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Run, Ride Or Climb? Choosing The Cardio Workout That’s Right For You

With so many choices of how you can work up a sweat at the gym, how can you know which is best or – even better yet – which is best for you? For our purposes, let’s stick to the big three – bikes, treadmills and elliptical climbers – and look at the pros and cons of each and what each can do for you in your next workout.

The Treadmill


The old standby: the treadmill comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some have programmable features that vary your workout to approximate the workout you’d get by running an outdoor course with hills and valleys.

Some can monitor your heart rate as you run or walk. And still others have advanced shock absorption to keep your knees feeling great even after a long run. But with all of their options and features, they all accomplish the same thing – they allow you to run or walk mile after mile without leaving the room.

And they are pretty effective at burning calories. Even though you are primarily using your legs to propel you, the rest of your body gets in on the workout too as you pump your arms and rotate your torso with each step.

Calorie Count: for a 30-minute jog on a treadmill, a 125lb woman could expect to burn somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 calories.

Pros: easy to use, effective

Cons: impact affects your joints, so if you’ve got a bum knee, skip the treadmill.

The Bike

stationary bike

The stationary bike has been a staple of the cardio room for as long as there have been cardio rooms. Through the years, the bike has gone through a number of design changes.

There are the bikes that use wind resistance where you essentially pedal a giant fan (the bonus here is the breeze you generate can cool you down). There are others with programmable electronic resistance that gives you a similar workout to a long road ride uphill and down.

Bikes can burn calories as well, but somewhat less efficiently than the treadmill.

Calorie Count: a 125lb woman on a stationary bike, pedaling at an average rate, can expect to burn around 200 calories over the course of a 30-minute workout.

Pros: easy to use, effective (if you stay at it long enough)

Cons: it only burns 2/3 the calories of the treadmill, so to get the same benefit, you need to stay on the bike longer.

The Elliptical Climber

Elliptical Climber

A relative newcomer to the cardio room, the elliptical climber took over where the stair climber left off – and it gets your arms in on the action.

There are independent pedals for each of your feet and a moving handle for each arm. The movement is entirely different from other exercises – a strange marriage of a ski machine and a stair climber with a motion that resembles vertical pedaling.

It takes a bit of coordination to get started, but it gets easier once you get the rhythm down. We’d say it’s like riding a bike, but it’s not. It can be a great workout and a great change of pace from your other cardio machines.

Calorie Count: a 30-minute elliptical climber workout will burn around 200 calories for a 125lb woman working out at a moderate pace.

Pros: different motion gets other muscles in on the action, total body workout

Cons: hard to get used to. Not as efficient as treadmill.

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