Best Cardio Equipment For Home Gyms – Ranked For Results!

Home gym planning and construction can be an exciting time for you. With the right setup, you can forego commercial gym memberships and work out virtually any time of day or night. 

Ensuring you have the right equipment in your home gym, though, will take research and dedication. 

This review looks at the best cardio machines for home gym builds and help you decide what you need in your setup. 

Whether you are looking to get fit or just stay active, cardio equipment is an essential part of that process. 

Let’s find out what equipment is best for your specific needs and can give you a great workout. 

In this section, we will rate, review and compare the 10 best types of cardio machines for your home gym.

Whether you are looking for a specific kind of solution or a more all-around solution, you will find the answer below. 

1. Electric Treadmills

Pros

  • Complete control over speed and resistance
  • Great for weight loss and cardio health
  • You can run regardless of the weather
  • Safer and lower impact than outdoor running

Cons

  • They can take up too much space
  • Still fairly high impact and can cause joint pain



woman running on electric folding treadmill

A treadmill is one of the most popular and affordable cardio solutions on the market, and they haven't changed much over the years.

Walking, jogging and running are often touted as the best all-around cardio exercises you can perform. 

It is also easy to do since you simply need to walk (or run).

However, the elements and weather don't always play nice, and if you are restricted in mobility, getting outside for an hour a day or more can be a challenge.

You can read all about the benefits of using a treadmill at home in our useful guide.

With added technologies and features, though, they have imported in performance. 

The electric treadmill is the best option for many home gyms because you can easily access the control panels to change incline, speed, and monitoring.

See Also - Best Affordable Home Treadmills

Our Favorite Budget Treadmill – Merax MX00777

The Merax folding treadmill is lightweight but with a durable frame. It has 12 different preset programs to choose from, and a max speed of 7.5MPH with a really smooth transition. 

It also has modern features like a heart rate monitor, speakers, and a USB port. Plus it has a shock resistant belt which protects your knees while you run.

The best features of this treadmill is that it folds up, making it perfect for those who don't have a lot of space in their home. 

This sturdy electric treadmill has a lot of features and for this price it's great value for runners.

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2. Manual Treadmills

Pros

  • No power source needed
  • It responds to your pace - giving you control
  • Feels more natural and promotes proper form
  • More affordable

Cons

  • No incline options 
  • Can put stress on your joints
manual walking treadmill by sunny health and fitness

If you want a treadmill that is lightweight, portable, easy to use, and highly affordable, you may wish to look at a non motorized treadmill. 

Unlike the electric counterpart, these have fewer features and technologies included, which drastically lowers the price point making them excellent for home gyms.

However, without the electrical connection, you are left to adjust the incline, and there is no auto shut off to stop the machine should you fall.

While the safety shut-off isn't required, the belt will only move under your manual power. 

With a manual treadmill, you control the speed and duration of your workout, and it is only limited by your abilities in terms of speed and difficulty.

Also See - Electric Vs Manual Treadmills Compared

Our Favorite Manual Treadmill – IN10CT Health Runner

The IN10CT Health Runner is a curved treadmill which simulates natural running really effectively.

It's heavy, but really sturdy and has built in transport wheels to make it easy to move. It also has solid handles so you can use it more easily. 

The treadmill is powered by you so you can go at your own pace. You can also track your time, distance covered, heart rate, and calories burned on the display screen.

The rubber belt helps to reduce the impact on your joints, and you can burn 20-30% more calories on this manual treadmill compared to electric models. 

Non motorized treadmills are perfect for long distance running and walking, and this model will definitely help you get a great workout.

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3. Indoor Cycling Bikes

Pros

  • Great for raising your heart rate and fat burn
  • Low impact workout
  • Safer than road cycling 
  • Strengthens lower body

Cons

  • Fewer calories burned compared to outdoor cycline
  • It can be boring
indoor cycling bike made by yosuda

If walking or running is difficult due to rehab or injury, a sitting workout is still possible.

One of the most popular options is an indoor cycling bike.

There are many types of indoor cycles, including stationary bikes and recumbent bikes (see below). 

With cycling, there are an abundace of benefits for riders. You get a full cardio workout lower body routine and can even incorporate arms workouts with light weights if you desire. 

There are also many sizes and styles to choose from, which, like the treadmills, offer various features or options. 

Some bikes also have a great range of features like built-in speakers, monitors, displays, and some can even link you up to a virtual spin class to help you get the most out of your training.

Our Favorite Cheap Exercise Bike – pooboo D525

The Pooboo D525 exercise bike is compact, but high quality. It has a fully adjustable design so you can move the seat and handlebars to suit the needs of different users. 

It also has a heavy duty steel belt driven system which allows you switch to more resistance quickly and really push your lower body.

You can also track your cardio with the Pooboo, and the LCD screen shows you your distance, calories, heart rate (through the hand pulse monitors), and your speed.

It also comes with rubber leveling feet so it can be used easily on an uneven floor. 

The Pooboo D525 is perfect for anyone who wants to cycle at home, and works as a much cheaper alternative to other bikes like Peloton.

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See Also - Best Budget Exercise Spin Bikes

4. Elliptical Machines

Pros

  • Burns a lot of calories
  • Very low impact
  • Lower and upper body training
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Large cardio machines which can take too much space
  • Expensive
man using schwinn 430 elliptical

Elliptical machines combine the benefits of a treadmill and the comfort of an indoor bike while adding the features of a cross-country trainer, and you've probably seen them in your local gym.

One of the best cardio machines on the market right now, elliptical machines are ideal for low impact, high cardio performance. 

See just how much of your body an elliptical works in our guide.

Elliptical machines come in a wide range of capabilities, sizes, and styles. 

With hydraulics, smooth operation, and near-zero impact to joints, knees and spine, you are safe while getting a full cardio workout, which is why many professional athletes use them when recovering from an injury.

Our Favorite Affordable Elliptical – Sunny Health & Fitness SF-E3862

Sunny Health & Fitness equipment is one of the best home cardio machines.

This SH & F elliptical has 16 different levels of electro magnetic resistance, easy controls, and 7 built-in programs for on demand workouts.

It also has a heart rate monitor and display screen to track your activity. 

This is a smaller elliptical, which is great for small spaces in your garage gym. It's really sturdy and has rear stabilizers which stop it from shaking when you use it.

Plus, it has a manual mode, so you can use this elliptical without any electricity source.

This is a great cardio machine for anyone on a budget, and offers a lot of value.

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5. Rowing Machines

Pros

  • Whole body workout
  • Low impact
  • Great for all fitness levels
  • Cardio and strength training in one 

Cons

  • Needs a lot of space
  • Can be expensive
concept 2 model d rowing machine in loungeroom

Rowing is, in a word, difficult. It requires strength, focus, and determination.

But this is exactly why it is easily the most effective cardio workout available. 

Rowing machines bring the water sport into your home and offer you the opportunity to get a full cardio workout while also building your strength. 

There aren’t a lot of good workout machines that can say that.

Unlike most other cardio machines on this list, there are several types of rowing machine to choose from. 

Manual and electrical units are there, of course, but magnetic resistance, wind resistance, and even water resistance models (such as a hydrow rower) are also available.

Depending on your needs and training levels, magnetic and water rower options are the most results-driven. 

Because of the resistance, you can add or remove strain, get a full workout, and get your heart rate up all at the same time.

Related Article - Water Vs Air Rowers

Our Favorite Rowing Machine - Concept 2 Model D

One of the most popular indoor rower models is the Concept 2 Model D.

It features a low crossbar for easy entry and exit, a long glide rail for even the longest of inseams, and sturdy foot guides that can accommodate small to extra large feet. 

Not only that, but with the sturdy construction and solid build, it will last for years, supporting daily and constant upper and lower body workouts by users up to 500 pounds.

You also get the most out of your workout with a sleek, stylish design that comes apart into two pieces for simple, fast storage.

The Concept 2 is a serious rower which you can use for effective workouts to help you lose weight.

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6. Recumbent Bikes

Pros

  • Simple use with low impact on joints 
  • Comfortable and safer
  • Supports longer workouts
  • Raises heart rate and burns fat

Cons

  • Heavier and bulkier cardio machines
  • Not a full body workout
sunny health and fitness recumbent bike

We covered indoor bikes previously, but there are also recumbent bikes.

What is the difference? The biggest difference is in the use.

A recumbent bike is designed for a low seat, non-upright approach to cycling. 

It is ideal for those with bad backs, bad knees, or for active recovery from injury because they are easy to get on and off, and you have a full seat with a back for support. 

In addition, a recumbent bike allows you to sit back in a more natural position to protect the spine while still offering a full cardio workout and lower body exercise.

Read More - Recumbent Vs Upright Bike Compared

Our Favorite Recumbent Exercise Bike – pooboo Recumbent

The Pooboo recumbent bike offers and smooth and silent ride. The frame is on the heavy side, but the heavy-duty steel tubing is tough and durable enough to support over 330 pounds of weight.

It also has comfortable high-density foam padding to make it comfortable to use. 

There are 8 levels of resistance to choose from and you can easily switch between them using a rotary tension knob.

It also has a device holder, and a display screen to help track your calories, distance, and get your heart rate level. 

This cardio machine offers great value for money and will help you smash your cardio at home.

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7. Vertical Climbers

Pros

  • Burns a lot of calories
  • Tones and shapes your body
  • Compact and easy to store
  • Low impact option

Cons

  • The movement takes some getting used to
  • Usually a low max weight
woman using vertical climber

Stair climbers, or vertical climbers, are compact training machines that mimic climbing a ladder.

This exercise is more specialized but offers the same results as a treadmill for cardio work and a rower for leg strength training. 

By using vertical climbers, you engage multiple muscle groups, including the legs, glutes, core, and upper body.

You can climb as fast or as slow as needed and all with a low-impact position that protects the spine and comforts the knees. 

Also See - Gym Equipment For Legs

Our Favorite Vertical Climber - The Hicient Vertical Climber

The Hicient Vertical Climber is compact, user friendly, and offers a digital monitor to track your progress.

Not only is it sturdy and durable, but it is a cost-efficient machine, and space-saving solution for multiple use workouts. 

The slim design can hold up to 350 pounds and features a 3-step folding process that allows it to compact flat for closet or under-bed storage. 

This upgraded cardio machine model also features three handholds for different arm muscle engagement and a wide base to prevent rocking, movement, or vibration—ideal for small home gyms that are short on space or storage. 

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8. Cross Country Skiers

Pros

  • Really elevates your heart rate
  • Raises your fitness level
  • Full body workout 
  • Highly functional training

Cons

  • Tones- doesn't build muscle
  • Not great for tall users
ski machine in bedroom with woman skiing

Like rowing, the motions of cross country skiing are known to have a high impact on the cardiovascular system and have been shown to improve heart health.

However, not everyone has access to large, open snow slopes for constant workouts. 

This is where ski trainers come into play.

By allowing you to mimic the skiing motions in the comfort of your own home, you can reap the benefits without having to live in the mountains. You also don't need to wait for the next snowfall to work out. 

Our Favorite Cross Country Skier – Concept2 SkiErg

The Concept2 gives you all the benefits of real cross-country skiing without leaving your home.

It also gives you additional features that real life skiing doesn't, like the PM5 performance monitor which tracks your distance, speed, pace, and calories.

There are even built in games and training programs to give you a better workout.

This skier has a durable ergonomic construction which is tough, and should stand up to heavy use.

It can be freestanding or wall mounted to maximise your workout space, and it even folds for storage. 

It uses fan generated resistance which has a damper to reduce the noise, so it's great for smaller homes.

This is one of the best cardio machines for those looking to lose weight and those recovering from an injury. 

9. Stair Stepper Machines

Pros

  • Really elevates your heart rate
  • Builds core muscle and leg strength
  • Low impact
  • Burns calories quickly

Cons

  • Expensive
  • No upper body engagement
two stairmaster steppers

Like a vertical climber, a step machine will mimic climbing.

Instead of a ladder, though, you are climbing stairs.

Made famous by the Stair Master, the stair stepper is great for burning calories, increasing heart rate, and improving lung capacity, all while simultaneously working out your lower body. 

The main difference to a vertical climber is that the arms are not always engaged, and fewer core muscles are used.

However, a stair climber can help progress weight loss and offers a challenging workout to prevent plateauing.

Also See - StairMaster Vs Treadmill - Ultimate Showdown

Our Favorite Step Machine- The StairMaster SM3 StepMill

Models like the StairMaster SM3 StepMill are perfect for smaller home gyms with a compact design that doesn’t lose any of the benefits or features. 

This is the same style of climber sold to spas, health and fitness clubs, and commercial gyms, just on a slightly smaller scale.

You control the workout using programmed routines and walk or run between 26 and 162 stairs per minute.

The large back-lit display tracks your distance, floors, time, calories, and you'll also get your heart rate shown. It is also compatible with Polar heart rate monitors. 

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10. Arc Trainers

Pros

  • Increases your endurance
  • Burns lots of calories
  • Adaptable and adjustable
  • Low impact workout

Cons

  • Higher learning curve 
  • Not a compact machine 
man using arc trainer

For those with a penchant for multiple functions and space-saving designs, you may be interested in an arc trainer.

These machines are designed to incorporate multiple cardio workouts in a single machine. 

While they aren't for everyone, they do take a bit to get used to.

However, for those determined enough to try and can stick with a routine, the arc trainer may be one of the most significant result-driven machines on the market. 

Related Article - Elliptical Vs Arc Trainer Compared

Our Favorite Arc Trainer - The Cybex 750AT Total Body

The Cybex 750AT Total Body Arc Trainer, for example, features three machines in one.

You get one machine that combines the effects and styles of a ski machine, elliptical trainer, and stair climber all in one. 

As you can imagine, this machine will have your heart pumping, engage various muscle groups, and can be used as a full-body workout on your cardio days to burn calories quickly. 

This particular model also supports up to 400 pound user weight, has 8 preset programs, and has the ability to program up to 9 more.

In addition, the full-sized, split-level display will show progress, track stats and keep you on track with the program, so you know what is coming up and can push yourself to improve. 

While it may not be the easiest machine to use or get comfortable with, once you get the hang of it, you won't want to use anything else.

The good news is that once you get to that point, you won't need to use anything else. 

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Benefits Of Using Cardio Equipment In Your Home Gym

Scientists and health enthusiasts have studied cardio workouts for decades.

The findings are all similar[1]: exercise and cardio fitness significantly improve overall health and reduce the risk of multiple diseases or conditions, especially those related to the heart.

While it has been found that physical activity has a direct correlation to heart health, there are more benefits to consider as well.

For example, exercise with cardio machines can lower blood pressure. High blood pressure is a leading risk for heart disease. 

It also helps lower weight and keep your weight under control. Physical cardio activity can also help you quit smoking, strengthen and tone muscles, and lower stress levels.

Johns Hopkins Medicine also provides information[2] that regular exercise can reduce inflammation and even stop the development of diabetes. 

On top of all the studies, proof, and testing, cardio exercise is easy, low impact, and fun. What's not to love?

cardio equipment in a home gym

Determining Which Cardio Equipment Fits Your Fitness Needs? 

With so many options out there for cardio machines, it can become confusing to know what to buy.

Which cardio machine should you buy for home use? There are several consideration factors you need to think about. 

Price

It can always be tempted to look for expensive, premium equipment for your home gym - but you shouldn't overspend.

There's enough cardio machines out there that you should be able to set a budget for home cardio machines and stick to it. 

An indoor exercise bikes or non motorized treadmill will usually be the cheapest, and these are probably the best cardio machines for those on a budget.

You can pick up a reasonable model for under $500, or some very cheap models for under $250. 

You do tend to get what you pay for, but you should be honest about what you need.

If you're just starting out then a basic piece of equipment will do, only look for premium models when you need you think them. 

The bottom line is, look for value and always look around to find the best cardio machines you can afford. 

Available Space

Space is a major factor when you're selecting your gym equipment and every home gym owner knows that space is usually at a premium.

You should consider how much space you have available, and the area around the machine too because if it's too limited then you won't be able to use the equipment properly. 

If you have low ceilings, like many garage gyms do, then a vertical climber or stair stepper won't work well.

An indoor stationary bike or treadmill is usually available in a compact size, or you can look for other machines which fold up when it's not in use. 

Make sure you measure the area accurately and find equipment that fits the space with a bit of clearance around it so you can use it fully. 

Your Personal Fitness Goals

The best cardio machines should help you meet your fitness goals, so it's worth taking some time to consider what your specific goals are.

Losing weight is a common goal and for that you need to focus on burning calories, but if you want to tone up then you may need something different. 

All of these workouts will give you a great cardio workout, but for strength training that engages your entire body you should look into a rowing machine, elliptical, or arc trainer instead.

Integrated Technology

Technology can make an ordinary cardio machine into the best cardio machine.

Good equipment can help you track your workouts and heart rate accurately, and some other cardio machines will even let you connect your phone or other technology. 

Some modern treadmill, rowing machine, and spin bike models also have integrated technology which can connect you to live classes from the comfort of your own home. 

This basically means the equipment acts as a personal trainer and can help you get into the best shape. 

If you're looking for an exercise machine you're going to use a lot then it's definitely worth considering the technology that's built into it because it can make a huge difference to the quality of your workout. 

Enjoyment When Working Out

A good personal trainer will always tell you to find exercises you enjoy, and this rule holds true here.

You need to find equipment which you actually enjoy using so that you can get an effective workout and actually reach your personal fitness goals. 

If you don't like running, don't get a traditional treadmill, and if you don't like cycling then don't get a spin bike. If its minor issues holding you back, such as bike seat comfort, then these can be easily fixed.

Focus on the exercises and movement you actually enjoy and find equipment which supports that. 

Ease Of Use

You don't want to purchase equipment that you cannot currently safely use and that means you need to consider your ability, fitness levels, and overall mobility.

If you have any injuries or strains then you need to find equipment that's easy to use.

Ski machines and rowers are great for burning calories, but really difficult to use at first - this is the same for vertical climbers. 

A motorized treadmill is super easy to use, but it can be high impact which is bad for those recovering from injury. 

Your safest options are generally a rowing machine or elliptical for low impact workouts, but a seated bike can also give you an effective workout that won't strain your body.

Consider your limitations, go at your own pace, and find the best equipment to suit you. 

Versatility of Machine

The key to effective cardio training is keeping your body guessing and stopping it from getting boring - especially if you're using it for extended periods of time.

Some home cardio machines can be fairly repetitive and dull, whereas others offer a bit more variety and versatility. 

A non motorized treadmill can burn major calories, but you're a bit limited in how you can use it.

Arc trainers and ski machines are more interesting, and there are usually lots of built in routines to help you use the equipment in a few different ways. 

If you like to mix up your heart pumping workouts then look for versatile equipment which can be used in a few different ways. 

cardio machines in garage gym

Common Cardio Equipment Questions

Should I do cardio or weights first?

It is generally advised that if you perform strength training and cardio exercise on the same days, you should perform the weight training first. This is due to the cardio exercises using energy which is needed for the anaerobic weight training. If you perform the cardio first, you are susceptible to muscle fatigue before you ever lift a single weight.

Read our complete head to head comparison of cardio vs weights to learn more!

How often should I do cardio to lose belly fat?

You should engage in some form of cardio exercise for 45 to 60 minutes per day, at least 5 days a week. The workout intensity, your diet and frequency of cardio workouts will all play a huge role in losing belly fat.

Is 30 minutes of cardio 5 days a week enough?

In most cases, 30 minutes will be enough, especially if you aren't used to moving as much as you would like. However, being able to double that to up to 60 minutes per day, 5 days a week, is the general consensus on acceptable cardio. This is especially true for those looking to cardio to help minimize risks of diabetes, heart disease, or fat loss.

Is it better to do cardio in the morning or at night?

While there are studies and advice to say that morning cardio is best, it is still your judgment call. There are two main benefits to morning workouts - it is low impact when compare to lifting weights and it will help wake you up for a positive day. If the morning doestn suit you, then later in the day has the same positive outcomes as well.


Conclusion - What To Buy?

Cardio exercise is one of the staples of any workout routine, and there are several methods to go about getting your daily cardio workout in.

A simple brisk walk for 45 minutes can be enough, but for those looking to ramp up their game and see more results, you need the right equipment. 

Walking, running, and rowing are the best for cardio and weight control. Because of that, treadmills and rowers are arguably the best pieces of equipment to have in your home gym.

Price, availability, and your current ability will help determine which of the two (or both) you decide to go with. 

References:

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6557987/
2. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/7-heart-benefits-of-exercise

Paul J

Last Updated on October 26, 2022