Cardio machines can be a great addition to your home gym––if you can find the space for one. Many high-quality treadmills, ellipticals, exercise bikes, rowing machines and anything else meant to get your heart rate up, can be bulky and hard to navigate in small spaces. The solution: compact cardio equipment.
The ACTIVE Reviews Team found the best compact cardio equipment that’s not only space-saving but helps you get the results you're after as well. Whether it’s losing a few pounds, increasing your cardiovascular endurance, or just adding cardio workouts to a strength training regimen, it can all be done with these workout machines that take up very little space.
If you're someone who doesn’t have a ton of space, read on to find out top picks for the best compact cardio equipment.
Best Compact Cardio Equipment - Our Top Picks
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- Best Compact Treadmill: Echelon Stride
- Best Folding Elliptical: NordicTrack SpaceSaver SE7i
- Best Under Desk Bike: Lifespan Solo Under Desk Bike
- Best Rowing Machine: Concept2 Model D Rower
- Best Exercise Bike Under $1,000: Echelon EX5 Connect
- Best Treadmill Desk: Lifespan Treadmill Desk
- Best Exercise Bike Under $500: Fitnation Flex Bike Ultra
Best Compact Treadmill - Echelon Stride
There are a lot of foldable treadmills out there, but the Echelon Stride’s auto fold feature is what separates it from other compact exercise equipment. With the push of a button, this exercise machine can get as small as 10 inches tall when laid horizontally for easy storage. It also comes with built-in wheels so you can transport it to the living room, bedroom or garage.
Storage capabilities aside, the Echelon Stride is a great piece of workout equipment. With a maximum speed of 12 miles per hour and 12 incline levels (maxing out at 10%), you can get in a quality home workout at any time. It also features an impact-absorbing running deck and a metal safety bar under the deck that prevents items from being pulled under.
- Key Feature: Auto-fold technology
- Footprint: In use, 69" L x 31" W X 49" H; folded, 69" L x 31" W x 10" H
- Weight Limit: 300 lbs.
Best Folding Elliptical - NordicTrack SpaceSaver SE7i
For a low-impact, full-body workout, we recommend the NordicTrack SpaceSaver SE7i. This is a heavy-duty elliptical machine that offers 22 levels of resistance, and when it’s not in use, it can be easily folded down and stowed away. Previously, this model only came with an LCD display, but it’s since been updated to include an HD smart touchscreen so you can follow HIIT workouts live.
Unlike some home gym equipment, the NordicTrack SpaceSaver SE7i is also quiet thanks to its silent magnetic resistance system. The one downside is its 18-inch stride, which makes it difficult for taller home gym owners to use. Other than that, the resistance levels and live workout capabilities allow you to have a great at-home exercise experience every time you use it.
- Key Feature: Vertical space-saving design for easy storage
- Footprint: 80" L x 32" W x 67" H
- Weight Limit: 325 lbs.
Best Under Desk Bike - Lifespan Solo Under Desk Bike
Want to work on your fitness, but your coworkers won’t stop Slacking you? The Lifespan Solo Under Desk Bike is a piece of fitness equipment that turns your desk into a pedal exerciser and also doubles as an office chair with ample cushioning. It’s pretty straightforward––all you do is pedal as you would with any other stationary bike. The resistance system isn’t adjustable, so you won’t get the hardest lower-body workout, but it’s better than sitting still all day.
The Lifespan Solo Under Desk Bike was made to go under standing desks, so if you don’t have one of those it might be difficult to stow it away when not in use. The good news is it can accommodate anyone from 4 foot 8 inches to 6 foot 6 inches, and its oversized pedals can fit people of all shoe sizes. It also only weighs 42 pounds, so it can be moved to another room if you need the floor space.
- Key Feature: Adjustable seat, good cushioning on seat
- Footprint: 39" L x 24" W x 40" H
- Weight Limit: 400 lbs.
Best Rowing Machine - Concept2 Model D Rower
Rowing machines are an investment, but if you’re looking for the best rowing machine for just over $1,000, go for the Concept2 Model D Rower. Don’t just take our word for it––this piece of equipment is used by Olympic rowers, so you know it’ll be great for your home exercise regimen. It’s exactly eight feet long, which is the average length for a rower.
Rowers are now popular cardio machines, but Concept2 created the first-ever one—and the Concept2 Model D Rower is the peak of its product line. You won’t get a better workout than rowing since it targets your upper body, lower body and core muscles all in one movement. Squats aside, there’s no exercise that targets that many muscle groups. The rower can also be separated into two sections for easy vertical storage.
- Key Feature: High-quality machine for affordable price
- Footprint: 96" L x 24" W x 14" H (seat height can be upgraded to 20")
- Weight Limit: 500 lbs.
Best Exercise Bike Under $1,000 - Echelon EX5 Connect
Not everyone wants to spend Peloton-levels of money on an exercise bike. For those people, the Echelon EX5 Connect is the best exercise bike under $1,000 that still has all the features of a high-quality machine. With 32 levels of magnetic resistance, a competition-style bike seat, and bullhorn-style handlebars it feels like you’re riding an actual road bike––but only indoors.
The Echelon EX5 Connect is smaller than the average spin exercise bike, so you’ll be able to get a quality workout in a small space. Plus, its device holder can be flipped 180 degrees, so you can attach resistance bands or the provided dumbbells to it and get an additional upper-body workout. No more having to choose between cardio workout or weightlifting—now you can do both.
- Key Feature: 32 levels of resistance
- Footprint: 58"L x 20"W x 55"H (with handlebars in highest position)
- Weight Limit: 300 lbs.
Best Treadmill Desk - Lifespan Treadmill Desk
The Lifespan Treadmill Desk isn’t much more compact than your average treadmill, but you’re actually replacing two pieces of furniture with one. And there’s no need to worry about it interrupting your Zoom calls, as the motor is silent and can last for six hours. Plus, it automatically stops if you accidentally step off the tread.
The Lifespan Treadmill Desk is customizable, so you can pick the treadmill base and desk that’ll work best for your space. Each one comes with an LCD monitor to track your daily steps and health metrics. It does require frequent lubrication to keep it operational, though, with the maintenance needed every three to six months.
- Key Feature: Customizable treadmill base and desk options
- Footprint: Varies on treadmill base and desk option picked at checkout
- Weight Limit: Ranges from 215-400 lbs.
Best Exercise Bike Under $500 - Fitnation Flex Bike Ultra
Reviewers can’t get enough of the Fitnation Flex Bike Ultra. The fact that it’s foldable, easily portable and comes with included resistance bands would be enough to make this cost much more, yet this is somehow our pick for the best exercise bike under $500. The adjustable seat can also turn it into a recumbent bike, which allows you to work your glutes, thighs and calves comfortably.
The Fitnation Flex Bike Ultra comes with multiple resistance levels, so your workouts will always be challenging. We like its compact size and comfortable seat, as well as the LCD display with speed, time, distance, scan, calorie and pulse tracker. It’s no wonder it has more than 300 5-star reviews, and none below 4 stars.
- Key Feature: Foldable; multiple resistance levels
- Footprint: Unfolded, 42.5" L x 21.5" W x 41"H; folded, 17"L x 21.5" W x 54" H
- Weight Limit: 300 lbs.
What to Look for in Compact Cardio Equipment
Gone are the days when a small stepper was the only thing people in studio apartments could afford to have in their living room. These days, companies are making quality cardio machines that take up the same amount of space as a yoga mat. And because cardio helps you decrease your body weight and increase your overall fitness, it’s a great piece of equipment to have in your home gym.
Footprint, Portability and User Size
Obviously, you want to make sure your compact cardio equipment can fit your workout space. So it goes without saying you’ll want to make sure it can fit the space you've dedicated for it, whether that be a bedroom or living room. But you knew that.
When looking at these machines, though, keep in mind that many might not be compact when in use but have the ability to be folded to a smaller size and stowed away in a corner or under a bed.
The one caveat is the smaller the machine, the smaller the user. We don't mean weight either, though that's another factor. Smaller machines may not be suited for people who are above a certain height––a lot of times their legs are too long and a cardio machine of a certain size just can’t accommodate them. That’s not always the case, but it’s something to keep in mind. Look for reviews on the manufacturer’s website, or Amazon, to see if taller people may have had difficulties using a particular piece of equipment.
Speed and Difficulty
This goes for cardio machines of any size, but you'll want to make sure the one you’re picking will be challenging enough for you. There’s a reason the phrase "no pain, no gain" exists. If you’re not challenging yourself, you won't make much progress in your fitness journey.
Find a machine that can reach a speed that’s challenging enough but not so much that you find yourself holding onto the handrails for dear life. This might not be applicable for some machines, but there are options that can reach impressive speeds.
You’re going to spend anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, and possibly much more, on your cardio machine, so it’s vital it feels good while you're using it. If it's a treadmill, you want a tread that won’t bruise your feet or be so loud it makes noise throughout your entire house. If it’s a bike, you want a comfortable seat with good cushioning and pedals that fit your feet.
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