What Are the Disadvantages of Exercise Machines?

Exercise machines offer limited options for creating workouts.
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Exercise machines are often the most-used features of many gyms and fitness centers, providing a simple but effective way to burn calories or build muscle. Because of the movements needed to work the machines, they also provide limited benefits in terms of improving range of motion and building overall muscular strength. They can also create repetitive-stress injuries.

Limited Muscular Benefit

Common exercise machines for aerobic workouts, such as treadmills, exercise bikes, ellipticals and stair steppers, provide limited muscle benefit because they either use only lower-body muscles or because they only move muscles back and forth. Organizations such as the American College of Sports Medicine and Mayo Clinic recommend resistance exercises as a key component of a complete fitness program. Adding dumbbells to a treadmill or exercise bike workout, or using an elliptical with arm poles, can help increase resistance benefits during workouts. A rowing machine is one cardio machine option that offers a full-body workout. Universal weight machines also offer many exercise options and resistance levels.


Many exercise machines require you to perform the same movement for the entire duration of your workout. This can lead to repetitive stress on bones, joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles. Jogging or running on a treadmill creates impact stress. Rowing machines and ellipticals are nonimpact but can stress your back, knees, hips and ankles.


In addition to the physical stresses caused by repetition, the boredom of using one exercise with limited motion can cause people to exercise less frequently or quit workout programs. Before you purchase a machine for home use, try it for several weeks at a gym to make sure you won’t get tired of it shortly after you get it home.


Unlike dumbbells, resistance bands, kettlebells, jump ropes and other low-cost workout equipment, exercise machines can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. Even if they come with a warranty, you might be required to pay for shipping to and from a repair center. Some warranties only cover parts or labor, not both.

Inaccurate Feedback

The data provided by exercise machines are created using general mathematical formulas that can’t take into account your personal physiology. Entering your age might help the machine provide a more accurate target heart rate range, but most machines don’t take into account a comprehensive set of personal data, including your resting heart rate, weight, age, gender and other factors. In addition, different brands of machines will provide different calorie and heart rate data for similar workouts.

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