-known indoor exercise equipment. If you picture people in the gym, they are most likely running on a treadmill.
Treadmills are great for various reasons. Many modern treadmill machines feature advanced deck cushioning systems to reduce the impact of your footfall. They also have some significant advantages over outdoor running in terms of protecting your joints, tendons, and ligaments, resulting in a safer running experience in the long term.
What are treadmills?
A treadmill is an exercise machine that allows walking, running, and climbing while staying in the same place. They work with a running deck that moves beneath your feet.
What treadmill should I buy?
There are so many treadmills on the market. Simplify your buying process by reading our treadmill buying guide.
Read our treadmill reviews to find out which of the many machines that we reviewed performed the best.
Treadmills are definitely one of the larger workout machines. To make their use more convenient, many treadmills can now be folded away with assisted lift mechanisms. This greatly reduces the effort to fold the running deck up and down.
In some cases, the running deck is stationary and can’t be folded away, such as for the Precor machines. This is when space planning tools can be invaluable. Precor and Life Fitness are two companies that let you create a floor plan of your room, so you can ensure that you have enough room space before purchasing the machine.
The feature to adjust the incline on some machines is another reason treadmills are so efficient at burning more calories in a shorter space of time.
The great thing about treadmills is that you can buy a machine that offers a wide variety of incline settings, console feedback, and heart rate monitoring for just a couple hundred dollars.
You can access some of the higher-quality commercial designs if your budget stretches further. These high-end treadmills offer everything you could want from a treadmill at a top-class gym. This includes features such as password-protected console buttons for added safety, impact control systems to reduce fatigue, and zero maintenance running decks.
Read our treadmill desks reviews
As we lead increasingly busy lives, finding dedicated time for regular exercise can be difficult. Treadmills are such an efficient and versatile piece of fitness equipment a few well-known fitness companies have gone even further and started producing treadmill desks.
The goal of treadmill desks is to make it possible for people to exercise while they work.
The adverse health implications caused by sitting for extended periods are well documented. By simply switching from a seated to a standing position, you’re already going to be improving your posture and reducing the risk of health problems. Then, by walking simultaneously, you’re actually going to burn calories and even lose while working.
What are treadmill desks?
Treadmill desks are a combination of a treadmill and a desk. They are also known as walking desks or treadmill workstations. It is a computer desk with a treadmill belt underneath. The user can walk on the treadmill while performing their work tasks.
What treadmill desk should I buy?
It’s worth mentioning that the belt speed on a treadmill desk is much less than on a treadmill (4mph compared to 12mph+). Treadmill desks often have similar benefits as treadmills, including high-quality build, good weight capacity, comprehensive warranty coverage, and advanced cushioning systems.
Also, because you’re not going to be running, shorter running decks are still well-suited to taller users. The LifeSpan TR800-DT5 suits anyone between 4’10” and 6’8″ tall.
The great news is that treadmill desks are quickly gaining popularity. Many companies are now allowing their employees to take a treadmill desk over a normal desk. This logic has been validated by a recent study which found people walking at treadmill desks perform cognitive tasks nearly as well as those at sitting desks.