Get your heart pumping

Susan Hill


“Running or walking on a treadmill is a great weight-bearing activity, strengthening muscles and bones,” says Jessica Matthews, exercise physiologist at the American Council on Exercise.

Pros A 2001 study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that running on a treadmill burns calories at a higher rate than the stair climber, rowing machine or exercise bike.

Cons “The treadmill can place a lot of stress on your joints and muscles,” says Mary George, private trainer at The Sports Club/LA.

Rating 8

Stair climber

“When done properly, stair climbers can provide a challenging and effective cardio workout while also strengthening the muscles of the lower body,” says Matthews.

Pros “The constantly revolving stairs provide a high-intensity cardio workout,” says George. “Balance plays a big factor, too, so you also get some extra core work.”

Cons “Avoid the temptation to lean heavily on the sidebars, which will decrease the workout’s effectiveness,” Matthews says. “If you have knee or leg injuries, you may need to choose a lower-impact option.”

Rating 8

Elliptical trainer

A lower-impact option than the treadmill, the elliptical can provide a gentler cardio workout, great for exercisers with knee or leg injuries.

Pros “The elliptical puts very low stress on your knees, hips and back,” George says. “Look for one with moving arms to get even more out of your workout.”

Cons “It is challenging to raise your heart rate as high as you can on a treadmill,” George says.

Rating 6

Stationary bike

“Whether it’s recumbent or upright, stationary bikes place less stress on the joints, and are relatively comfortable once you’ve become accustomed to the saddle,” Matthews says.

Pros “You can simulate an outdoor bike ride,” George says. “Try the Expresso Bike for a preset workout that will not only make you sweaty, but also keep you entertained with its scenic, virtual cardio workout.”

Cons “The wrong adjustment on the seat can put pressure on your joints,” George says. “Consult with a fitness professional to help you get the proper alignment.”

Rating 8