Pin Me

How to Pick the Best Cardio Equipment for Your Needs

written by: Rochelle Connery • edited by: Angela Atkinson • updated: 4/20/2011

Cardio exercise is an essential part of nearly any routine. But investing in expensive cardio equipment isn’t for everyone. Learn what cardio equipment is available (and within your budget) before committing to one style for your workout.

  • slide 1 of 6

    Treadmill

    Treadmills seem like the go-to piece of cardio equipment in many gyms. But treadmills aren’t for everyone, especially those with joint pain or bad knees. Treadmills can be considered high-impact equipment on some levels.

    Treadmills can be good for those on a low budget. You can choose between motorized and manual treadmills. Manual ones require your own strength to move the track, while motorized ones control speed and incline. But don’t be fooled; treadmills can get expensive, too. Always try a treadmill in the store before buying it.

  • slide 2 of 6

    Elliptical Trainer

    Elliptical trainers offer machine running with less impact. These machines, while expensive, offer a safer environment for those with tender joints to run or jog to various levels of difficulty. Some provide preset programs with mountain climbing or glute blasters to target certain areas of the body.

    Elliptical trainers can get noisy, though. Like treadmills, they also get boring after a few minutes. Be prepared to buy a magazine to prop on the machine’s book stand, crank a TV up to top volume or program an energizing playlist to run to on your MP3 player.

  • slide 3 of 6

    Exercise Bike

    There are two types of cardio equipment exercise bikes: recumbent bikes and upright bikes. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks.

    Some people try to “cop out” on a bike because it looks easier and is sometimes recommended for rehab and physical therapy patients--until they realize that doing cardio on an exercise bike actually takes work. Your glutes can get a real workout, especially on a recumbent bike, as the sitting position helps the pedals and resistance really target your back end.

    Exercise bikes are sometimes cheaper than elliptical trainers and treadmills, but they can be pretty expensive, too. However, if you have physical therapy needs or like the idea of riding a bike rather than a standing piece of equipment, it might be the choice for you.

  • slide 4 of 6

    Kettlebells

    Kettlebells are the strength trainer’s best friends. Doing kettlebell exercises fluidly combines cardio and strength training into one, allowing the exerciser to get double the workout in the same amount of time. Kettlebells require a lot of all over body movement, meaning your heart rate gets raised significantly during kettlebell exercises.

    Many kettlebell exercises incorporate swinging the kettlebell, which can cause you to feel winded very quickly. Although kettlebells themselves aren’t cheap, buying a set of two is less expensive than getting a piece of larger cardio equipment. So not only will kettlebells help you build strength while getting a cardio workout and burning calories for fat loss, they might save you money.

  • slide 5 of 6

    Aerobic Step

    If you like aerobic stepping, rather than running endlessly on a treadmill for minutes on end, purchasing a real aerobic step might be the best option. Although you may not achieve the same level of intensity offered by the other types of equpiment mentioned, you’ll still be getting yourself moving, and that’s the important part.

    You can always substitute low-profile boxes or other multi-level objects for a “step,” but if you plan to incorporate the step as part of your permanent workout, do yourself a favor and invest in a real one.