303-group-talking-in-gym“What is the BEST cardio machine!?”

That’s what the guy in the photo is asking the other people.

Just kidding, it’s actually just some crappy stock photo I found.

But seriously, if we had a discussion, what would you consider the best cardio machine?

It’s a very difficult question to answer because it ultimately depends what is meant by the term “Best”.

Whether we want to admit it or not, we all have our favorite, go-to cardio equipment at the gym.

BUT ‘favorite’ does not always equal ‘best’.

There are so many different things to consider when trying to determining which cardio machine is best. You could literally ask yourself 100 questions.

For example:

  • What is the best cardio machine for burning calories?
  • What is the best cardio machine for losing weight?
  • What is 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 like:

  • Treadmills
  • Exercise Bikes
  • Ellipticals
  • Stair Climbers
  • Rowing Machines

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.


Some people may not have guessed it but this machine came in dead last- 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 upper body.

When you are only using half of your body to workout it is difficult to burn the maximum amount of calories. A stair climber is a great lower body workout and is  especially good at working out your thighs and butt!


For top honors it was a close call between the treadmill and rowing machine!

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.

Best Cardio Machine


Truthfully, I just didn’t want to be bias towards rowing machines. Burning calories is a tough thing to calculate and there are many inputs into the formula.

While a treadmill may burn the most calories in use, a rowing machine may burn more calories overall. This is due to its ability to build muscle and increase metabolic rates for hours after using.

I do want to strongly point out that it was very close and there is an arguement for each machine

Tie:  Treadmill and Rowing Machine

Best Cardio Machine for Losing Weight?

Before you assume anything, the answer to this question is not just the highest calorie-burning cardio machine.

Like previously mentioned, other factors can contribute to losing weight such as lean muscle mass and metabolic rates.


This was tricky because all exercise equipment will help you lose weight when done correctly and with a high enough intensity.

But unfortunately, the ‘worst’ cardio machine for losing weight is… the stair climber…!

Before you stair climber lovers start a riot, there are a lot of variables that can cause these results. Stair climbers are great for toning the legs and getting a nice butt but do not work out the upper body.

Due to the fact that they target the smallest amount of muscle groups they are not the best full body workout, which is what is ideal for losing weight.


The 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 true. There happens to be one 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. :)Best Cardio Machine

A rowing machine burns about the same amount of calories as a treadmill but also adds muscle and increases metabolic rates. Both of which help you lose weight throughout the day.

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 can be considered best cardio machine overall.

The benefits of this machine are:

  • 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

Only one cardio machine stands out in each category- the rowing machine!

It 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 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