Most gyms contain an assortment of cardio machines, all of which can be used effectively to burn fat and calories. While some machines are more challenging and thus burn more fat than others, the amount of fat you actually burn essentially comes down to how hard you work, despite which machine you use.
The treadmill is considered to be the gold standard of cardio machines. A study published in the May 1996 issue of the "Journal of the American Medical Association" concluded that the treadmill burned more calories than other machines, including a stair stepper, cross-country simulator, rowing machine and cycling machine, when participants were working at the same levels of perceived exertion. Another study published in the 2010 issue of the "International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism" also concluded that running on treadmills burns more fat than cycling.
Although this machine is not as commonplace as the treadmill, it ranked high in the 1996 study in JAMA. A previous study published in the March 1989 issue of the "Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness" ranked the ski simulator as second in energy expenditure, with the treadmill also ranking first in this study. Like the treadmill, the ski machine involves movement in the legs as well as the arms, unlike cycling or climbing steps, in which the arms are stationary. This extra movement can account for additional fat burning.
Another gym machine that involves movement in both your arms and legs is the elliptical machine. A study published in the June 2010 issue of the "Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research" found that elliptical trainers were actually quite similar in energy expenditure to treadmills when subjects were working at the same rate of perceived exertion. The study researchers concluded that elliptical machines are an acceptable alternative to treadmills for the purpose of fat or calorie burn.
The stair climber is another effective fat-burning exercise machine found at many gyms. While it does not entail movement in the arms, it does require subjects to stand and carry their entire body weight during the exercise. This burns more calories than machines such as stationary bikes, which allow subjects to sit while exercising. The 1996 JAMA study ranked the stair climber below the treadmill in energy expenditure but better than cycling machines.
- American Council on Exercise: What’s the Best Piece of Cardio Equipment to Use
- Journal of the American Medical Association: Energy Expenditure with Indoor Exercise Machines
- Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness; Metabolic Responses Associated with Four Modes of Prolonged Exercise
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: Comparison of Energy Expenditure on a Treadmill vs. an Elliptical Device at a Self-Selected …
Andrea Chrysanthou began writing professionally in 1993. Her work has been published internationally by "The Cyprus Mail," MochaSofa and My Favorite Trainer, among other magazines and websites. She holds a Bachelor of Applied Arts in journalism from Ryerson University. Chrysanthou is a certified fitness instructor and personal-training specialist with more than 10 years of experience in the fitness industry.