Cardio isn’t much fun.
Or is it?
Well, it can be fun, effective, and functional if you make the right choice.
Should you hop on the elliptical as usual? Or perhaps the stationary bike or indoor rower would be better? But, nothing can beat a good jog or run! And you’ve heard the treadmill and stair climber are unsurpassed calorie burners.
Which one is your best bet?
Check out our list and buyer’s guide to figure out the best cardio machine for your most effective in-home cardio session.
Our Best Cardio Machines Recommendations
1 - Indoor Bike - Lifespan CYCLE BOXER (Editor's Choice)
Want to get your heart pumping, shed fat, enhance endurance, build lean muscle, and have fun? Then, the LifeSpan CYCLE BOXER may be an ideal option for your home gym.
It’s a unique combination of boxing and upright cycling with some elements of a game, ideal for those looking for low impact workout.
It’s great for small spaces because of the compact footprint and wheels make it hassle-free to move it around.
Check our full Lifespan Cycle Boxer buyer's guide.
- Max. user weight: 300lbs
- Dimensions: 43.6in L x 27in W x 63-74.5in H (adjustable boxing panel height)
- Warranty: frame - lifetime, parts and labor - 1yr
- Fully adjustable, easy to operate, solid steel construction, with bidirectional pedals, 16 resistance, and 12 punch levels, providing a total-body workout
- Touchscreen LCD displaying current metrics, when synced with the free app enables you to track your workout progress
- Comes with accessories (padded boxing gloves and a chest strap for wireless heart rate monitoring), manual, and basic assembly tool kit
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Users taller than 6ft4in complained that the seat could be more comfortable and adjustable for those with long legs
2 - Treadmill - Sunny Health & Fitness Asuna SpaceFlex Motorized Running Treadmill
No one can deny that this versatile machine for exercise can provide a fantastic cardio workout with 12 incline levels, speed, plus other eight pre-programmed, and three customizable options, offering a plethora of benefits beyond weight loss if you know how to use it effectively. 
- Max. user weight: 220lbs
- Dimensions: 55.5in L x 28in W x 48in H
- Warranty: unspecified
- Sleek design, sturdy construction, compact and completely foldable to fit small spaces
- Ergonomic handles with precise sensors measuring your heart rate and displaying it clearly with the other crucial data (calorie burn, distance, etc.) on six separate LED windows
- Built-in speakers, media port, shock pads integrated to minimize the ground impact on your joints
- No pause button
3 - Stair Climber - Bowflex Max Trainer Series
The stair climber can activate a wider range of leg muscles than simply walking or jogging on a treadmill.
It’s a great choice if you prefer low-impact cardio machines for workout in a home gym such as bikes, ellipticals, and similar that can still strengthen your muscles, increase stamina, and burn calories effectively.
- Max. user weight: 300lbs
- Dimensions: 46.5in L x 22.5in W x 26.5in H
- Warranty: unspecified
- Can provide maximum cardio benefits of interval training in 14 minutes only
- Enables you to set activity level targets for better motivation
- An interactive display featuring eight resistance levels and two workout programs
- Some users complained that it requires constant maintenance interrupting their consistent workout schedule
4 - Step Machine - Jacob's Ladder Gronk Edition Step Machine
This self-paced non-motorized machine allows for a full range of motion while climbing endlessly on a 40-degree angle to take the stress off your lower back.
It lets you control the intensity of your whole body workout, engaging your core, and raising your pulse to speed up metabolism and burn calories.
- Max. user weight: 300lbs
- Dimensions: 76in L x 27.25in W x 65.5in H
- Warranty: parts - 2yrs
- Angled to provide a natural body position in a climbing motion
- Allows you to engage both lower and upper body big muscles, including lats, shoulders, glutes, quads, and more
- Provides digital readouts on your pulse, calories burnt, feet climbed, rate/speed, elapsed time
- A hefty price tag
5 - Recumbent Bike - Marcy Recumbent Exercise Bike
Unlike spin bikes, this affordable recumbent bike might not offer a high-intensity cardio workout, but it’s better than nothing for newbies, recovering patients, or the elderly aiming at comfort and safety during moderate-intensity cross-training.
Its magnetic mechanism with eight resistance levels paired with weighted pedals with adjustable straps may ensure smooth, quiet, and controlled low impact exercise.
- Max. user weight: 300lbs
- Dimensions: 55.5in L x 25in W x 37.5in H
- Warranty: frame - 2yrs
- Sturdy construction engineered to withstand heavy daily use and be easy on your back and knees
- An easy-to-read LCD computer screen displaying the important metrics
- An ergonomically designed, padded, chair-like seat, handles and back covered in high-density foam for extra comfort and lumbar support
- Users shorter than 5ft might be unable to reach the pedals
6 - SkiErg - Concept2 SkiErg
Concept2 SkiErg provides a demanding cardio workout, requiring you to fully activate your upper body (shoulders, arms, abs, and hips).
Even professional cross-country skiers use it to hone their Nordic skiing technique, enhance endurance, and build strength, but it may not be ideal for beginners.
You can adjust airflow to the flywheel to completely control your pulls, while strapless handles suitable for all hand sizes offer a secure,non-sweat grip.
- Max. user weight: unspecified
- Dimensions: 50in L x 23.5in W x 85in H
- Warranty: parts - 2-5yrs
- It’s durable, lightweight and space-saving (mounts to a wall)
- Budget-friendly, effective and easy to use
- Comes with smartphone cradle, performance monitor with pre-set workouts and wireless connectivity, user manual, assembly tools and instructions
- Floor stand not included
7 - Rowing Machine - Waterrower Rowing machine Ash
Hardly any machines can give you so challenging cardio and resistance training as indoor rowers.
This lightweight and stable piece requires excellent coordination, extreme endurance, and strength, and can benefit you as running (but gentler on your joints), working 84% of your muscle mass.
You can also check out our list on the best magnetic rowing machines.
The handcrafted solid ash and stained honey oak construction can absorb sound and vibration to ensure noiseless sessions.
- Max. user weight: 1,000lbs
- Dimensions: 22in L x 84in W x 21in H
- Warranty: frame and components - 1yr (can be upgraded to 3-5yrs)
- Features water flywheel that replicates actual rowing, providing smooth, self-regulated resistance
- Its performance monitor tracks workout intensity, stroke and heart rate, etc.
- Upright storage possible to save space
- The water tank might start leaking and cracking after years of use
8 - Arc Trainer - Cybex 750A Arc Trainer
This high-quality, lower body fitness machine is excellent for interval training.
It mimics hiking and can increase your pulse within the first few minutes to help you burn more calories than the elliptical with no pressure on your joints, too.
- Max. user weight: 400lbs
- Dimensions: 77in L x 28.5in W x 62.5in H
- Warranty: frame - 10yrs
- Combines the advantages of skier, climber, and elliptical
- Great resistance (up to 900 watts), awesome range of motion
- Offers eight pre-set programs, nine custom programs, 21 incline levels
- It might not perfectly fit tall or short users
9 - Elliptical - Nautilus Elliptical Trainer Series
This item lets you sync your phone with Bluetooth and connect with some popular apps to run through 19 locations worldwide, using 27 routes in real time.
You can also try out 29 programs and adjust to one of 25 resistance levels to ensure your workout intensity is challenging and effective enough.
Although it’s said to feel sturdy and stable, some users say the machine shakes a bit when they’re running at high speeds.
You can check out the best budget elliptical machines here.
- Max. user weight: 300lbs
- Dimensions: 70in L x 28in W x 71in H
- Warranty: frame - 10yrs, mechanical parts and electronics - 3yrs, labor - 1yr
- Versatile, entertaining machine, innovative design
- 2 DualTrack LCDs enable setting your personalized goals and progress tracking, in-console speakers with an MP3 input port, USB media charging, adjustable fan, 20-inch stride length to fit most users
- Ergonomic, padded handlebars allow for various hand positions
- Users mainly complained about customer service, assembly difficulties, and too high resistance even on the lowest level
10 - StepMill - StairMaster SM3 StepMill
This durable, small, and affordable stepper model is great for any home gym as it’s challenging and highly effective in muscle building and shedding pounds.
- Max. user weight: 275lbs
- Dimensions: 46in L x 29in W x 73in H
- Warranty: frame - lifetime, mechanical parts - 5yrs, electronics - 2yrs, labor and wear items - 1yr
- Step range of 26-162 steps/minute
- Contains ten pre-programmed workouts, a pulse monitor, easy-to-read large backlit LCD, and a console that tracks your stats
- Impressive warranty
- Some users find it too noisy
How to Choose the Best Cardio Machine for Yourself
Besides your budget and the available space, here’s what you need to consider before deciding which cardio machines may be most effective for you.
Your Training Goals, Style, and Intensity You Prefer
Doing a High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) on a treadmill may be the most effective for people who are training for weight loss or a race, striving to improve their performance, and increase endurance.
Maybe you are doing CrossFit, if so, we have a buyer's guide on the best CrossFit equipment.
“The first step in identifying the best cardio machine is to get clear on your goals.
Are you training for performance; want to run a marathon or compete in a fitness competition? Are you training for health benefits; do you need to lower your blood pressure or get your diabetes under control? Are your goals more aesthetic; do you just want to feel confident in your two-piece at the pool this summer?
How you answer those questions would determine the best cardio machine for you.”
- Rachel Southard, Director of Personal Training Operations for Anytime Fitness
Here are some guidelines on which equipment to choose:
Those who struggle with balance but would like a low-impact, full-body workout may choose a safer option with minimal impact on joints (ankles, knees, and hips) - the elliptical machine, which also allows you to engage core muscles by pushing and pulling the handles.
We did a list of the best compact elliptical machines, if you are low on space.
People aiming at intense workouts for fat and calorie burn, but with the spine, and other upper or lower body problems, may opt for a stationary bike.
Experts advise alternating your workouts with sprint cycling intervals and distance rides if practicing for a cycling competition or aiming at improving your overall performance.
If you like the sound of a stationary bike, you should check out the MYX Fitness Bike by MYXfitness.
They have combined a Star Trac Bike with a sleek and interactive touchscreen tablet. It comes with a built-in heart rate monitor to track the intensity of your workout, and it is compatible with the Apple watch.
This stationary bike is reliable, durable, and it is great for burning calories and fat.
What we found impressive about the MYX system was the fact it is updated weekly with thousands of free workout videos. These videos are often led by world-class trainers for more than just cardio.
The MYX membership comes at a separate monthly price. However, with the amount of content added weekly, it seems worth the price.
Stair Climber/ Stepmill
If you want cardio equipment that’ll tone your lower body, providing resistance and strength training, a piece of equipment like a stair climber/stepmill may be great.
The stepping motion and stair climbing movement pattern can help strengthen your legs, build endurance, and lose weight.
Rowing Machine / Ergometer
If you know how to use it properly, a rowing machine/erg (ergometer) may also be fantastic for enhancing your endurance and stamina.
You can check out our article on the best budget rowing machines.
It’s perfect for those who want the effective low-impact (an)aerobic exercise easy on their joints to let their muscles recover from previous vigorous workouts and reduce the risk of injury while avoiding to hinder their progress.
Studies show that the treadmill is the optimal indoor exercise machine for enhancing energy expenditure when compared to the stair stepper, cross-country-skiing simulator, Airdyne, cycle, and rowing ergometer. 
Another study also indicates that the treadmill, rowing erg, and ski simulator cause increased energy expenditure more than the health rider and cycle ergometer. 
Your training goals will probably change over time, and your body quickly adapts, so mixing up all these fitness machines may be the most advantageous approach to cardio workouts.
The Muscle Groups You Want to Target
Instead of overusing the same muscle groups, to keep injuries at bay, make sure you stretch and mix up different cardio equipment because cross-training helps build and strengthen the small muscles that support the commonly fatigued major muscles.
A good way of stretching is just hanging on a pull-up bar. You can check our buyer's guide on the best overall standing pull-up bars.
For instance, if your workout plan includes toning and sculpting your gluteus maximus, or flexing out your quads and hamstrings while burning calories and improving your cardiovascular health, climbing stairs may yield fantastic results , so it would be wise to use an indoor stepper or stair climber.
Hips and legs
A spin bike is excellent for hips and leg muscles, strengthening your quads, hamstrings, glutes, and hip flexors in particular.
People usually use ellipticals for non-impact exercises, putting less force on the joints and spine.
“In general, the elliptical machines are easier on the knees and other weight-bearing joints.”
- Eran Kabakov, Physical Therapist
Pedaling in reverse is also great for improving your legs physique. Plus, the handles on the ellipticals enable you to work on both your lower and upper body, providing you with a solid full-body workout.
Luckily, most cardio machines already have pre-built workout programs for engaging different muscles.
How Much Equipment Adjustability and Comfort Matter to You
The degree of adjustability, customization, and comfort your in-home exercise equipment allows will probably directly influence your workout results.
For example, a recumbent bike might be unbeatable for the elderly or recovering patients because it’s gentle, comfortable, and highly adjustable, letting you personalize your workouts. However, it’s far from ideal for any high-intensity workout session.
Which Cardio Machine Is Best for Abs?
A treadmill (used for running, not walking), an elliptical, a stationary bike, or a stair stepper may be cardio machines best for abs because they help you burn fat and calories most effectively  if you use them right.
Which Cardio Machine Is Best for Bad Knees?
A recumbent exercise bike is the best cardio machine for bad knees because it provides fantastic support to your body, allowing the positions that don’t cause too much stress on your knee joints.
Besides, indoor rowing machines and elliptical training machines could also be suitable for people with knee issues who want to lose weight or keep fit.
Which Is Better for Toning Legs Treadmill or Elliptical?
The treadmill is better than the elliptical for toning your legs.
But, according to the Mayo Clinic, unlike on treadmills, you can pedal backward on most elliptical machines, engaging your hamstring and calf muscles a bit more than when pedaling forward. 
What Cardio Machine Should I Use?
What cardio machine you should use depends on the factors mentioned above.
Now that you’re informed, put our list of exercise machines to the test for a couple of weeks before making your final decision.
I’d suggest going for the LifeSpan CYCLE BOXER, an innovative, all-encompassing, and entertaining fitness machine, mostly because of its versatility, functionality, and effectiveness.
Don’t forget to tell us what you’ve found works best for you and why.