303-group-talking-in-gymThis is one of THE MOST debated questions among gym goers all around the planet – either you have wondered about this yourself or someone asked you this question, “What is the BEST cardio machine?” It’s a very difficult question to answer because it ultimately depends what is meant by ‘best’.

Whether you want to admit it or not, we all have our favorite, go-to cardio equipment we prefer to use at the gym when it’s ‘cardio time’, but ‘favorite’ doesn’t equal ‘best’ (at least for the sake of this article).

There are so many different things to consider when determining which cardio machine is best, that’s why this question is difficult to answer.  For example:

  • What’s the best cardio machine for burning calories?
  • What’s the best cardio machine for losing weight?
  • What’s the best cardio machine overall?

(To make sure I cover all the bases, I’ll answer each question individually below).

On top of that there are so many different cardio machines in the gym nowadays, but for determining which one is best only the most popular and most common machines will be considered:

  • Treadmill
  • Exercise Bike
  • Elliptical
  • Stair Climber
  • Rowing Machine

Best Cardio Machine for Burning Calories?

NOTE:  The number of calories burned is an estimate and it’s assumed that the same level of intensity is used on each machine.


This one was pretty close for top honors, but the laggard of the group happened to be a machine that’s ‘killer’ to your lower body… and that’s the stair climber.  This machine burns between 400-500 calories per hour which isn’t too bad, but it doesn’t incorporate a lot of your lower body.

The higher-end, more expensive stair climbers that you see at the gym (the ones with the ‘disappearing’ escalator steps) do a better job of working out your lower body, especially your thighs and butt, but burn nearly the same amount of calories per hour as the ‘lower-end’ models.


treadmillFor top honors it was a close call between the treadmill and rowing machine, but when it comes to burning calories, according to this article, a treadmill burns the most calories.  When rowing on a rowing machine you can burn over 1000 calories per hour whereas you can burn between 600-1200 calories per hour while running on a treadmill. I also did not want to be to bias towards rowing machines because I prefer them over treadmills. I do want to strongly point out that it was very close and some people will argue that rowing machines burn more calories.

Close Winner:  Treadmill

Best Cardio Machine for LosingWeight?

Before you assume anything, the answer to this question is not automatically the highest calorie-burning cardio machine (treadmill).


This was tricky because all exercise equipment will help you lose weight when done correctly and with a high enough intensity, but not all cardio equipment was created equal, especially when it comes to losing weight.  On that note, the ‘worst’ cardio machine for losing weight is… the stair climber…!

Before you stair climber lovers out there start a riot, the reason this machine was chosen is because out of the five to choose from, this one is the most difficult to get your heart rate going on.  This is the primary reason it is the worst cardio machine (out of the five above) for burning calories.


Concept2 Model DThe ideal characteristics of a cardio machine that will help you lose weight is one that provides a solid cardiovascular workout, builds muscle and endurance, and works out the entire body (upper and lower).  It may seem like all of these options aren’t available on a single cardio machine, but that’s not the case – there actually is a cardio machine with all of these attributes.  Based on the ideal characteristics mentioned earlier, the best cardio machine for losing weight is a rowing machine.

A rowing machine not only burns as nearly as many calories as a treadmill, but it also works out your entire body. According to Waterrower, a rowing machine exercises 84% of the muscles in your body.  No other cardio machine comes close to that.

Winner:  Rowing Machine

Best Overall Cardio Machine?

Out of the five machines ‘eligible’, there’s only one machine that should be considered best cardio machine and some of its benefits are listed below:

  • Can burn over 1000 calories/ hour
  • Provides a solid cardiovascular workout
  • Builds endurance
  • Builds muscle
  • Provides a total body workout (upper and lower body)
  • Low impact
 Max Calories BurnedTotal Body Workout?Low Impact?
Exercise Bike1000NoYes
Rowing Machine1000+YesYes
Stair Climber500NoNo

No other cardio machine can provide all the same benefits and that’s why the rowing machine is the best cardio machine – bar none. Check out my review of the Best Rowing Machine for 2015 by visiting here.

Overall Winner:  Rowing Machine

Although I believe a rowing machine is the best cardio machine, at the end of the day, the best cardio machine [for you] is the one that you will use to help you hit your fitness goals.

Check out all of the best selling rowing machines or read all Rowing Machine King Reviews here!


Tagged with:

Filed under: Articles