Walk into any gym and you'll see the walls lined with treadmills, ellipticals, stationary bikes and rowing machines, all providing the benefits of increased heart rate that can ultimately prevent cardiovascular disease. So how do you know which one to choose? Bottom line: The best piece of aerobic equipment for you is the one you will use and enjoy the most.
Treadmills are perhaps what first comes to your mind when you think of aerobic exercise equipment. You can use the treadmill to walk, run or to simulate walking or running uphill with the use of the treadmills incline feature. Treadmill exercises primarily target the quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteals, iliopsoas, tibialid anterior, gastrocnemius and soleus. If you love running, treadmills offer a convenient option of still being able to train even when the weather isn't cooperating.
For buns of steel, you may want to head straight for the stair climber. This machine will work your gluteals, quadriceps, hamstrings, erector spinae, gastrocnemius and soleus. Avoid the urge to lean over the handrails once fatigue starts to set in. The stair climber has a reputation as one of the toughest aerobic exercise machines there is. Test that theory out next time you're at the gym and see what you think. With this machine you are guaranteed a challenging cardiovascular and lower-body workout.
If you like running but sometimes find it a little too painful or stressful on your joints, the ellitpical may be a good substitute for you. Elliptical machines combine the motion of stair climbing with running or walking without the additional impact. If you've had joint injuries, the elliptical can offer an effective substitute for running, walking and stair climbing. The primary muscles used on this machine are the quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteals, iliopsoas, tibialis anterior, gastrocnemius and soleus.
Indoor cycling primarily targets the quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteals, tibialid anterior, gastrocnemius and soleus. Due to the non-weight-bearing and nonimpact benefits of stationary cycling, this may be an ideal choice for you if you're fairly overweight, as your body weight is supported by the seat. Stationary cycling is also a good choice if you're out of commission for a bit due to lower back, hip, knee, ankle or foot problems or injuries. Many gyms also offer indoor cycling, or spinning, classes that provide an intense fat-burning workout that will leave you stumbling out of the gym with legs of jelly.
If you're looking to get more bang for your buck out of your workout, the rowing machine might just be your answer. Indoor rowing provides an excellent upper-body and lower-body non-weight-bearing and no-impact aerobic workout. The muscles you will use during your rowing workout include the quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteals, tibialis anterior, gastrocnemius, soleus, forearm flexors, posterior and medial deltoids, trapezius, latissimus dorsi, teres major, abdominals and erector spinae. There's no other aerobic machine that works this many muscles.
- Principles and Labs for Physical Fitness - Seventh Edition; Wrner Hoeger, Sharon Hoeger
- NSCA's Essentials of Personal Training - Fourth Edition; National Strength and Conditioning Association
Kristy Lee Wilson is a former Cirque du Soleil performer, Sharecare fitness expert, bestselling author, international speaker, certified personal trainer and youth fitness specialist. An elite athlete from a very young age, Wilson's ultimate mission is to motivate, inspire and educate as many people as possible to live life to their fullest potential.