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If your fitness goals include weight loss, you’re probably looking for efficient ways to burn calories and build muscle in a fun and efficient way.  

While changing your body composition relies heavily on nutrition, cardiovascular work and strength training play a huge part—especially when we’re talking about overall health. Cardio machines, however, tend to be a bit of an investment, so researching your options is a smart move. Luckily, the best cardio machine for weight loss doesn’t have to break your budget.

Some of our expert product testers—which include certified personal trainers, triathletes, and competitive weightlifters—know how difficult it can be to lose weight. That’s why we’ve tested more than 100 treadmills, exercise bikes, rowing machines, and other cardio equipment for people looking to start their fitness journey or include two-a-day training.

We look at important factors, including:

  • Efficiency: Can the cardio machine provide a good workout for people of all fitness levels?
  • Footprint: Can it fit in most home gyms?
  • Price: How expensive is it? Is it worth the investment?
  • Workout programming: Does it come with pre-programmed workouts? Can you sync it with a personal training app?
  • Weight capacity: Can the machine fit people of all sizes who are looking to lose weight?

What cardio machine is best for weight loss? This article will take a look at some of the best cardio equipment on the market and the benefits they offer to those who want to increase their fitness levels.

Best Cardio Machines for Weight Loss Video Review

Our Picks for the Best Cardio Machine for Weight Loss

Treadmills for Weight Loss

Treadmills are a mainstay, and probably always will be. They’ve been around for years, but their technology has evolved over time (iFIT treadmills, anyone?) allowing you to do more than ever before. Treadmills can be used for intense cardio workouts, getting your daily steps in, and more. They’re so popular that some people have even incorporated them into their workstations, but that’s another topic for another day.

Good For

A treadmill is an excellent choice for many people because it serves a wide range of fitness levels. Walking is well-tolerated by most people, regardless of their exercise experience, so if you’re just beginning your fitness routine, that might be a great place to start. Then, as you develop your strength and endurance, you can increase the intensity from walking to jogging or running.

Not Recommended For

A treadmill might not be the best choice for people looking for a low-impact workout, since the repeated foot strikes may cause some joint pain in people. While there are many folding treadmills that can help you save on space, they’re still larger than other cardio machines such as exercise bikes that may be a better fit for people in apartments.

Estimated Calories Burned in 30 Minutes

Here is a basic breakdown of how many calories a 185-pound person can expect to burn in 30 minutes on a treadmill, according to Harvard Health:

ActivityPaceCalories Burned
Walking17-min mile159
Jogging12-min mile336
Running10-min mile420
NordicTrack Commercial 1750 Treadmill

Muscles Used

Most people imagine sore leg muscles after a treadmill workout, and they’re not wrong. Treadmills are great for working the legs. For a solid treadmill session, you‘ll use your quads, hamstrings, calves, and glutes. But did you know you will also use your core and upper body to maintain proper form on the treadmill? So while you primarily use your lower body to cover mileage on the treadmill, your abdominals, arms, chest, and back won’t be left out.

Related: Cardio vs. weights for weight loss

Best Treadmill for Weight Loss: NordicTrack Commercial 1750

Best Treadmill for Weight Loss

NordicTrack Commercial 1750

Product Highlights

  • Spacious running deck
  • Compatible with iFIT
  • 14-inch touchscreen
  • Incline and decline training
  • Financing available

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Compatible with iFIT
  • 3.5 CHP motor
  • Free trial of iFIT subscription with purchase
  • Treadmill with incline and decline training
  • Foldable to save space (EasyLift Assist)
  • Run that feels similar to road running
  • Financing options available through NordicTrack
  • Generous speed range
  • Wide running deck
  • Cooling fan

Cons

  • Big footprint
  • Heavy and not the easiest to move
  • Price is around $2,000
  • Warranty is voided if the treadmill is used/stored in a garage

Bottom Line

If you’re looking to add a workhorse of a treadmill to your home gym, we recommend the NordicTrack Commercial 1750.

When looking at the best treadmill for a home gym, there’s no better choice than the NordicTrack Commercial 1750. The generously-sized deck works for a wide range of people, both walkers and runners alike, a 3.75 CHP motor (well above the industry standard of 2.5 CHP), has a high-definition touchscreen to stream iFIT programming (sold separately), and has Automatic Trainer Control, allowing you to focus on your workout while your trainer digitally adjusts your treadmill’s speed and incline settings.

Now you can see why this is easily the best treadmill for weight loss.

“Even as the treadmill adjusts incline and decline and faster or slower, there is little to no shaking or jolting,” says expert product tester and GGR founder Cooper Mitchell, who has ran and walked on more than 25 treadmills. “It’s a smooth run.” Kate Meier, GGR’s head of content and a certified personal trainer, also graded the treadmill a 5 out of 5 when it came to adjustability.

While the NordicTrack 1750 offers many bells and whistles, it may not be exactly what you need. There are other options available at different price points. Some can fold for easy storage, some are manually powered, and some keep it simple and do not stream programming. Whatever treadmill you choose, its success depends on your effort, so make the most of it!

Read our full NordicTrack 1750 review to hear about all the pros and cons.

Benefits

  • Appropriate for all fitness levels
  • Can be used as a warm-up before strength training or other cardiovascular workouts
  • Avoid outdoor elements such as inclement weather and traffic

NordicTrack Commercial 1750 Treadmill Video Review

Stair Climbers for Weight Loss

Stair climbers aren’t often found in home gyms due to their size and price, but if you have the space and budget for one it could be a great way to shake up your cardio weight loss routine. Stair climbers, as their name suggests, are machines that mimic walking up a flight up stairs, except the stairway keeps continuing until you’re done with your workout.

Good For

Stair climbers are good for people who want a low-impact workout routine that’s still effective in improving your overall cardiovascular fitness while strengthening your lower-body muscle groups. Alternatively, if you’re someone who hikes or does a lot of climbing a stair climber can help simulate such situations from the comfort of your own home. They’re also great if you’re looking for a non-traditional workout routine.

Not Recommended For

Stair climbers are not recommended for people with low ceilings and taller people.

woman using clmbr

Muscles Used

A stair climber uses a number of lower-body muscles, like the glutes, calves, hamstrings, quads, and core.

Estimated Calories Burned in 30 Minutes

Here is a basic breakdown of how many calories a 185-pound person can expect to burn in 30 minutes on a stair climber, according to Harvard Health:

ActivityPaceCalories Burned
Stair step machineModerate252

Best Stair Climber for Weight Loss: CLMBR

Best Exercise Bike for Weight Loss

CLMBR

Product Highlights

  • Immersive technology
  • Full-body, low-impact workout
  • Small footprint
  • Bluetooth-enabled

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Immersive technology
  • Low-impact
  • Full-body workout
  • Small footprint
  • Quiet operation
  • Ergonomic, adjustable dumbbells
  • Bluetooth-enabled
  • Caster transport wheels

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Membership required for access to classes

Bottom Line

The CLMBR is an interesting investment for someone looking for an efficient, functional and interactive workout experience that’s high-intensity in nature but low-impact on the joints. That said, its price tag may make you pause.

The CLMBR is an easy choice for the best stair climber for weight loss due to its engaging interactive workouts, 11 resistance settings, and the fact that it can accommodate users up to 7 feet tall.

“Although the foot pedals were comfortable for me, a woman’s size 9, you may feel differently if you have larger feet,” Caroline Lubinsky, a former collegiate and semi-pro women’s soccer player, says in our CLMBR review. “Certified personal trainer and GGR performance editor Anthony O’Reilly is a men’s size 15, and his feet dwarfed the pedals in a comical way.” Still, it earns a 4 out of 5 for adjustability and ergonomics due to its adjustable handles and three grip positions: over, under-hand, and neutral.

RELATED: Best Stair Climber

Benefits

  • Low-impact
  • 11 resistance adjustments
  • Strengthens lower-body muscles

CLMBR Video Review

Rowing Machines for Weight Loss

Rowing machines often don’t get the hype they deserve, but when it comes to gym equipment, they bring quite a few benefits.

Good For

Rowing machines are an excellent option for a total-body, low-impact workout. They’re also great for the busy athlete with a tight schedule. In a short amount of time, you can get your heart rate up and work multiple muscle groups at once.

Not Recommended For

Rowing machines are generally used for all types of people, though those with severe back issues might find the lack of a backrest to be a deal-breaker.

Muscles Used

The best part about a rowing stroke is that it engages multiple muscle groups simultaneously. Every rep activates your lower body, upper body, and core muscles, giving you a full-body workout in one session. If you’re deciding between a rowing workout vs a running workout, you might consider the calorie burn you’ll get with a rower, which is a bit less than on a treadmill.

Estimated Calories Burned in 30 Minutes

Here is a basic breakdown of how many calories a 185-pound person can expect to burn in 30 minutes on a rowing machine, according to Harvard Health:

ActivityPaceCalories Burned
RowingModerate294
RowingVigorous440
Woman using Concept2 RowErg

Best Rowing Machine for Weight Loss: Concept2 RowErg

Best Treadmill for Weight Loss

Concept2 RowErg

GGR Score: 4.4 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Priced around $1,000
  • Uses air resistance generated by the fanned flywheel
  • Advanced PM5 Performance Monitor
  • Low impact full-body workout fitness machine
  • Lightweight and easily portable
  • Can be broken down into two pieces for storage
  • Can also be hung for storage

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Best-selling rowing machine in the world
  • Easy assembly
  • Accommodates users up to 6.6 feet tall and 500-pound weight
  • Ergonomic seat and handlebar
  • Seat is 14”
  • 10-degree angle on handle for natural grip
  • Air-resistance
  • Adjustable airflow
  • Performance Monitor 5 (PM5) monitor
  • Nickel-plated steel chain
  • Adjustable footrests
  • Easy to store
  • Limited 5-year warranty

Cons

  • Priced around $1,000
  • Few built-in workouts

Bottom Line

The Concept 2 Model D Rower is the best rowing machine we've tested and reviewed, including those that are much more expensive like the WaterRower. There's a reason you can find Concept 2 products in nearly every gym in the world, including CrossFit Boxes, and home gyms. After having the Model D for over two years, we are still as satisfied with it as we were on day one.

Rowing for weight loss will look different between individuals, so the best rowing machine choice may vary from person to person, depending on their needs. Our favorite rower here at GGR is the Concept2 RowErg, formerly called the Model D. It offers a powerful workout for seasoned athletes and beginners alike. It uses air resistance and comes with built-in workouts. It’s also the same rowing machine used by Olympic rowers in training.

“The build quality on this rower is tough,” Cooper Mitchell, expert cardio machine tester and Garage Gym Reviews founder, says in our Concept2 RowErg review. “Nothing about it feels cheap.” The only reason we graded it a 4.5 out of 5 for durability is that it uses a chain drive, which may require routine maintenance. Aside from that, it has a 500-pound user weight capacity and never jostles while in use.

If the Concept2 rower doesn’t feel like the right fit for your gym, you might consider machines from other brands. Some are less expensive, some are compact or foldable, and others have interactive capabilities. You might even compare a machine that uses water resistance to those that use air resistance or magnetic resistance. Finding the best rowing machine that checks all of your boxes is only the first step to weight loss. The sweat you put in is what makes the rower a success.

Benefits

  • Total-body workout
  • Low-impact workout
  • Appropriate for athletes of all fitness levels
  • Builds endurance and strength 
  • Efficient

Concept2 RowErg Review

Ellipticals for Weight Loss

The elliptical is a popular addition to many home gyms. The elliptical makes improvements on the common stairmaster and gives you a lower and upper body workout while getting your heart rate up.

Good For

Elliptical machines are another excellent choice for low-impact training, especially for those who struggle with knee and hip pain. Ellipticals bring the body into a gliding pattern instead of the straight up and down motion that running requires. With less force created on the knees and hips, you get the benefits of a solid cardiovascular workout without the added stress to your joints.

Additionally, a low-impact workout, like the ones you can do on the elliptical, can be an impactful way to recover from an injury while gradually rebuilding your stamina and strength.

Not Recommended For

Elliptical machines are great for cardio workouts, but if you’re looking for a machine that can stimulate muscle growth this might not be the best choice.

Estimated Calories Burned in 30 Minutes

Here is a basic breakdown of how many calories a 185-pound person can expect to burn in 30 minutes on an elliptical, according to Harvard Health:

ActivityPaceCalories Burned
EllipticalModerate378

Muscles Used

When used correctly, elliptical machines use multiple muscle groups, including quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, triceps, biceps, core, chest, and back muscles. Talk about a full-body workout!

Best Elliptical for Weight Loss: NordicTrack AirGlide 14i

Best Elliptical for Weight Loss

NordicTrack AirGlide 14i Elliptical

GGR Score: 4.38 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Elliptical machine with incline and decline settings
  • 14” touchscreen display
  • iFIT interactive programming
  • Adjustable stride length
  • Built-in fan and speakers

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Automatic trainer control with iFIT
  • 30-day iFIT trial included
  • Large, cushioned pedals
  • Bluetooth speakers
  • Quiet drive system

Cons

  • Expensive price tag
  • iFIT trial requires your credit card
  • iFIT requires monthly membership fees

Bottom Line

The NordicTrack AirGlide 14i Elliptical offers both incline and decline training, an adjustable stride length, and a 14-inch touchscreen display for iFIT interactive programming. You’ll enjoy the AirGlide if you want to break a sweat with expert instruction and motivation from iFIT trainers and coaches.

We’ve tested some of the best ellipticals on the market and our top pick is the NordicTrack AirGlide 14i. It has a 32-pound flywheel, 22 digital levels of resistance, and an 14-inch HD touchscreen that allows you to stream iFIT programming. With iFIT you can take on-demand, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), and participate in live events.

The AirGlide also features -5% decline training and up to 15% incline training. Having both incline and decline options provides endless opportunity to make your workouts challenging while still being low-impact.

Woman working out on NordicTrack AirGlide

You’ll also like knowing this iFIT-enabled elliptical has automatic trainer control that can adjust the resistance, incline, and decline settings automatically with train-led workouts. The “AutoAdjust” feature from NordicTrack allows you to follow along with iFIT trainers without missing a beat. It’s also useful for the Google Maps feature, where you can drop a pin nearly anywhere in the world and have the incline and decline change based on the location’s terrain.

The Nordictrack AirGlide features can surely enhance your weight loss journey, but if it isn’t the right fit, there are several other excellent options to consider. Some are ideal for HIIT elliptical workouts, some are better for small spaces, and others are more cost-effective. 

Benefits

  • Low-impact
  • Works lower and upper body
  • Can improve your balance
  • Can be helpful for injury rehab

Exercise Bikes for Weight Loss

Indoor cycling classes brought stationary bikes to the forefront of cardiovascular training. Athletes of all fitness levels can incorporate an exercise bike into their home gym and workout routine.

RELATED: Stationary Bike Benefits

Good For 

Stationary bikes are great for people in the market for low-impact workouts that still get their heart rate pumping. Since exercise bikes allow you to adjust your resistance and speed, your training is entirely customizable to your fitness level and desired intensity. So, beginners, professionals, and everyone in between can benefit from a bike workout.

Not Recommended For

The only people who might not like stationary bikes are those who find pedaling in place to be tedious. Yes, you can adjust the incline/decline on some exercise bikes but even that doesn’t fully replicate the feeling of biking with the wind blowing in your face. But again, that’s a personal thing and you might be fine with pedaling in place.

Muscles Used

If you’re wondering what muscles does an elliptical work, the pedaling motion on a stationary bike engages your calves, hamstrings, and quads. It can also work your glutes, core, and back muscles. If you want to sneak in a little upper body work, adjusting your hand position on the handlebars can help engage your shoulders, biceps, and triceps.

Coop using the S22i cycle best home gym equipment

Estimated Calories Burned in 30 Minutes

Here is a basic breakdown of how many calories a 185-pound person can expect to burn in 30 minutes on a stationary bike, according to Harvard Health:

ActivityPaceCalories Burned
CyclingModerate294
CyclingVigorous441

Best Exercise Bike for Weight Loss: NordicTrack S22i

Best Exercise Bike for Weight Loss

NordicTrack S22i Studio Bike

Product Highlights

  • 24 digital resistance levels
  • Incline and decline adjustments
  • Fully rotating touchscreen

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Large 22" smart HD touchscreen
  • Incline and decline ability
  • Compatible with iFIT
  • Adjustable seat
  • Adjustable handles
  • Dual-sided pedals
  • Fan
  • Comes with 2 3-lb dumbbells
  • 24 digital resistance levels

Cons

  • Expensive
  • iFIT membership not necessary, but most beneficial
  • Difficult to assemble
  • Can’t be stored in the garage (brand states doing so will void the bike’s warranty)
  • Hard to move and weighs more than 200 pounds

Bottom Line

This is the bike to get if you want an indoor cycling bike with interactive programming, incline and decline capabilities, and all the extras.

Finding the best exercise bike for your weight loss goals depends on your needs, but if we had to choose one we’d go with the NordicTrack S22i. It has incline/decline adjustment, Automatic Trainer Control so your virtual trainer can adjust your speed and incline/decline while you pedal, iFIT programming, and a large touchscreen you can use to follow virtual workouts.

“It’s a pretty sturdy machine, though the handlebars and screen slightly jostle as you ride,” Kate Meier, GGR head of content and a certified personal trainer, says in our NordicTrack S22i review. Also, if you are in manual mode, the incline/decline changes aren’t quite as smooth as when you are using iFIT.” This puts its durability score at a 4 out of 5. Where it really shines and earns a 5 out of 5 is its customizations, Kate says.

“This is a rare exercise bike in that it offers incline and decline training,” she says.

There are a few different types of stationary bikes to consider, such as air bikes and upright bikes, and each offers its own benefits. For example, the air bike works on wind resistance and an upright bike uses either friction or magnetic resistance.

Cycling bikes are most commonly used for indoor cycling, especially with all of the online training programs available. Of course, Peloton is a quality option for interactive home cycling, but there are Peloton alternatives that also offer streamable on-demand training and live classes. The structured class schedules and sense of community can help you stay motivated and enjoy your workouts.

Benefits

  • Low-impact
  • Adjustable for all fitness levels
  • Avoid outdoor elements such as inclement weather and traffic

How We Chose the Best Cardio Machines for Weight Loss

We have a team of cardio fanatics: Many of our writers and editors have run 5Ks to full marathons, completed triathlons, hiked mountains, and easily hit those 10K steps a day. We took a discerning eye to the machines above, testing them for factors like:

  • Functionality: How well does the machine actually work when in use?
  • Durability: Can these machines withstand a lot of use? Do they have high weight capacities?
  • Programming: Are there built-in programs that target factors like calorie burn?
  • Value: Is the machine worth the price tag?

How to Pick The Best Cardio Machine for Weight Loss

Here are a few helpful pointers to make sure you pick the right machine for your weight loss goals.

  • Budget: Pick a machine you can afford. Also, look for financing options and trial periods.
  • Fitness and Weight Loss Goals: The machine you pick might be based on what you’re trying to accomplish. For example, someone who’s trying to lose weight to run a 10K would be better off with a treadmill than an exercise bike.
  • Size: Pick a machine that fits in your home gym.
  • Features: Do you want pre-programmed workouts? What about adjustability and customization?

Other Cardio Equipment For Weight Loss That We’ve Tested

Still haven’t found what you’re looking for? The Garage Gym Reviews team has tested dozens, if not hundreds of cardio machines for weight loss. Here are just a few of the various roundups we’ve done for treadmills, exercise bikes, ellipticals, and more.

How Many Calories Are Burned in a 30-Minute Workout?

The exact number of calories burned in a 30-minute workout depends on your body weight, your training intensity, and what type of cardio workout you’re doing. Harvard Medical School released a wide-ranging study showing the average caloric burn for people weighing 125, 155, and 185 pounds with exercises done at a moderate intensity.

125-lb person155-lb person185-lb person
Treadmill*240 calories288 calories336 calories
Elliptical270 calories324 calories378 calories
Stair climber180 calories216 calories252 calories
Exercise Bike210 calories252 calories294 calories
Rowing 210 calories252 calories294 calories

* Based on 5-mile-per-hour pace

Best Cardio Workouts for Weight Loss

Let’s say you’ve decided on a machine but you’re unsure what to do with it—we have good news! Garage Gym Reviews has started writing some of the best cardio weight loss routines thanks to our team of certified personal trainers, CrossFit coaches, and competitive endurance athletes.

The Takeaway

If your fitness goals include weight loss, a cardio machine can be a great addition to your gym equipment. Whether you add a treadmill, rowing machine, elliptical, or stationary bike, your training options are endless. A few things to consider when shopping for a piece of equipment to help you reach your goals:

  • Treadmills can be an excellent choice for all fitness levels.
  • Rowing machines incorporate upper and lower body muscles, providing a workout for your entire body. 
  • Rowing machines, ellipticals, and stationary bikes are known for their low-impact mechanisms. 
  • Working with an online personal trainer through a machine‘s streaming platform can be highly motivating and beneficial. 
  • Weight loss involves more lifestyle choices than just your workouts. Well-balanced nutrition, adequate sleep, and physical activity are all part of the weight-loss equation.

Cardio Machines for Weight Loss FAQ

Is 30 minutes of cardio a day enough to lose weight?

If done at a challenging pace and paired with proper nutrition, then yes 30 minutes of cardio a day is enough to put you in a caloric deficit and help achieve weight loss.

Is the elliptical or treadmill better for weight loss?

Data published by Harvard Health shows that 30 minutes on an elliptical burns 324 calories for the average 155-pound human. In comparison, the same person burns 360 calories while running on a treadmill for 30 minutes at a 10-minute mile pace. Since the calorie burn is comparable, choose the one that best meets your fitness needs and motivates you to get moving!

Can an elliptical burn belly fat?

Yes, you can see a reduction in belly fat when consistently using an elliptical machine. However, it is impossible to target fat-burning to a specific body area. Consistent exercise paired with well-balanced nutrition and adequate sleep is the best way to reach fat loss. You can‘t outrun or out-pedal poor nutrition and crummy sleep.

What is the most effective machine for cardio?

This is a tricky question because the answer will be different from person to person. Just like no two bodies are the same, no two fitness journeys are the same. Different people will respond to different equipment and training programs. The most effective cardio machine is the one that keeps you motivated and eager to rise to the challenge.

How much cardio should I do to lose weight?

General guidelines from experts like the Mayo Clinic state that you should get 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week. However, people trying to lose weight may opt to do more.

Losing weight is a “simple” formula of burning more calories than you consume. However, losing weight is anything but simple. To lose 1 pound in a week, you generally need to cut your daily caloric intake by 500 calories through both what you eat and what you burn through exercise.

For context, Harvard Health notes that a 155-pound person running 12 MPH for 30 minutes will burn around 288 calories. That’s more than half of that 500-calorie deficit. Making dietary changes is what typically drives the most significant weight loss.

All that said, doing cardio for 30 to 45 minutes a day, for four to six sessions a week, is a great starting place for moving the needle, as long as you combine it with proper nutrition.

Further reading

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