The Best Cardio Equipment for 2021

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Cardio workouts can help you accomplish a number of fitness goals, whether it involves weight loss or simply getting your heart rate up every day. Need a quick full-body workout? Hit the rowing machine. Trying to increase your cardiovascular endurance? The treadmill or exercise bike is your friend. Like with anything else in life, you’ll want the best cardio equipment to help you achieve whatever it is you’re looking to do.

The ACTIVE Reviews Team has run and pedaled on countless cardio machines to find out which are the best for your home gym. You’ll find one that can fit your space and budget, so you can get a home cardio workout whenever you want it. Read on to see our top picks for the best cardio equipment in 2021.

Best Cardio Equipment - Our Top Picks

Best Treadmill for Runners - Sole F63

Sole F63

Treadmills are one of the most popular workout machines, which means there’s a lot of them on the market. The Sole F63 rises above the rest because it’s affordable, high quality, easy to store and is covered by a lifetime warranty (for the frame and motor). It comes with 10 preset workout programs, so you can focus on muscle toning, interval training or endurance.

If you’re sharing the Sole F63 with anyone else in your home gym, you can add two user profiles to program the speed and incline levels that work best for each runner. The flywheel technology creates a quieter, smoother experience, but we found the treadmill started shaking just a little bit during heavier runs. Your lower body will appreciate the cushioned running deck, giving you a more comfortable experience.

  • Key Feature: Cushioned running deck
  • Footprint: 82" L x 35" W x 66" H
  • Weight limit: 325 lbs.

BUY: Sole F63, $1,099.99

Best Compact Treadmill - Echelon Stride

Echelon Stride

Cardio machines aren’t always space-friendly, so for the best compact treadmill, go for the Echelon Stride. Its auto-fold technology, activated with the push of a button, reduces it to just 10 inches tall—small enough to fit under some beds. How many other heavy-duty exercise machines can do that?

When it’s in use, the Echelon Stride is one of the best cardio machines we’ve used. It has an impact-absorbing running deck and a metal safety bar to prevent items from being pulled under the deck, a maximum speed of 12 miles per hour and 12 incline levels (maxing out at 10%). Plus, it’s sturdy, so you can feel secure during high-intensity runs.

  • Key Feature: Autofold technology
  • Footprint: 80" L x 32" W x 67" H
  • Weight limit: 325 lbs.

BUY: Echelon Stride, $1,299.99

Best Treadmill Under $1,000 - Horizon T202

Horizon T202

Yes, the Horizon T202 is the best treadmill under $1,000, but don’t let that fool you. This piece of equipment has more versatility than some treadmills twice its cost. The motor recalibrates with each foot strike, so you won’t feel any lags or surges during your runs. A 60-inch cushioned running deck fits people of any stride length or fitness level, and Bluetooth speakers let you hook up a smart device for guided workouts (or so you can watch your latest Netflix binge).

If you’re not sold on the Horizon T202 just yet, it comes with a 30-day trial period so you can test it out. Once you try the Advanced Goal Center, which lets you program cardio workouts 31 days in advance, and see how easy it is to fold and store, we think you’ll be pretty happy. Its frame and motor are also covered by a lifetime warranty.

  • Key Feature: Recalibrating motor; Bluetooth speaker
  • Footprint: 75" L x 34" W x 58" H
  • Weight limit: 325 lbs.

BUY: Horizon T202, $899

Best Exercise Bike Under $1,000 - Echelon EX3 Connect

Echelon EX3 Connect

The Echelon EX3 Connect is an exercise bike that can give you a cardiovascular, lower-body and upper-body workout all in one. By flipping its device holder 180 degrees you can attach resistance bands or even light dumbbells to it, increasing its versatility. Plus, you can follow guided workout classes in the Echelon FitApp or create your own to target multiple muscle groups.

The Echelon EX3 Connect gives you a Peloton-level workout without having to spend tons of money. This spin bike offers 32 levels of magnetic resistance to get your heart pumping and has a vented competition-style bike seat and bullhorn-style handlebars for an indoor cycling experience that feels like you’re riding a real bicycle. Its warranty is limited, and only covers parts and labor for 1-year, but reviewers say it’s a sturdy and durable cardio machine.

  • Key Feature: 32 levels of resistance
  • Footprint: 55" L x 20" W x 55" H (with handlebars in the highest position)
  • Weight limit: 300 lbs.

BUY: Echelon Ex3 Connect $799

Best Luxury Stationary Bike - The MYX II Plus

The MYX II Plus

Looking to treat yourself or someone special in your life? The MYX II Plus is the best luxury stationary bike for anyone looking to get a total-body workout with a sleek-looking addition to their home gym. The adjustable seat and pedals make it a great pick for anyone from 4 feet 11 inches to 6 feet 8 inches and can be used barefoot or with sneakers.

The MYX II Plus uses friction resistance, so it’s not as quiet as bikes that use magnetic resistance, but it’s not so loud you couldn’t use it while someone slept in the other room. That said, it’s sure to get your entire body sweating during HIIT rides or all-out sprints. With the bike comes dumbbells and a kettlebell, access to virtual workouts on a touchscreen tablet, stabilizing and workout mats, a foam roller and resistance bands.

  • Key Feature: Included accessories, virtual workouts
  • Footprint: 54" L x 21" W x 47" H
  • Weight limit: 350 lbs.

BUY: The MYX II Plus, $1,599.99

Best Air Bike - Rogue Echo Bike

Rogue Echo Bike

Air bikes are great at targeting multiple muscle groups, from your hamstrings to your shoulders, as well as helping you burn an immense number of calories in a short amount of time. The Rogue Air Bike does all this while being quiet and sturdy and is capable of fitting riders of all sizes. Plus, the front wheels make it easy to move it around your home gym whenever you need it out of the way.

The Rogue Echo Bike’s battery-powered LCD display tracks intervals, distance, calories burned and heart rate so you can see how your fitness level changes over time. The phone holder and bottle cage are sold separately, but at $6 and $8, respectively, they’re affordable add-ons. The bike’s steel construction also ensures you’ll have it for many years to come.

  • Key Feature: Durable and quiet
  • Footprint: 59" L x 30" W x 52.75" H
  • Weight limit: 350 lbs.

BUY: Rogue Echo Bike, $795

Best Luxury Rowing Machine - Hydrow Rower

Hydrow

Take one good look at a rower’s physique and you’ll know why many people make rowing their go-to workout. To get the best luxury rowing machine that doesn’t just look good but feels good, too, go for the Hydrow Rower. We love the electromagnetic, computer-controlled rowing technology that makes every stroke smooth and stable.

Not only that, the Hydrow Rower has a comfortable ergonomic seat, and the 22-inch touchscreen allows you to follow high-intensity virtual workout classes to get your heart rate up. It also allows you to compete against rowers around the world to give you even more workout motivation. You do have to pay extra for a vertical storage kit, so if you’re tight on space, it might not be the best option unless you’re willing to shell out even more money.

  • Key Feature: Virtual competition board
  • Footprint: 86"L x 25"W x 47"H (to top of screen)
  • Weight limit: 375 lbs.

BUY: Hydrow Rower, $2,145

Best Rowing Machine Under $1,000 - Concept2 Model D Rower

Concept2 Model D Rower

The Concept2 Model D Rower may be budget-friendly, but it doesn’t feel like cheap equipment. Many commercial gyms use these, meaning it can withstand countless uses and should last many years in your workout space. It’s also used by Olympic rowers, so it’s capable of giving even the best-of-the-best a challenge.

The Concept2 Model D Rower can fit users up to 6 foot 6 inches and 500 pounds, and the footrest can be adjusted to fit people of all shoe sizes. If you choose to row barefoot, the rower is built to accommodate that as well. We also like that it’s one of the easiest rowers to assemble, requiring only 20 minutes of your time before you’re ready to put it to use.

  • Key Feature: High-quality machine for affordable price
  • Footprint: 96" L x 24" W x 14" H (seat can be upgraded to 20")
  • Weight limit: 500 lbs.

BUY: Concept2 Model D Rower, $900

Best Budget Rowing Machine With iFit - ProForm 750R Rower

ProForm 750R Rower

The ProForm 750R Rower has a capability that you typically see on much more expensive fitness equipment: access to guided workouts and challenges. With the interactive app iFit installed on this rower, virtual trainers can adjust the resistance for you as they lead you through your workouts.

The ProForm 750R Rower only has a 250-pound user weight limit, so not everyone will be able to use it. It is one of the quieter rowers on the market, which is a great plus for anyone who works out at weird hours when others might be asleep. Additionally, it has an easily foldable frame, so people with smaller spaces can stow it away when it’s not in use.

  • Key Feature: iFit app capability
  • Footprint: 86.5" L x 22" W x 45.5" H
  • Weight limit: 250 lbs.

BUY: ProForm 750R Rower, $999

Best Elliptical Under $1,000 - Horizon 7.0 AE

Horizon 7.0 AE

Want to tone your glutes and improve your fitness without breaking the bank? The Horizon 7.0 AE is a heavy-duty elliptical machine that you can adjust with the touch of a button while mid stride, and you can even stream music or workout classes through its Bluetooth speakers. With multiple resistance and incline levels, you’ll never get tired of using it.

The Horizon 7.0 AE isn’t compact, so it’s not for people in small workout spaces. The good news is it’s sturdy, quiet and provides a low-impact workout for your lower body. It also has a 20-inch stride length, so taller users can take advantage of its great value as well.

  • Key Feature: Easy resistance and incline adjustability
  • Footprint: 76" L x 24" W x 65.5" H
  • Weight limit: 325 lbs.

BUY: Horizon 7.0 AE, $999

Best Folding Elliptical - NordicTrack SpaceSaver SE7i

NordicTrack SpaceSaver SE7i

As its name suggests, the NordicTrack SpaceSaver SE7i is the best choice for people in small spaces because it shrinks to 32-by-28 inches when folded. Because of that, it only has an 18-inch stride length, and those with longer legs might feel restricted when using it. Reviewers without that concern thoroughly enjoyed stepping on it and following the programmed workouts.

The NordicTrack SpaceSaver SE7i offers 22 levels of resistance and a 10% incline to let you feel like a professional climber without leaving your home. Adding to that illusion is the HD smart touchscreen, which transports you to different landscapes if you’re not following a live workout via the iFit app. And the silent magnetic resistance system makes it a great choice for not disturbing your family or neighbors, too.

  • Key Feature: Vertical SpaceSaver design for easy storage
  • Footprint: 80" L x 32" W x 67" H
  • Weight limit: 325 lbs.

BUY: NordicTrack SpaceSaver SE7i, $1,299

Best for Low-Impact Cardio - Sole E25

Sole E25

Low impact doesn’t mean low intensity, it just means you’re not putting excess strain on your joints (so it’s something everyone should add to their workout regimen, regardless of age). The Sole E25 gives you the best low-impact cardio experience because its footrests were designed by professional physical therapists. Additionally, the heavy-duty frame and four rear wheels eliminate any wobbling while it’s in use.

As we said, don’t think this means the Sole E25 won’t challenge you. It has 20 incline levels and a 20-pound flywheel, which in plain English means you’ll be sweating on this thing no matter your fitness level. We also like the built-in Bluetooth speakers, USB charging port and integrated tablet holder to make longer workouts more comfortable.

  • Key Feature: Footrests designed by physical therapists
  • Footprint: 66" L x 34" W x 23" H
  • Weight limit: 350 lbs.

BUY: Sole E25, $1,099

What to Look for in Cardio Equipment

Cardio machines cover a wide range of products and can include anything from recumbent bikes to stair steppers. No matter what you’re looking for, though, there are a few ground rules you should keep in mind when shopping for one.

Speed and Difficulty

You wouldn’t try to lift weights you know are too heavy for you to even lift off the ground, and the same philosophy applies to cardio machines. If you’re a workout novice, pick something that’s a little bit slower so you’re not falling off your equipment or struggling to breathe a minute in. On the flipside, if you’re a running or cycling enthusiast, you won’t want something that only goes up to 10 miles per hour when you can easily do that in your sleep.

Comfort

Cardio workouts can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour—or sometimes longer depending on your training goals or intensity. If any part of you starts to get uncomfortable during that time, it’s going to make it difficult to complete the workout. Make sure all parts of the machine feel natural when you use it.

For treadmills, make sure the running deck provides some cushioning, so your feet aren’t pounding into the frame or bearings underneath. An exercise bike or anything else you sit on (like a rower) should have an ergonomic seat and foot pedals that aren’t too tight or loose (these can usually be adjusted to accommodate multiple users). And check to see that the handlebar grip on any machine won’t become too slippery as you start to sweat.

Machine and User Footprint

It goes without saying you’ll want your machine to fit in your dedicated workout space, but make sure you can fit on it as well. Your treadmill might fit in your basement, but if you hit your head on the ceiling once you stand on it, it’s not a good fit for that space. In other words, make sure you’ll have enough space to stand on and maneuver your cardio machine before finalizing a purchase.

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