Want to feel the burn of a butt-kicking cardio workout, without having to leave the house?

Between the cost, convenience, and privacy, getting your sweat on at home has long been a popular option with fitness enthusiasts. And now that the coronavirus has caused a home gym boom, it’s safe to say that it’s more popular than ever.

Even when the threat of COVID-19 goes away, you might still be wondering: Why pay for a whole roomful of equipment and machines if you only like to use one or two?

If that is how you feel, you’ll be pleased to know about the wide array of cardio workout machines that exist to help you stay fit at home. As each one is unique, all you have to do is pick the one that’s right for you.

In this post, we’d like to help you make that choice. We looked at five different types of cardio machines — treadmills, ellipticals, stationary bikes, rowing machines, and stair steppers — to evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of each one.

While all are effective calorie-burners, some may not be right for you given your current fitness levels and long-term goals. Here’s what you should keep in mind as you decide what cardio workout machine to purchase.

Pros and Cons Home Gym Treadmills

Pros: When you think of the term “cardio,” odds are you think about running. Treadmills allow you to run at sustained speeds over long distances, or in quick, frequent high-intensity sprints. Factor in the different incline settings available, and you have a versatile cardio workout machine with seemingly endless possibilities.

Even if running isn’t for you, a treadmill still can be. Walking at a brisk pace — especially with a slight incline — is still an effective fat-burning exercise. 

Cons: If you have bad knees, walking on a treadmill might be all you’re capable of. Running, in general, is known to be difficult on the joints — with the knees absorbing much of the pounding. People who experience pain in their hips or back should also be wary.

Additionally, treadmills have some logistical drawbacks. They can take up a lot of space and make a lot of noise. And they’re not cheap. While it’s possible to get one for a few hundred bucks, the newer, nicer ones can easily top $1,000.

Pros and Cons of Home Gym Elliptical Machines 

Pros: Ellipticals are compact machines that incorporate your arms as well as your legs, making for more of a full-body cardio workout. Similar to treadmills’ speed and incline settings, ellipticals allow you to adjust the resistance. The more resistance you apply, the more effort will be required by your muscles to move.

Because your feet never leave the pedals, you don’t have to worry about the impact on your knees. Plus, between the pedals and the handles to grab onto, ellipticals are good for people with balance issues.

Cons: It’s very easy to forget to challenge yourself on an elliptical. With your legs churning and arms pumping, you might just assume you’re getting a good burn. But unless you have the resistance ratcheted up, there’s a good chance you’re just going through the motions. 

Ellipticals are priced similarly to treadmills — a few hundred bucks for a low-level one, $1,000 and up for something more cutting-edge. While they take up less horizontal space, they take up more vertical space. So to anyone with low ceilings, beware.

Pros and Cons of Home Gym Stationary Bikes 

Pros: Stationary bikes are like ellipticals in that they give your joints a break and incorporate different levels of resistance rather than speeds or inclines. However, they’re less easy to cheat on; it’s more obvious to tell when you’re just coasting.

For anyone with back issues, stationary bikes are particularly enticing. And if balance is a problem, stationary bikes are an even better bet than ellipticals because you’re in a seated position.

Cons: But all that sitting has some downsides. While it’s possible to engage your core on a stationary bike, it’s not something that will happen automatically. You’ll have to make a concerted effort. In general, with all else being equal, you’ll burn fewer calories while seated. And if you don’t have a particularly soft seat, you’ll notice your rear end hurting after a while, too.

Besides your core, your upper body won’t get as much attention with a stationary bike. If a full-body cardio workout is what you’re after, consider other options.

Pros and Cons of Home Gym Rowing Machines

Pros: With rowing machines, we’re getting back to full-body cardio workouts. In fact, rowers probably achieve this better than anything else on this list. From your arms and back to your core down to your legs, rowing hits just about every major muscle in your body.

Plus, like ellipticals and stationary bikes, rowing machines are low impact. If you are recovering from an injury or just want to prevent one, rowing provides a top-notch way to burn fat and build muscle simultaneously.

Cons: Unlike running or riding a bike, the act of rowing may not come naturally right away. It’ll take time to get the movements down before you can hit them as hard as you might like. If you rush through the learning phrase, you could put your body at risk with poor form.

Similar to treadmills, rowing machines tend to take up space and make noise. Depending on your circumstances, quiet and compact might be on your list of prerequisites, and rowing machines don’t check those boxes. Nor are they markedly cheaper than anything here.

Pros and Cons of Home Gym Stair Steppers 

Pros: The StairMaster didn’t become an icon by accident. Anyone who’s climbed more than a few flights of stairs at one time knows what a great cardio workout it can be. Plus, because the incline is so substantial, you don’t have to worry about trying to sprint.

If you’re an avid hiker looking for an indoor alternative when the weather is bad, a good stair stepper is easily the closest you can get to replicating an alpine ascent. Strong legs await those who use this machine regularly.

Cons: Stair steppers might not be as high-impact as treadmills, but they’re not as low-impact as ellipticals, stationary bikes or rowing machines. If you’re worried about your knees, the last thing you should introduce into your regimen is more steps. There’s enough of those punishing climbs in the real world.

You also miss out on upper-body benefits with a stair stepper. As for price, stair steppers tend to tilt toward the more expensive end of the spectrum. Finally, even more so than ellipticals, height is a concern. So heads up, tall people.

While nobody knows what you’re looking for better than you. With this list of pros and cons detailed out hopefully, there’s enough information here to help you make the choice that’s best for your fitness goals. At ViGOR FiTNESS, we’re dedicated to helping you achieve total mind-body fitness regardless of your loyalty or access to a specific piece of equipment. The most important aspect from our perspective is that you have cardio included in your fitness routine. With all our virtual or at-home classes, the cardio portion is equipment agnostic and the time spent on your choice of cardio equipment is the most important.  

Let us know if you have more questions on how to best include cardio in your fitness routine.