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Tid Bits of Info

  • Putting a 2% grade on a treadmill is equivalent to walking on flat surfaces.
  • Don’t exercise above maximum heart rate and maximum heart rate is roughly 220 – your age.
  • Ideally you should perform cardio exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes per day 4-5 days per week.
  • For weight reduction and “fat burning” you have to exercise for > 30 minutes per session at 60 -70% max heart rate for 4-5 sessions per week
  • Seek the advice and treatment of a Physical Therapist if you have pain prior to beginning to use cardiovascular exercise equipment.

What is the best piece of cardio equipment for your needs? If you move your workout indoors due to short daylight hours, low or high temperatures, and inclement weather, you want effective support. How you we know what cardio equipment can deliver the best results? Whether you are looking to purchase equipment or simply trying to choose equipment, here is help. This quick overview of pros and cons for Treadmills, Elliptical Machines, Stationary Bikes, and Stair Climbers can help you decide.

Cardio Equipment Pros and Cons

Pros.  The treadmill can be used to run or walk on when you cannot go outdoors. The impact force that occurs during running or walking can help to prevent the onset of osteoporosis (weakening of the bones) and help to strengthen the lower extremity musculature.  The bone health of an individual is dependent upon the impact forces of gravity to remain strong and solid. Treadmills are usually very easy to learn how to use.

Cons:  Treadmills can be expensive and in need of costly repairs due to the amount of impact force that occurs when they are used.  The impact force that occurs when someone runs can be as great as 5-7x their body weight.  The impact force can cause injuries to the lumbar spine and lower extremities.

Elliptical Machine
Pros:  This machine offers a great way to get a cardiovascular workout without any impact force.   The feet remain on the foot plates and the motion is a gliding motion of the hips and knees. When the feet do not leave the foot plate there is no landing force to deal with during the exercise.  Some machines incorporate the upper extremities and lower extremities moving at the same time.  This can increase the difficulty of the workout and increase the effectiveness towards a sound cardiovascular workout.

Con: The gliding motion puts a lot stress on the hip and buttock muscles.  This can lead to an overuse problem in the form of tendinitis or bursitis if the patient has pain and does not seek help or begin to treat it.  Secondly, the simultaneous motions of the arms and legs are difficult for some people to master.  When they do not feel comfortable with motions the tend to shy away from the machine.

Stationary Bike
Pros:  The stationary bike offers a safe and comfortable way to exercise. There is no excuse not to exercise if you own a stationary bike because it can be put anywhere in your house.  The bike is great for someone who has a lower extremity condition that requires them to exercise without impact.  The relative non-weight bearing environment of the stationary bike is perfect for most people who are suffering from arthritic changes in their lower extremity joints.  A recumbent stationary bike offers a back support for someone who has back pain when their back is unsupported.  For those who have no back pain, a standard stationary bike helps to develop core strength and endurance.


Cons: The stationary bike might place too much pressure on the front of the knee joint.  The kneecap travels up and down through a trough or groove in the end of the leg bone as the knee is moved from a flexed to an extended position.  If the kneecap moves abnormally it may cause pain.  The compression of the kneecap in the groove will increase as the knee is flexed.  The bike does not burn as many calories as some of the other machines.  When the center of gravity does not change position, the amount of “work” performed is less.  The more “work” performed equals an increased amount of calories burned. The bike provides very little to the bone health.  Bones need impact forces to stay strong and healthy.  For someone that is suffering from Osteopenia (bone density is less than normal) or Osteoporosis (bone density is very low leading to brittle bones) the bike is not the best choice of cardio equipment for them to use.

Stair Climbers
Pros:  These machines can provide enough resistance to help build muscle mass in the lower extremities.  The act of “walking or climbing” stairs requires a lot of energy and “work”.  The machine can produce a great cardio work out and help with the reduction of body weight due to the amount of energy needed to perform the exercise.

Cons:  There is an increased amount of compression force that occurs when the knee joint is moved from a flexed to an extended position when the person is weight bearing.  The movement of the knee on a stair climber can cause anterior knee pain and lead to damage of the cartilage on the back side of the kneecap or the groove that it slides through when the knee moves.

All cardio equipment has multitudes of benefits if used properly but not all equipment might be good for you.  One of the best healthcare professionals to help you is a Physical Therapist.  Seek the advice of a Physical Therapist and you don’t have to visit you doctor first.  They are able to evaluate and treat your injuries and will help you decide which piece of equipment is best for you based on your condition.

All cardio equipment offers a great way to “stay in shape”. There is no excuse not utilizing this equipment but you need to use the proper machine or you can risk injuring yourself.

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