What Cardio Equipment is Best?

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Walk into either of our gyms and you’re immediately faced with a huge range of equipment. All pieces look different, work different muscles and offer different benefits.

Each piece of cardio equipment promises to help you get fitter, but do you know the differences, and which one is best for you?

SNAPSHOT OF CALORIE BURN (based on 30 mins)*

Cross trainer (moderate)270-400 cals
Treadmill walking (5-7km/h)120122 cals
Treadmill running (12-14km/h)375-644 cals
Stationary bike (moderate)210-311 cals
Rower (moderate)210-311 cals
Swimming (moderate)180-266 cals

*Source: Harvard Medical School, based on 30 minutes activity for 57-84kg adults 


Treadmills offer great versatility – you can undertake a brisk walk, an uphill sprint or anything in between, and they emulate the natural movement of walking, jogging or sprinting. Also, because they offer a weight bearing effect, they can help strengthen bones and muscles. As a result, this can help enhance your posture and bone health.

On the flip side, a treadmill can be tough on your joints and put stress on your spine, hips, knee and ankle joints. Treadmills also have a safety issues: when doing high intensity training, it can be potentially dangerous if your experience level is low, or if you are concentrating on other things such as your phone, as this may cause you to lose balance and fall off. Holding onto the handles for support (whilst running) or to check  your heart rate can be challenging and awkward, and is not a natural movement for the body, so ensure you pay careful attention at all times when using a treadmill.

Cross Trainer

The cross trainer (also called an ‘elliptical trainer’) is similar to a treadmill in the movements it allows but it offers no impact on the joints. It also has a cross training ability, due to the moveable arm handles that enable you to exercise the upper and lower body simultaneously.

Studies have shown that people are actually working harder than they realise, when working out on a cross trainer. This is good news for those seeking weight loss as it allows people to burn more calories with less perceived effort.
The benefit of the cross trainer being non-impact means it can help to prevent injuries that might normally occur as a result of the shock experienced by the joints during some exercises. This ‘benefit’ may also be considered a drawback however, as its lack of impact means it does not enhance strengthening of the bones and muscles, which is achieved from weight bearing activities. Strengthening bones is particularly important in older people to help prevent osteoporosis. Cross trainers can also build up a lot of momentum at lower resistance levels, which can enable you to harness the machine’s momentum to keep or adjust pace, rather than exert your own physical effort to do so.


The upright bike is designed to best mimic riding an outdoor bike, but without the need for a helmet, the risk of dangerous drivers and roads, or inclement weather. Bike riding is a non-weight bearing exercise and does not put pounding stress through your joints; however, if the seat height is not set correctly it could cause joint pain to the knee.

People with lower back pain are advised to avoid using the upright bikes for long periods of time, purely due to the position that it places the body in. However, short periods can be ideal as the position will help you to strengthen your core muscles. An advantage of the upright bike is that you can mix up your workout between sitting down or standing up and emulating a hill climb.  This enables you to control how hard you work out on the bike, the pace you ride, and the resistance level you set. Or you can let the machine decide. These bikes allow you to choose a workout option that best suits or challenges you.

With all this information, you can now complete cardio workouts that help you achieve your goals, or enable you to now try something different that may have felt a bit daunting previously.

Do remember, no matter how effective the cardio equipment is, seeing results from your workouts and getting in shape is entirely up to you – machines can help with some things, but you still have to do all the hard work!

By Ashley Myers, Health and Fitness Manager