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Either you're one of those people who happily wakes up early for the Thanksgiving Turkey Trot or you have to literally drag yourself out of bed to do cardio. Fear not! Regardless of which side you're on, these 14 best cardio machines will make you actually want to work out. No, seriously! Whether you're looking for a budget-friendly pick or want a luxury exercise machine with interactive programming, the Active Reviews Team has you covered.
Rowing is one of the best cardio workouts you can do. Pick up a new HYDROW for $500 off.
Our team looks at things like warranty, size, technology, built-in programs and ergonomics to decide our favorite cardio machines. We’re committed to helping you make a great purchasing decision that suits your needs, regardless of your fitness level, budget, or space.
Best Cardio Machines - Our Top Picks
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- Best Exercise Bike Under $1,000: Echelon EX5 Connect
- Best Treadmill for Runners: Sole F63
- Best Treadmill Under $1,000: Horizon T202
- Best Rowing Machine Under $1,000: Concept 2 Model D Rower
- Best Elliptical Under $1,000: Horizon 7.0 AE
- Best Treadmill Desk: Lifespan Treadmill Desk
- Best Budget Rowing Machine With iFit: ProForm 750R Rower
- Best Exercise Bike Under $500: Fitnation Flex Bike Ultra
- Best for Low-Impact Cardio: Sole E25
- Best Compact Treadmill: Echelon Stride
- Best Luxury Rowing Machine: Hydrow Rower
- Best Under Desk Bike: Lifespan Solo Under Desk Bike
- Best Folding Elliptical: NordicTrack SpaceSaver SE7i
- Best Luxury Stationary Bike: The MYX II Plus
Best Exercise Bike Under $1,000 - Echelon EX5 Connect
Exercise bikes have surged in popularity in the past few years, partially due to the craze surrounding the Peloton Bike. However, not everyone wants to shell out thousands of dollars for a piece of cardio equipment. The Echelon EX5 Connect bike is a great budget alternative under $1,000 that still gives the user a great experience.
Although there isn't a huge attached monitor to view interactive programming, Echelon does offer a subscription-based app similar to Peloton. The EX5 Connect also has a device holder near the handlebars so you can watch whatever your heart desires while working out. Our team especially liked the 32 levels of magnetic resistance that were simple to manually adjust.
- Key Feature: Connectivity to interactive programming
- Technology: Convenient device holder for user to stream interactive programming
- Best Used For: Endurance cycling
Best Treadmill for Runners - Sole F63
If you’re looking for a solid treadmill that's ideal for running, look no further than the Sole F63. This treadmill is an ideal choice for cardio enthusiasts because it has a 3.0 CHP motor, which is strong enough to support someone running or even doing sprint intervals. With a two-ply belt and a 325-pound weight capacity, the Sole F63 outperforms similarly priced treadmills in its class.
The 15% incline and 12 levels of speed are pretty standard, though there is no decline training option. This treadmill has quite a bit going for it, but it's important to note that there's no monitor with which to view interactive programming. The small LCD screen only shows the basics like time, incline and speed.
- Key Feature: Has the ability to fold for easy storage
- Technology: Bluetooth audio speakers
- Best Used For: Running
Best Treadmill Under $1,000 - Horizon T202
For under $1,000, the Horizon T202 treadmill is a budget option that doesn’t sacrifice quality. Sure, it's no-frills in terms of the technology it offers, but the relatively strong motor and its ability to fold make it a great choice for a lot of people. The warranty for the price is superb––both the motor and frame are covered for life.
Our team would recommend this treadmill for people who enjoy jogging because the running surface is 60 inches and is ideal for a natural stride. Plus, the deck itself is well cushioned to provide the user with added comfort.
- Key Feature: 2.75 horsepower motor
- Technology: USB charging port
- Best Used For: Jogging
Best Rowing Machine Under $1,000 - Concept2 Model D Rower
OK, confession: The Concept 2 Model D Rower is $28 over $1,000. However, it's one of the all-around best rowing machines on the market today thanks to its commercial-grade quality. Although the regular Model D can accommodate individuals up to 6 foot 6 inches, you can also purchase the tall version for a more comfortable rowing experience.
This rower also has a very impressive weight capacity of 500 pounds, which makes it an inclusive option for more people. The performance monitor gives you every rowing statistic you could want, as well as a number of built-in workouts. This machine is a great option for someone looking to add rowing into their workouts and doesn’t want to sacrifice quality.
- Key Feature: Can purchase a standard or tall option to accommodate various heights
- Technology: PM5 performance monitor
- Best Used For: WODs
Best Elliptical Under $1,000 - Horizon 7.0 AE
An elliptical for under $1,000 with free shipping? Yes please! The Horizon 7.0 AE elliptical has an impressive 20 levels of incline and resistance for a workout that will light up your lower body. Although there isn’t a built-in screen, you can add your own device and sync your chosen app with the elliptical machine (Fitbit and the Under Armour app are two compatible ones).
The speakers attached to the 7.0 are Bluetooth-enabled, which allows you to watch Netflix, follow along to programming or jam to some music without having to use headphones. Other useful extras include a water bottle holder and cooling fan.
- Key Feature: 20 levels of incline
- Technology: Syncs workouts to chosen fitness app
- Best Used For: Cardio on an incline
Best Treadmill Desk - Lifespan Treadmill Desk
If you’ve been working from home like the majority of the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be looking for a way to get more movement in during your day. The Lifespan Treadmill Desk fits the bill with a variety of treadmill bases for under your standing desk and desks attached to treadmills.
There are three different versions you can get: just the treadmill base, a treadmill with a manually adjustable desk or a treadmill with an automatically adjustable desk. Although you shouldn’t expect to use these for anything other than walking (the max speed caps out at 4.0 mph), this is a great way to get your work done while still getting in a light walk.
- Key Feature: Can be purchased with or without a desk on top of the treadmill base
- Technology: Small attached console
- Best Used For: Light cardio while working from home
Best Budget Rowing Machine With iFit - ProForm 750R Rower
If you’re on a budget but still want a piece of cardio equipment that is compatible with interactive programming, the ProForm 750R Rower is the machine for you. When you purchase the 750R, you get 30 free days of iFit programming. It's worth noting, though, that you do need to use your own tablet or smartphone to access iFit, but there is a device holder attached to the rower.
The resistance on the 750R adjusts automatically depending on the class you’re taking. However, if you decide to manually row without using iFit, you're still able to manually adjust your resistance using the buttons on the dashboard.
- Key Feature: Space saving design
- Technology: iFit enabled
- Best Used For: Rowing while following interactive programming
Best Exercise Bike Under $500 - Fitnation Flex Bike Ultra
The Fitnation Flex Bike Ultra is both under $500 and foldable. What more could you want? This surprisingly durable, steel-constructed bike gives you the option to adjust your resistance with the turn of a knob. A basic LCD monitor is attached to the bike and gives data like speed, pulse, calories, distance and time.
This isn’t exactly a Peloton in terms of technology extras, but for the price tag, it is certainly a good option if you enjoy cycling. Just don’t expect to be able to clip in your cycling shoes––the only option for this bike is to wear regular sneakers and strap them in.
- Key Feature: Has built-in resistance bands
- Technology: Built-in LCD display
- Best Used For: Moderate cycling
Best for Low-Impact Cardio - Sole E25
According to the Sole Fitness website, the pedals on the Sole E25 elliptical were designed by physical therapists to give the user a negative two-degree inward slope to reduce the impact on the joints." This added touch makes this elliptical a good choice for someone who wants to do some heart-pumping cardio without agitating their hips, knees and ankles.
Not only is this cardio machine a good option for your body, but you can feel confident that it's durable thanks to a lifetime frame warranty. The body of the elliptical is made with heavy-duty steel and is powered by a hefty 20-pound flywheel.
- Key Feature: Designed to take pressure off joints
- Technology: Pulse monitor
- Best Used For: Total-body, low-impact cardio
Best Compact Treadmill - Echelon Stride
Tight on space but still want to get a treadmill for your home? The Echelon Stride is a great option because it can fold completely vertically to stand at just 10 inches deep. This makes it an ideal choice for storing in a closet, garage or spare bedroom without taking up too much space. However, this portability comes with a price: a shorter running deck of 55 inches.
A shorter deck means the Echelon Stride is less ideal for people looking to frequently run on the treadmill versus those who are content to walk or occasionally jog. Something to note about the Stride is its ability to connect interactive programming, Echelon United, with the treadmill via Bluetooth. Naturally, you do have to pay a monthly subscription fee to use the programming, but you can see your stats accurately sync up between the two.
- Key Feature: Simple to move and store with attached transport wheels
- Technology: Echelon United programming available for $11.99 per month
- Best Used For: Walking
Best Luxury Rowing Machine - Hydrow Rower
The creme de la creme of rowing machines is definitely the Hydrow Rower. Not only is the Hydrow constructed of durable aluminum and steel, but it's also as beautiful as it is functional due to the sleek lines and futuristic design. The electromagnetic drag mechanism makes this rower an ideal choice for people who want a quiet cardio machine.
The interactive programming is on the more expensive side at $38 per month, but the quality of the classes offered is excellent. You’re also able to race with others around the world, which makes this a good pick for those who thrive with competition. Rowing engages a variety of muscle groups, including the upper body, glutes, hamstrings and quads. This is a good option for someone looking to get in a full-body workout with cardio.
- Key Feature: Rower with interactive programming options
- Technology: Hydrow membership is $38 per month
- Best Used For: Quiet rowing
Best Under Desk Bike - Lifespan Solo Under Desk Bike
If you often feel your legs cramping from sitting in a stationary position for too long, you may benefit from the Lifespan Solo Under Desk Bike. This peddler is 100% user powered, so you won’t need access to an outlet or batteries. Plus, it's very user friendly—it can be adjusted in seven different ways and has a weight capacity of up to 400 pounds.
However, don’t expect to be able to change the resistance on this bike. Since the Under Bike Desk is under 50 pounds, it can be easily moved around your home or workspace without a ton of effort.
- Key Feature: Can accommodate users from 4’8" to 6’6"
- Technology: No technology (completely user-powered)
- Best Used For: Pedaling while on the computer
Best Folding Elliptical - NordicTrack SpaceSaver SE7i
With a vertical design, the NordicTrack SpaceSaver SE7i is a great option for those who don’t have a lot of extra room. Besides being easy to store, the SE7i has a built-in 10-inch touchscreen where you can view interactive programming from iFit. Even better, you get a free 30-day trial period with iFit when you purchase this elliptical.
Even if you decide not to continue with the monthly iFit subscription, the elliptical itself isn’t lacking. It features up to a 10% incline and 22 levels of digital resistance for you to get a solid workout. Our team was especially impressed by the 18-inch stride length. Considering this is a purposefully compact elliptical, the stride length is exactly what you’d expect on a larger machine.
- Key Feature: 22 levels of digital resistance
- Technology: iFit compatible
- Best Used For: Cardio workouts in a tight space
Best Luxury Stationary Bike - The MYX II Plus
If you’re looking for a stationary bike that comes with all the bells and whistles, the MYX II Plus is for you. Not only do you receive a bike with a gleaming monitor, but you also get an exercise mat, foam roller, one kettlebell, a resistance band and a set of six dumbbells with your purchase. These extras make adding strength training to your regular workouts a breeze.
This bike is an ideal choice for people looking for versatility and integrated, interactive programming. If you have an Apple Watch, you can connect it to your bike to view metrics in real time. Another plus? The MYX II has dual sided pedals so you can decide to wear either regular sneakers or cycling shoes.
- Key Feature: 21.5" attached tablet
- Technology: MYX programming available for $29 per month
- Best Used For: High-intensity indoor cycling workout
What Should You Consider When Looking for a Cardio Machine?
There are many things to consider when you’re looking to purchase a piece of cardio equipment. You may want to think about what your goals are, like burning calories, weight loss, building cardiovascular endurance or even just getting your heart rate up every once in a while.
When thinking about your budget, it's a good idea to be realistic about what you can get for the price you can afford. For example, if you’re looking to stay under $1,000, you probably won’t be getting a cardio machine with a 22-inch built-in screen for interactive programming. With this in mind, you need to decide what the most important aspects are so you can make the best buying decision.
Lots of the links included in this piece are from Amazon, which almost always offers free shipping. This can be an easy way to save money versus buying directly from a company website where you may be charged shipping.
Type of Machine
A variety of cardio machines exist in the world: rowers, ellipticals, treadmills, stair steppers, recumbent bikes, air bikes, and spin bikes. Make sure to have your long-term fitness goals in mind when choosing a machine.
If you’re looking to run a marathon in the future, buying a treadmill that will accommodate frequent running is a must. If you want a low impact or full-body workout option, a rowing machine or elliptical may be in your best interest. Consider what you like best carefully because you don’t want this piece of equipment to become an expensive clothes rack that you never use.
If you're someone who prefers to come up with their own workouts, you might not need or even want workout programs on your cardio machine. Others might feel more motivated if they have classes and a virtual personal trainer to follow along with that will integrate with their cardio machine. Make sure to check if the machine you’re interested in has the technical features you want.
Depending on the amount of space you have in your home gym, you might need to consider purchasing a compact or foldable piece of cardio equipment. The best course of action is to measure the space you have for your machine ahead of time so you don’t buy something too large for your space or that will give you a limited range of motion.
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Cardio Machine FAQs
Which cardio machine burns the most calories?
Studies show that the air bike burns the most calories per hour, however, this depends on many factors, such as resistance and intensity. Treadmills are also shown to burn almost double the calories as ellipticals in one hour.
Should you do cardio every day?
Whether or not you do cardio every day depends on your goals and fitness level. Someone who is more concerned with losing weight and increasing aerobic capacity and endurance will likely do more cardio than someone who is focused on making weightlifting gains. However, cardio seven days a week is generally unnecessary, and most fitness goals can be better achieved with more variety and less volume.
Is an elliptical better than a treadmill?
While a treadmill will better prepare you for running events and burn more calories, an elliptical can help prevent overload injuries. The elliptical is designed for low-impact exercise, helping people with joint pain and other limitations get a full-body cardio workout comfortably.