If you are looking to burn more fat, then certain machines may be more effective. One reference compared men and women exercising on six different types of cardio machines: the treadmill, stair-climber, bike, rower, ski machine, and rider. When all the subjects were working at the same intensity, the men burned the most calories while on the treadmill or ski machine. The women burned the most calories while on the treadmill, ski machine and rower.
Does that mean that the bike is worse than the treadmill? No. It means that if you have 15 minutes and you want to work at an effort level that feels somewhat hard, you will burn more calories on the treadmill. That’s because you are carrying your own body weight by standing up and moving yourself. The bike supports some of your body weight and so saves you some energy, and results in fewer calories burned. But, you can burn the same amount of calories on the bike. You just have to work harder (pedal faster or add resistance) or extend your workout by another 5 or 10 minutes.
The elliptical trainer has several movement options: You can pedal forward or backward and add more resistance, greater speed or an increased hill-like slope. Exercise physiologist Len Kravitz, a professor at the University of New Mexico, measured physiological responses on the elliptical trainer. He found that men and women who took strides on the machine at a specific speed (125 or 135 strides per minute) burned the most calories when they were moving forward with added resistance, or moving forward at an increased speed (135 strides per minute compared to 125 strides per minute.) Using an elliptical while moving forward with resistance or speed would provide a similar intensity as running on a treadmill or using the ski machine.
So, if your aim for a workout is to reduce fat all over your body, focusing on a cardio workout below 50% of your maximal heart rate is key. If you’re pressed for time, you will burn more calories in the same amount of minutes by using one of the tougher cardio machines: the treadmill, ski machine or elliptical trainer.
A physical therapist can help you develop an exercise program. If you have any questions, give us a call at 516-829-0030.