A few weeks ago, I was on QVC on national television for the “smooth X-Bike” show. It was an awesome experience to be a part of promoting such a quality fitness product that can help people to lose weight, improve their endurance and cardiovascular condition, and increase overall health. The smooth X-Bike is a foldable stationary recumbent bicycle with a compact design and quiet peddling that makes it a comfortable ride for users. I loved the ride I had on it that was easy on the back, allowed for easy adjustments of resistance levels, got the heart rate up to solid workout level, and burned a significant amount of calories in the hour I rode it. When all was said and done, my legs were also feeling worked. It got me to thinking about the best pieces of cardio equipment.
A common question so many exercisers and gym goers ask is, “What piece of cardio equipment is the best?” My answer has always come down to efficiency, or how many calories you can burn in a given time frame. For example, if you spend an hour on a piece of cardio equipment and only burn about 350 calories when on another piece of cardio equipment you would burn 900 calories, the better choice would be the latter. You can double or triple your calorie burn on certain selections compared with others in a given time frame.
While many people use cardio equipment for endurance, conditioning, and overall health, the prime reason why most people use it is for weight loss, weight management, and fat burning. Because you really want to burn fat when you do cardio, you are going to want to select the piece of equipment where you can burn the most calories.
Having experience operating around all kinds of cardio equipment throughout the course of many years, I’ve seen some interesting differences between them all. Even pieces of equipment which don’t burn relatively as many calories as others can have their share of benefits, such as low impact, safety, and adaptabilities or adjustments for various injuries. However, if your goal is to burn fat and lose weight, some pieces of cardio equipment do in fact work better. So here are, in descending order, the top 5 recommended pieces of cardio equipment to help you lose the most weight, tighten up the waist, and burn the most body fat:
5. The Stationary/Recumbent Bike
The bicycle is still an effective and iconic choice when it comes to cardiovascular exercise as it offers back support, is comfortable on the knees, and is relatively safe for anyone who possesses an injury or is at risk for injury. However, the problem with it is that it doesn’t burn calories as efficiently or effectively as the many other pieces of equipment. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t use it, but when you do use it, be sure to challenge yourself to do it at the very high levels of resistance it offers to get the best fat burning and weight loss benefits.
If you observe people at the gym, you’ll see too many people comfortably riding along on the stationary bike like they aren’t even working hard; they’re never sweating or struggling, just peddling with ease at low intensities. This is clearly not the way to generate fat burning and high caloric expenditure that would lead to weight loss and getting in shape. You must work really hard on the bike to experience the best benefits. It may take your quadriceps some practice and adaptation through time, but you must make it up to a level that burns calories at a rate of 15 calories per minute to make the bicycle as efficient as some of the other cardio equipment selections. That’s very difficult to do considering that your quadriceps are bearing the burden of producing that level of intensity all on their own. Still, for people who enjoy it or are looking for a comfortable and safer workout, the bike is nevertheless a great selection.
4. The Elliptical
The Elliptical is a great invention: a piece of cardio equipment which offers the benefits of walking and to a lesser degree jogging, but does it with minimal impact and relative ease. This piece of cardio equipment really brought many people back to the gym. To make exercise that is usually painful and frustrating easy was a good idea. The problem is that, in exercise, ease usually equates to less effective, which it is compared with some others.
The key to good, effective exercise is challenge and intensity so while the Elliptical is still a good piece of cardio equipment, compared with many others it just wont enable you to burn calories as efficiently. However, that being said, the lower impact on the joints, particularly the knees and ankles, will come in handy for many people who cant comfortably handle the impact of walking or jogging. While it is a neat and effective piece of equipment, it is not as efficient in calorie burning as our top three choices. This doesn’t mean not to use it or that you wont burn some fat on it, but just not as much as the rest.
3. Moving Stairs Stairmaster
The moving stairs version of the stairmaster is often confused with the original stairstepper. It’s a little more complex and can be much more rigorous. While a person can burn a ton of calories on it and lose fat and its’ workouts are incredibly authentic, the workouts on it are often so vigorous that the user can’t stay on it long at a very high intensity. This makes it virtually impossible for the user of it to workout on it at an intensity high enough to yield the greater calorie output.
Much like with the treadmill, most people wind up using it at much lower intensities than that which would allow the maximum calorie burn. But for people who can and do dare to use it at the highest levels and elevations, it can be one of the best variations, or alternatives, in cardio workouts than the usual. It can be a great way to use the “shock” method to your cardio workouts when used at high intensities because of its’ easy ability to simulate the intensity of a sprint. This piece of equipment is not found in every gym and not as common as the rest. Some gyms that do carry it only have one of them, and if you ever see it vacant, it’s probably a symbol for how difficult it is compared with the ease of some of the other more popular pieces of cardio equipment.
While the treadmill can burn many more calories on average than most pieces of cardio equipment when used at a high mileage per hour rate, most people only use it for walking. This is why it doesn’t arrive on the list as number one. Instead, it holds the number two spot, which still makes it elite.
The only problem with the treadmill is that most people don’t use it at a high rate; they can’t because it becomes risky for a non-athlete. By resorting to walking, which is still a healthy exercise and fine, they would not be able to burn the amount of high calories that intense jogging or running would offer. However, for the people who do take up the challenge to only jog or run on it, the treadmill is definitely still one of the most effective pieces of cardio equipment for burning fat and losing weight.
1. The Original Stairmaster/Stairstepper
The reason why the original stairstepper, or stairmaster, type of cardio equipment trumps the treadmill is because it is very secure and enables the user to go up to a very high, difficult level where they will expend the most calories, while still offering structural support for the body where the arms can hold onto the rails. Therefore, this enables the user to exercise at a very high intensity without running the risk of falling off. For example, on the treadmill, an average to inexperienced user who is not an expert or pro at it who runs at 8.0-9.0 mph can run the risk of injury, whereas on the stairmaster the user can turn the level up very high where they burn the most calories and get the heart the highest, and still have some help and assistance with the side bars, which in most cases would prevent them from falling off or risking injury as much.
There is another advantage to the stairmaster over the treadmill as well. While the treadmill clearly results in constant pounding of the knees and ankle on a moving surface when done at the levels which would result in the most calorie burn, the stairmaster has much lower impact on the ankles and knees, and this would allow the user to prevent any extra impact damage that would result from the running on the treadmill. Therefore, the stairmaster is also more useful and effective in the very long run for the exerciser because it would prevent the damage and injury caused by high intensity treadmill usage. Think of it as cardio training “longevity”: once you are injured, you wont be able to do your cardio for a while so you’re also better off using the piece of equipment that would allow for the greatest calorie burn, but also would simultaneously reduce the risk of sidetracking injuries.
Of course, if you prefer not to use any of these pieces of cardio equipment and still want to burn fat and get in shape, you can always walk, jog, run, or bike outdoors!