Which Is Better: A Stationary Bike or a Stair Climber?

Exercise longer for effective weight loss.
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Deciding on a stationary bike or stair climber can be a tedious task. You want a machine you enjoy exercising on, but which also helps tighten and tone problem areas. Regardless of which you choose, liven up dull workouts by recruiting a friend to exercise with you, or tune in to one of your favorite TV shows or radio stations.


    Stationary bikes and stair climbers both help you tone up your leg and butt muscles, and melt away excess fat. They’re both forms of lower-impact exercise, meaning your risk of injury is lower compared with higher-impact workouts such as running. Since biking and stair climbing are aerobic -- or cardiovascular -- workouts, they both can help reduce your chronic disease risks, especially heart disease, when used regularly.

Calories Burned

    If you’re concerned about boosting your calorie expenditure as much as possible, biking is the better choice. You’ll burn slightly more calories using a stationary bike than a stair climber. Harvard Health Publications reports a 155-pound person burns 223 calories using a stair stepping machine for 30 minutes, expends 260 calories biking at a moderate pace and burns 391 calories biking for 30 minutes at vigorous intensity.

Injury Considerations

    Biking is your best bet if you’re prone to, or recovering from, injuries. A stationary bike is lower impact than stair climbing machines. Additionally, the American Council on Exercise reports that recumbent bikes provide extra back support and are helpful for women with lower back pain, while stair climbers require you to focus on good posture. However, if you're injury-free and seeking to tighten and tone your back, stick with the stair stepper.


    If a home cardiovascular workout is a dream of yours, the cost of exercise equipment is likely a concern. Stair climbers are generally much more expensive than stationary bikes. However, you may be able to find a used or refurbished stair climber for the same price as a new stationary bike. Shop around to find a good deal. If you have a gym membership, cost may not be a concern for you.

Best Choice

    Although biking does some advantages over stair climbing, the best choice is highly individualized and is the workout you most enjoy and can stick with over the long haul, according to ACE. ACE also suggests frequently changing up your workout routine, alternating between different pieces of exercise equipment from one workout to the next, for best results and to prevent boredom. Of course, talk to your doctor to make sure the exercise machine you choose is safe and appropriate for you.

Exercise Recommendations

    Regardless of whether you choose a stationary bike or stair climber, intensity and duration determine the overall effectiveness of your workout, according to ACE. The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend getting 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise, or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise, each week. To burn excess body fat, try high-intensity interval training, which can effectively reduce fat while increasing lean muscle mass, according to a study published in 2012 in “Journal of Obesity.” To interval train, alternate exercising at high intensities with lower-intensity stints using a stationary bike or stair climber.

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