Cardio exercise is the way to go if you want to burn calories, get your heart pumping, and break a sweat. But it can feel monotonous, so finding the best cardio machine for your home gym that keeps you engaged and coming back for more is essential. Fortunately, you can choose cardio exercise equipment that lets you run, walk, bike, or stride, depending on your fitness level, injury history, and goals.
Even though lifting weights is my favorite way to train, I enjoy the sense of accomplishment I get from finishing a long endurance workout. I’ve used various cardio exercise machines in both commercial and home gym settings, so I know which ones deliver the most effective workouts. In this roundup review, I’ll share my top recommendations for cardio machines so you can find the right one for your needs.
Our Top Picks for the Best Cardio Machines
Best Overall Cardio Machine: Concept2 SkiErg
- Overall dimensions: 50” L x 23.5” W x 85” H on the floor stand; 16” L x 19.5” to 20” W x 85” H when mounted to a wall
- Weight: 46 pounds (81 pounds with the floor stand)
- Weight capacity: N/A
- Display: LCD monitor
- Comes with a smartphone cradle
- Handle hooks allow you to place the handles lower if needed
- Can leave it freestanding or mount it to a wall
- Battery powered
- Sweat-proof covering on the handles
- Floor stand is sold separately
The Concept2 SkiErg may not be the first machine you think of when you imagine a cardio machine. You may not have seen or heard of it unless you’re a CrossFitter or a cross-country skier, but this machine will really get your heart rate up. It provides a full-body workout since it works the upper and lower body muscles, including the triceps, lats, abdominals, lower back, quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves, and hip flexors. I used the SkiErg a lot when I used to belong to a CrossFit box, and I hated and loved it at the same time for this reason.
In the SkiErg, you’ll also find the durability and construction quality that Concept2 is known for. It has a sturdy aluminum frame and a powder coat finish for corrosion resistance. The PM5 monitor tracks stats such as calories burned, distance, and speed, and it saves your workout data so you can monitor your progress over time.
Those with limited space will appreciate the compact footprint and the various placement options the SkiErg offers. You can leave it freestanding on a floor stand (sold separately) or mount it to a wall for enhanced stability. On the floor stand, the SkiErg is 50 inches long, 23.5 inches wide, and 85 inches high. When mounted to a wall, it’s just 16 inches deep and about 20 inches wide. It only requires two D-cell batteries, so you don’t have to place it near an outlet.
I also love that the SkiErg is accessible for wheelchair users or anyone who can’t stand for long periods. It comes with handle hooks that attach lower on the machine, allowing you to reach the handles from a seated position.
Best Cardio Machine for Weight Loss: Rogue Echo Bike
- Can also use it to train your upper body only
- Not a lot of maintenance required
- Battery-powered and Bluetooth-enabled monitor
The Rogue Echo Bike is another machine I loved to hate at my old CrossFit box. Whenever the coaches programmed a workout with it, I knew it would hurt. Even if you’re not a CrossFitter, it’s a good cardio machine to have in your home gym. It can burn a lot of calories in a short time, and it works nearly your entire body, making it a solid choice for those trying to lose weight.
You’ll often find people using the Echo Bike for high-intensity interval training (HIIT), but you can also use it for warm-ups and cooldowns for resistance training workouts. The foot pedals consist of metal, and there are also knurled pegs for your feet if you want to use the handlebars only for upper-body training. The 1.5-inch diameter handles have a rubber coating, so your hands won’t slip if they get sweaty.
The Echo Bike is a beefy machine with a heavy-duty steel frame and a black powder coat finish. Aside from offering protection against corrosion, the powder coat gives the machine a sleek appearance. The bike uses a belt-drive system, which makes it quieter than other air bikes that use a chain-drive system. You’ll be less likely to disturb the people you live with during your workout.
The LCD monitor is fairly basic, but it’s easy to read, and you can track stats like time, distance, and calories burned. You’ll need four AA batteries, but you don’t have to worry about plugging the bike into an outlet. The monitor is also Bluetooth-enabled, allowing you to create workouts in a cycling app and sync them to the machine.
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Best Low-Impact Cardio Machine: Assault Fitness AssaultBike Pro X
- Automatically increases resistance as you increase speed
- Wide padded seat for comfort
- Powder-coated for corrosion resistance
- Bluetooth-enabled monitor
- Very little rocking
For low-impact, total-body training, the Assault Fitness AssaultBike Pro X is a solid choice. It works multiple muscle groups, including the quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves, triceps, shoulders, biceps, and back muscles, and delivers heart-pumping workouts, all while remaining joint-friendly.
Unlike its predecessors, the AssaultBike Classic and AssaultBike Elite, the Pro X uses a belt-drive system. The belt drive requires less maintenance and offers a quieter ride than chain-belt systems. These are significant benefits for users who want a low-maintenance machine or athletes who live with other people and train at home.
The high-contrast LCD monitor displays your workout stats clearly, and because it offers Bluetooth capabilities, you can sync it to the Assault Fitness app. The app allows you to track workouts, access specialized programs, and compete with other app users. It can be a useful tool if you train at home by yourself but like a little friendly competition to push yourself more in your workouts.
The AssaultBike Pro X is just under $900, which is high for fan bikes but cheaper than many other cardio machines. And it comes with a seven-year frame warranty and a three-year non-parts warranty, so you know you can trust its construction quality.
Best Treadmill: NordicTrack Commercial 1750
NordicTrack Commercial 1750 Treadmill
- Dimensions: 80” L x 38” W x 65” H
- 14-inch rotating HD touchscreen
- -3 percent decline and 15 percent incline
- 10-year frame warranty, two-year parts warranty, and one-year labor warranty
- Includes a 30-day trial to iFIT
- Includes a 30-day free trial to iFIT
- Has a cooling fan to keep you comfortable during your workouts
- AutoAdjust technology will automatically change the intensity during classes
- Powerful 3.5 CHP motor
- Can’t be stored in a garage
- Needs to be placed near an outlet
Though the NordicTrack Commercial 1750 isn’t a budget-friendly piece of cardio equipment, it’s one of our favorite treadmills due to its interactive programming, incline and decline options, and stability.
Because the 1750 goes up to a 15 percent incline and down to a -3 percent decline, it simulates the feeling of road running more than most treadmills. It goes up to speeds of 12 miles per hour, and whether you’re sprinting or walking, it won’t shake or wobble.
The treadmill comes with a 30-day free trial to iFIT, through which you can find numerous running and walking workouts. iFIT also offers yoga, strength training, and HIIT programs, so you’ll likely never get bored with your training. The programs cater to everyone from beginners to advanced exercisers.
At 80 inches long and nearly 40 inches wide, the 1750 takes up a lot of space. It may not be the best option for those who need a compact piece of equipment. However, it folds for storage if you don’t want to leave it out when you’re not using it. Additionally, if the only space you have available for a treadmill is your garage, you’ll want to look at other options. The warranty becomes void if you don’t keep the NordicTrack 1750 in a temperature-controlled room.
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Best Exercise Bike: Diamondback 1260sc
- Magnetic resistance provides a smooth and quiet ride
- Can choose between standard or SPD clipless pedals
- No outlet required
- Rear-wheel drive prevents sweat from dripping down the wheel and causing corrosion
- Has wheels and a handle for portability
- Expensive for a stationary bike with limited technology
- Not suitable for taller or heavier individuals
If you’re looking for a spin bike to perform low-impact workouts at home, the Diamondback 1260sc Rear Wheel Studio Cycle is worth considering. This commercial-quality bike boasts a heavy-duty steel frame, an industrial powder coating, and reinforced pedals and cranks, so this quality machine should last years in a home gym setting.
It offers 16 resistance levels, which you can adjust with a lever mechanism. The four-way adjustable ergonomic seat and handlebars allow you to fit your bike to your body proportions.
Despite weighing 130 pounds, the bike is easy to move around due to the handle on the back and the transport wheels on the front. And since you don’t need to plug it into an outlet, you can ride it indoors or outdoors.
With an original price of around $1,500, we would have liked to see built-in programming or more of a high-tech monitor, which many bikes in this price range offer. The monitor tracks metrics such as watts, distance, and calories but doesn’t offer built-in classes. There is a device holder, though, so you can stream classes from an app on a phone or tablet.
Best Elliptical: Sole E25
Sole E25 Elliptical
- Dimensions: 70” L x 24” W x 70” H
- 350-pound weight capacity
- Lifetime warranty on the frame and brake
- 20 levels of resistance and 20 inclines
- 350-pound weight capacity
- Built-in cooling fan
- Extra wide pedals for comfort
- 20 incline and resistance levels
- Backlit monitor with easy-to-read workout stats
- Has a large footprint
- May wobble a bit during use
- Assembly can be difficult
An elliptical machine like the Sole E25 is a fantastic choice for burning calories at home because it works both the upper and lower body, is low-impact, and isn’t as loud as rowers or treadmills can be.
Sole worked with a physical therapist to develop the pedals, which slope in by two degrees to help reduce ankle and knee stress. The machine offers 20 incline and resistance levels, and control buttons on the monitor and handlebars allow for easy adjustments.
The 7.5-inch LCD monitor only displays workout stats, such as calories burned, pace, and pulse. There are some pre-programmed options, including HIIT, fat-burning, and hill modes, and a device holder on the console lets you watch entertainment or stream classes from your phone or tablet.
This elliptical weighs 209 pounds, but it has a handle and wheels to make it easier to move around if needed. And because it uses magnetic resistance, it won’t make too much noise, allowing you to complete your workout without disturbing your family members or roommates.
Best Rowing Machine: Concept2 RowErg
- Frame is made of heavy-duty aluminum
- Ergonomic handlebar and seat
- PM5 monitor comes with Bluetooth capabilities
- Accomodates users up to 6’6 and 500 pounds
- Comes with a limited five-year warranty
- Breaks down into two pieces for easy storage
- Bluetooth-enabled monitor
- Assembly takes less than 30 minutes
- Smooth, fluid chain
- The seat glides effortlessly over the monorail
- Not a lot of built-in workouts
There’s a reason the Concept2 RowErg frequently tops lists of the best rowing machines. It’s durable and offers superb performance. Plus, for a rower of its caliber, its price is reasonable at just under $1,000.
I was introduced to Concept2 rowers when I started CrossFit in 2015, and I have one in my garage gym now. It has a hefty aluminum frame that can withstand heavy use and even some minor abuse — I’ve accidentally rolled a loaded barbell into it and banged it against my squat rack, but there are no signs of damage.
The RowErg isn’t like a Peloton rower that offers dozens of classes on its monitor. Instead, the PM5 monitor simply displays data like meters, time, calories, and watts and has a handful of pre-programmed workouts. But it is Bluetooth-enabled, and you can create custom workouts in the ErgData app and sync them to the machine. I use the app at least once a week to keep track of interval workouts I do on the rower.
The RowErg is long and takes up a lot of space when fully assembled, but the rail detaches from the flywheel piece for easier storage. I find it easy to break down, though I often struggle to reassemble it due to the distribution of the weight on the flywheel piece. Still, it only takes a few seconds, and being able to break it down comes in handy for me often since my garage is a bit cramped.
Best Treadmill Under $1,000: Horizon 7.0 AT
- Lifetime frame and motor warranty
- Hydraulic folding capability for easy storage
- Can support users up to 325 pounds
- Long 60-inch running area
- Dials on the right and left handlebars for fast incline and speed adjustments
- Can be noisy
- Belt isn’t as cushioned as other treadmills
The Horizon 7.0 AT is a solid treadmill for those who want a no-frills, reasonably-priced treadmill. It costs just under $1,000, and while you won’t find the high-tech features you’d get in more expensive treadmills, it’s still worth considering due to its sturdy build.
It doesn’t have a touchscreen monitor from which you can stream classes, but it does come with a device holder, enabling you to take classes from the app of your choice via a tablet or phone. You can sign up for a Peloton or Zwift membership, for example, to get access to running and walking workouts, though it will cost you between $13 and $15 per month. The treadmill’s Bluetooth capabilities make it easy for your workout data to sync to whichever app you use.
Unlike some treadmills that force you to push buttons to change the incline and speed, the Horizon 7.0 AT has dials on the handlebars. You simply swipe your hand forward or back to change the incline and speed (the incline dial is on the left, and the speed dial is on the right), so you don’t have to break your concentration during fast running intervals.
The Horizon 7.0 AT has a maximum weight capacity of 325 pounds, more than the 250 to 300 pounds other treadmills offer. The 60-inch long belt is also beneficial for tall runners who have a long stride. However, at just 1.6 millimeters thick, the belt doesn’t offer much cushioning. Those who suffer from joint pain may want to look at treadmills with at least an eight-millimeter-thick belt.
Best Elliptical Under $1,000: Sole E20
- Overall dimensions: 72” L x 24” W; 60” H
- Weight: 325 pounds
- Weight capacity: 300 pounds
- Display: 5.5-inch LED
- Comes with a lifetime frame warranty
- 20 resistance levels
- Magnetic resistance is less noisy
- Oversized foot pedals with an inward slope to reduce pressure on the joints
- Only has three incline levels
- Not easy to move
Buyers who need a simple, basic elliptical to keep up with their cardio at home will appreciate the Sole E20. Priced at under $600 as of this writing, it’s a decent machine for low-impact at-home workouts.
It offers 20 resistance levels, and because the resistance is magnetic, this elliptical is quieter than several others. However, there are only three incline options, and you can’t adjust them while using the machine — you have to step off and change the setting manually.
Like other ellipticals in Sole’s lineup, the E20 features oversized foot pedals, giving you plenty of space to naturally move your feet as you stride. The pedals slope inward by two degrees to help keep your knees and ankles comfortable during your workout.
As expected for an elliptical in this price range, the Sole E20 doesn’t have many advanced tech features. The small, 5.5-inch LED monitor only offers a handful of pre-programmed workouts. However, the elliptical is Bluetooth-enabled and has a device holder, so you can follow along with workouts on a tablet or smartphone.
The Sole E20 weighs about 175 pounds and is around six feet long and two feet wide, so it’s hefty and not easy to move around. There are transport wheels at the front, but there is no handle on the back that would make wheeling it around easier.
Best Value Cardio Machine: ProForm City L6
ProForm City L6
- Overall dimensions: 70.25” L x 29” W x 44.5” H
- Weight: 125 pounds
- Weight capacity: 250 pounds
- Display: LED display for workout stats
- Folds away for storage
- ProShox™ Cushioning to reduce stress on the joints
- Ideal for small spaces
- 1.6 CHP motor may not be powerful enough for serious runners
- No incline options
If you have a very tight budget, you can still get in shape at home with the affordable ProForm City L6. As of this writing, it clocks in at just under $600.
The ProForm City L6 uses ProShox™ Cushioning with patented shock absorbers to reduce impact on your joints. Whether you use the treadmill for jogging or brisk walks, you should experience fewer aches and pains in your knees, hips, and ankles.
This treadmill only goes up to a speed of eight miles per hour, which is equivalent to a 7:30-mile pace. For beginners or casual runners, this may be fast enough. But for advanced runners or those who enjoy sprints, the ProForm City L6 may not reach high enough speeds for an effective workout.
The running surface is also on the short side, at about 45 inches long, compared to other treadmill decks that are at least 55 inches long. The benefit of the machine being shorter, though, is that it fits into small spaces better. The frame also folds down, and there are wheels on the front for easy maneuvering.
With the ProForm City L6, you get a 30-day free trial to iFIT. An iFIT membership grants you access to thousands of workout programs. Scenic runs, studio classes, interval training programs, and cross-training workouts are also available through iFIT. However, the treadmill doesn’t come with a monitor, so you’ll need to play the classes on a smartphone or tablet.
How We Chose the Best Cardio Machines
We used a combination of personal experience and extensive research to determine the best cardio machines. To ensure there were options for various budgets and fitness goals, as well as products that are suitable for those with joint issues, we included machines you can use for running, rowing, indoor cycling, or striding.
As fitness experts who train in both commercial and home gyms, we also know which brands produce the highest-quality equipment. We only included cardio machines from the companies we know we can trust.
Why Should You Buy a Cardio Machine?
Adding a cardio machine to your home gym is a great way to keep up with your fitness when you can’t make it to the gym or the weather is bad. You can get your cardio workout done at any time, and you don’t have to wait for anyone else to finish using the machine you want to use. Cardio machines offer a lot of versatility since you can use them for HIIT workouts or steady-state cardio and change inclines or resistance levels to make your workouts more or less challenging.
Additionally, you can buy a cardio machine that will allow you to work around pre-existing injuries. If you have bad knees and running outside isn’t an option, for example, a low-impact cardio machine like the elliptical will allow you to continue exercising without putting extra stress on your joints. In fact, low-impact cardio exercise may help loosen stiff and achy joints. (1)
Aside from the convenience and flexibility owning a cardio machine can provide, cardio exercise has several health benefits. It can help you manage your body weight, improve your mood, and sleep better at night. (2)(3)(4) Research shows that cardio exercise may even help lower blood pressure and boost your immune system. (5)(6)
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Cardio Machine
Any cardio machine can potentially help with goals such as weight loss or strengthening your heart. But if you have specific goals, like running a 5k, you’ll want to buy a machine that will support that type of training.
It’s important to consider your preferences when choosing a cardio machine. Buying the best treadmill on the market won’t do you much good if you hate running. Pick a machine that you know you’ll enjoy using so you can get your money’s worth out of it.
Most cardio machines are large and bulky, so measuring your space before you buy one is a must. The Concept2 SkiErg can be a fantastic choice for those with limited space due to its small footprint of 50 inches by 23 inches when it’s on the floor stand. Similarly, an easily storable option like the ProForm City L6 Foldable Treadmill is a good option for anyone who doesn’t want to leave their cardio machines out all the time.
Cardio machines range in price from less than $600 to over $2,000. Evaluate the price of the machine you want and the features it comes with to ensure you’re getting good value. If your desired machine includes programming you have to subscribe to, you’ll need to factor in that price, too. A subscription to a service like iFIT can cost close to $40 monthly.
Companies like Horizon and NordicTrack also offer financing options, which may make buying an expensive machine more feasible.
Cardio machines are equipped with varying types of technology. The NordicTrack Commercial 1750 Treadmill, for example, boasts a touchscreen monitor through which you can stream various workouts via the iFIT app. On the other hand, the Concept2 Rower and SkiErg have simpler monitors that only track workout metrics like pace, calories burned, and distance (though they do also offer a few pre-programmed workouts and the ability to perform custom workouts).
Machines that offer classes are ideal for those who like being told what to do, while machines with more basic technology may be better for those who like to program their own workouts.
If you’re fortunate enough to not have pre-existing injuries, you have more flexibility in cardio machines. But if you struggle with knee, hip, or ankle pain, you may want to look at low-impact options like a rower, an exercise bike, or an elliptical.
Hopping on a piece of cardio gym equipment is an excellent way to alleviate stress, burn calories, boost your mood, and reduce joint pain. To experience these cardio benefits at home, you can choose from treadmills, rowing machines, stationary bikes, elliptical machines — even cross-country skiing machines. Regardless of which activity you enjoy most or whether you have injuries to work around, there’s a cardio machine out there for you.
Be sure to consider your budget, space, and whether or not you want high-tech features. Some cardio machines come equipped with touchscreen monitors through which you can stream classes, but they cost more than the ones with LCD screens. Cardio gym equipment tends to be large and bulky, though you can find machines that fold up or break down for easier storage. Ultimately, the best cardio machine for you will depend on several factors, so use this roundup as your guide to help simplify your shopping experience.
The best cardio machine for fitness is the one you’ll use most often. Whether you use a treadmill, stationary bike, rower, or elliptical, you should see improvements in your cardiovascular fitness if you use it consistently.
The most important aspect of losing belly fat is diet. You can spend hours on cardio machines and not lose weight if you’re not eating in a calorie deficit. That said, the rower can be a great cardio machine for burning extra calories because it provides a total-body workout.
Any exercise is good for cardio if it gets your heart rate up. Many people automatically turn to running, but rowing, cycling, and the elliptical machine are also great cardio exercises that can burn lots of calories. They’re also low-impact, so they’ll allow you to improve your cardiovascular system without placing stress on your joints.
- Cooney, J. K., Law, R. J., Matschke, V., Lemmey, A. B., Moore, J. P., Ahmad, Y., Jones, J. G., Maddison, P., & Thom, J. M. (2011). Benefits of exercise in rheumatoid arthritis. Journal of aging research, 2011, 681640. https://doi.org/10.4061/2011/681640
- Donnelly, J. E., Honas, J. J., Smith, B., Mayo, M. S., Gibson, C., Sullivan, D. K., Lee, J., Herrmann, S. D., Lambourne, K., & Washburn, R. (2013). Aerobic exercise alone results in clinically significant weight loss for men and women: Midwest exercise trial 2. Obesity, 21(3), E219–E228. https://doi.org/10.1002/oby.20145
- Dimeo F, Bauer M, Varahram I, et alBenefits from aerobic exercise in patients with major depression: a pilot study. British Journal of Sports Medicine 2001;35:114-117.
- Kline C. E. (2014). The bidirectional relationship between exercise and sleep: Implications for exercise adherence and sleep improvement. American journal of lifestyle medicine, 8(6), 375–379. https://doi.org/10.1177/1559827614544437
- Carpio-Rivera, E., Moncada-Jiménez, J., Salazar-Rojas, W., & Solera-Herrera, A. (2016). Acute Effects of Exercise on Blood Pressure: A Meta-Analytic Investigation. Arquivos brasileiros de cardiologia, 106(5), 422–433. https://doi.org/10.5935/abc.20160064
- Simpson, R. J., Campbell, J. P., Gleeson, M., Krüger, K., Nieman, D. C., Pyne, D. B., Turner, J. E., & Walsh, N. P. (2020). Can exercise affect immune function to increase susceptibility to infection?. Exercise immunology review, 26, 8–22.
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