which cardio machine burns the most calories

Which Cardio Machines Burn the Most Calories?

Which is Best?

Getting healthy is probably the primary motivation for why people exercise. To reach your health and fitness goals, you need to incorporate cardio work into your training. Cardio exercise is what enhances your overall health more than anything else because it burns calories.

However, you may be confused about what's the best cardio machine for weight loss and toning. Using these machines, you can burn calories and help lose unwanted and unnecessary extra weight. Fitness machines are one way to maximize your cardio program. We'll cover six machines, including both types of stationary bikes.

The average calories burned per hour will be listed for each machine. This figure is based on data for [age] [weight] person for a 30-minute workout. These are only averages, but you can use these figures to determine the effectiveness of each machine. We will also explain how to use each machine so you can pick the best cardio machine to burn fat for your goals.


§ Calories Burned – 183 (4mph walk – zero incline)

Treadmills are probably the most common piece of exercise equipment that you might consider for burning calories. While it isn't the only type of machine, it is the easiest to learn. To gain cardio benefit using a treadmill, all you really need to know how to do is walk.

From a casual stride at zero incline, you can increase the calorie burn by increasing the intensity. The key to increasing this intensity level is the incline. The calorie figure listed is for a walking speed of 4mph on a flat treadmill, which is considered a moderate workout.

These numbers change dramatically with an increase in speed, and especially when using a steeper incline. The treadmill is almost exclusively used to tone your lower body muscles, with some core benefit if you increase the intensity.

The benefits of training on a treadmill increase the most by increasing the incline. You can also walk faster, or speed walk. A light job begins to increase the number of calories burned, with running at a 12-minute mile pace nearly doubling the calories burned over a moderate walking pace.

Muscles Toned

  • Lower leg muscles, especially thighs and calves
  • Some minimal core toning as you increase the incline.

  • § Calories Burned – 406 (moderate resistance)

    The second machine on your list is the elliptical. This machine can provide you with an intense calorie burn, but without the impact on your lower joints. Using an elliptical, it's not physically possible to reach the intensity level of running full speed uphill on a treadmill.

    However, you can get an excellent calorie burn, plus do more to tone muscles in your upper body. By increasing the resistance and working the handlebars, you enhance every aspect of your workout objectives.

    Remember, more resistance equals more effort required, which raises your heart rate, which means more calories burned. An elliptical trainer is one of the best gym equipment for weight loss and toning, plus it tones the most muscles and muscle groups.

    Muscles Toned

  • Complete lower body muscle tone, with less emphasis on your calves.
  • Excellent toning possibilities for your gluteus (butt) muscles.
  • You get full upper body benefits, including shoulders, arms, and chest.
  • Added resistance helps to increase the amount of core muscle usage as well.

  • § Calories Burned – 320 (moderate rowing speed, low resistance (100 watts))

    Rowing machines add an even higher level of upper body muscle toning advantages than the elliptical trainer. You work your leg muscles, plus your back and arm muscles. The rowing machine helps to tone these muscle groups as well as being a great way to burn calories.

    Using a rowing machine incorporates a lot of back muscle work, both upper and lower back. You also gain core benefit through the motion of rowing. The biggest muscle groups targeted are your thighs and your arms, especially your biceps.

    As with nearly every exercise machine activity, the more you increase the rowing resistance, the more calories you will burn. Rowing machine resistance is usually gauged in watts. The calories burned estimate here is at a setting of 100 watts.

    Muscles Toned

  • Your thigh muscles are the most targeted muscle when using a rowing machine.
  • All the muscles in your back get a workout as well, especially your lower back.
  • You gain core benefit from using a rowing machine.
  • Both your arms and shoulders get a good workout using a rowing machine, especially your arms.

  • § Calories Burned – 370 (moderate effort)

    A stair stepper is a stationary machine that, by itself, doesn't provide a lot of upper body advantages. However, the act of climbing stairs is proven to raise your heart rate. Since the essential focus of a good cardio workout is to hit a target heart rate, the stair stepper is one of the best cardio machines for weight loss options you have.

    Stair machines also have different calibrations of resistance. There are specific machines, such as the Gauntlet, which are especially challenging. Again, stair steppers are an excellent way to burn calories and tone your lower body muscles, but they do not provide many benefits above the waistline.

    Muscles Toned

  • Calf muscles get an excellent workout from the act of climbing stairs.
  • You use your thighs heavily when climbing up stairs as well. Increasing the push resistance on a stair stepper machine puts even more stress on your legs.
  • Another muscle group that tones using a stair stepper is your butt muscles.

  • § Calories Burned – 336 (the average speed at 12mph)

    Stationary bikes are a convenient way to get a solid cardio workout. They are also relatively joint friendly, but like the stair stepper; don't offer a lot of upper body benefit. There are also two different types of stationary bikes, the recumbent and upright.

    A recumbent bike is a lower design where you sit almost like you're in a chair. The recumbent bike is more comfortable on your lower back and hips. However, it burns slightly fewer calories than an upright model, approximately five-percent less using the formula used here.

    While stationary bikes, both types, will burn more calories than walking on a treadmill, upping the resistance is the key to increasing the number of calories burned. Be mindful, that riding a bike creates some stress on the hip joints and your back.

    Muscles Toned

  • Stationary bikes, both recumbent and upright, target your thigh muscles especially the quads.
  • Similar to a stair stepper, stationary bikes also work the butt muscles as well.
  • Calves are used minimally on a stationary bike.

  • § Calories Burned – 407 (85-percent spinning)

    The final item on the list of cardio exercise machines is the spin bike. This is a slightly more difficult machine to get comfortable using. The seats are usually smaller, and the level of intensity for a spin class is for intermediate fitness levels and above.

    However, a spin bike is another excellent way to get a good personal workout. You can gauge the amount of effort you put forth based on your fitness level. While similar to both types of stationary bikes, a spin bike requires a more consistent level of intensity.

    Muscles Toned

  • Thigh muscles get an excellent work out on a spin bike.
  • The buttocks muscles are another muscle group that receives intense focus.
  • Side-to-side balance is required on a spin bike, so the core benefits are more significant than on a conventional stationary bike.

  • Burn the Most Calories

    Choosing the best cardio machine to burn fat means you should use the machine that generates the highest possible heart rate. The more you increase the cardio efforts, the more calories you burn. Each of these machines will accomplish that objective, with the elliptical being the one with the least amount of impact on your joints.

    The recumbent bike follows the elliptical trainer as the most joint-friendly cardio machine. Most machines have a calorie counter as part of the display. Keep in mind; like electronic calorie counters on many fitness machines, the figures here are only estimates.

    The best place to see the results of your dedicated efforts will be on the scales. Use these estimates to help you decide which machine might better meet your weight loss and muscle toning objectives.

    Add Diversity

    You can also add some diversity to your workouts by using a different machine periodically. While you may find one you prefer over the others, adding variety to your fitness program will help you to tone more muscles. For a list of recommended cardio equipment, check my best home cardio machines of the year. 

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