Best Cardio Equipment For Home Gyms (10 Types Compared)

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 equipment for home gym builds and help you decide what you need in your setup. 

Whether you are looking to bulk up, 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. 

Scientists and health enthusiasts have studied cardio workouts for decades. The findings are all similar: 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 equipment 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 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

10 Best Cardio Machines For Your Home Gym (Rated & Compared)

In this section, we will rate, review and compare the 10 best types of cardio equipment 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 Treadmill

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.

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

serenelife smart electric folding treadmill

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 arguably the best option for many home gyms for specific reasons.

You can easily access the control panels to change incline, speed, and monitoring. An electric treadmill like the SereneLife Smart Electric Folding Treadmill offers you a low deck for easy mounting and dismounting, hand grips for support that also features heart rate sensors and 12 preset programs. 

The folding design makes it easy to move and store, and the lightweight model can easily be moved by one person. It also features a safety shut-off and a moderate deck size to accommodate most runners.

See Also - Best Affordable Home Treadmills

Pros

  • Media ports and full control display 
  • Hand and strap sensors available 
  • Portable and lightweight 
  • 12 preset programs for multiple exercises 

Cons

  • Not the best option for users over 6 feet tall 

2. Manual Treadmill 

Sunny Health & Fitness SF-T1407M

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

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. 

You control the speed and duration of your workout, and it is only limited by your abilities in terms of speed and difficulty. Models like the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-T1407M feature a full deck, safety handrails, and a digital monitor for speed, distance, time, and caloric burn. 

This model also folds flat (upright), which can be transported and easily stored away when not in use. With a non-slip deck surface, space-saving design and easy portability, manual treadmills make for space-saving cardio machines that give back what you put in.

Related Article - Best Manual Treadmills For Home Gyms

Pros

  • Safety grip and deck for non-slip running 
  • LCD readout tracks your progress 
  • Easily portable 
  • No electronics 

Cons

  • Smaller deck size 
  • Not the best for persons with bad knees 

3. Indoor Cycling Bike 

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, you get a full cardio workout leg 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. 

yosuda indoor cycling bike

Some bikes will have built-in speakers, monitors, and even displays to help you get the most out of your training. The YOSUDA Indoor Cycling Bike, for example, features adjustable handlebars, seat, and multiple grips for comfort and performance. 

This is a belt-driven model that offers near-silent operation (about 25dBA) and a solid steel frame for stability and durability. The padded feet are also compatible with all floor types making it easy to set up in any room of your home. 

With a max user weight of 270 pounds, a digital display and monitor station, and an iPad holder, you can follow along with your favorite cycling exercise apps and get the most from your workout. 

See Also - Best Budget Exercise Spin Bikes

Pros

  • High user weight limit 
  • Silent operation 
  • Solid and durable frame 
  • Compact design for even the smallest home gyms 

Cons

  • Larger inseams (over 35-in) may find it challenging to use 
  • Some users complain the seat isn’t as comfortable as it could be 

4. Elliptical 

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.

One of the best all-in-one 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.

The Schwinn Fitness 430 Elliptical model, for example, not only offers you a 10-year warranty but has more features than other brands and models at twice the price. With the Schwinn 430, you get cup and phone holders, comfort grips, large foot pedals, smooth and fluid motion, and a large display. 

That display also features over 20 exercise programs, tracking, monitoring, and a digital readout that is easy to see with quick, push-button operation. You can even pause your workout without losing data. 

Cushioned feet, durable steel frame, and low entry allow you to perform any cardio or heart rate limit exercise you need, all in the comfort of your own home. 

See Also - Best Affordable Elliptical Machines 

Pros

  • 22 preset workouts 
  • Durable steel frame 
  • Long coverage warranty 
  • Dual digital screen 

Cons

  • Larger footprint versus some models 
  • Not as low cost as other brands 

5. Rowing Machine 

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

Unlike most other options on this list, there are several types of rowers to choose from. Read about all the rower types here!

concept 2 model d rowing machine

Manual and electrical units are there, of course, but magnetic resistance, wind resistance, and even water resistance models are also available.

Depending on your needs and training levels, magnetic and water resistance options are the most results-driven. Because of the resistance, you can add or remove strain, get a full workout and increase heart rate all at the same time. 

One of the most popular models is the Concept2 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 use 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.

Related Article - Best Cheap Rowing Machines on the Market

Pros

  • 5-year frame warranty 
  • PM5 performance monitoring display included 
  • Near zero impact workouts 
  • Cardio and strength training in one 

Cons

  • Needs over 9 feet of space for use 
  • Not the cheapest model on the market 

6. Recumbent Bike 

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 injury recovery 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 training exercise. 

The Sunny Health & Fitness Programmable Recumbent Bike, for example, has an easy entry deck and extra-wide seat. It also features a breathable mesh chair back to help remove sweat and keep you cool while using. 

The upright performance monitor is easy to program, use and see while you are cycling, and it also features a device holder so you can enjoy a show, music, or follow along with a training app. 

The built-in pulse sensors on the handgrips help monitor heart rate, caloric burn, and distance traveled. On top of all that, you also get an adjustable seat and floor stabilizers that work on any floor surface and transportation wheels (and handle) for easy portability. 

Read Also - Best Recumbent Exercise Bikes

Pros

  • Simple use with low impact on joints 
  • Extra-wide seat for comfort 
  • Durable enough for daily use 
  • Monitors all vitals on easy to read display 

Cons

  • Smaller users may not be able to reach the pedals 

7. 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 climbing, you engage multiple muscle groups, including the legs, glutes, core, and arms.

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. 

vertical climber

The Hicient Vertical Climber is compact, easy to use, and offers a digital monitor to track your progress. Not only is it sturdy and durable, but it is a cost-efficient 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 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. 

Pros

  • Ultra-compact design 
  • Simple to set up and use 
  • High user weight limit 
  • Multiple muscle engagement 

Cons

  • Not ideal for injury recovery 

8. Cross Country Skier 

sunny health and fitness air walk trainer

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 cross country 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. 

Models like the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-E902 Air Walk Trainer give you all the benefits of cross-country skiing without having to leave the confines of your home gym. Even better, they offer other features that actual skiing does not. 

For example, a heart rate and digital monitoring system that will track time, distance, caloric burn, and more. It also features low-impact movements, comfort grip handles, and smooth, fluid motion throughout your workout. 

With an abdominal pad, you can also lean into the machine to remove strain from your back or add stability if you want to increase speed. 

This model is ideal for those working out with a 30-inch stride, and up to 220-pound users. It is compact, easy to set up, and can be used right away, daily, and consistently. With a 5-year warranty and a folding design, you won't have to worry about any part of the use, storage, or durability. 

Pros

  • Get a cross country workout without leaving home 
  • Durable construction 
  • Digital tracking display 
  • Folds for storage 

Cons

  • Not ideal for longer strides 
  • All manual motions 

9. Step Machine 

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, this commercial gym staple is an ideal way to burn calories, increase heart rate and improve lung capacity, all while simultaneously working out your legs. 

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. 

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. 

stairmaster sm3 stepmill

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 heart rate. It is also compatible with Polar heart rate monitors. 

Related Article - StairMaster Vs Elliptical Machine

Pros

  • Compact design for home gyms 
  • Durable and sturdy construction 
  • Multiple monitoring display 
  • Large steps for ease of use and lower impact 

Cons

  • Not affordable for all budgets 
  • Doesn’t engage all muscle groups 

10. Arc Trainer 

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. 

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 cross country skier, elliptical trainer, and stair climber all in one. 

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

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. 

Pros

  • 10 year warranty 
  • Full digital display 
  • Program your own workouts 
  • 3-in-1 workout machine 

Cons

  • Higher learning curve 
  • Not a compact machine 

Determining Which Cardio Equipment Fits Your Fitness Needs? 

With so many options out there for cardio equipment, 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. 

For example, what are your fitness goals? If you want to lose weight, you will need different equipment than if you are looking to tone muscle and improve heart health. You also need to factor in your current abilities. 

You don't want to purchase equipment that you cannot currently safely use. If safety is an issue, the equipment should be avoided. This can be due to up/down mobility, leg lifting to enter or exit the machine, or a low seat that you are unable to get up from. 

Another major factor is space. How much room do you have in your home gym for cardio equipment? If you have plenty of room, this is still a concern for movement. The equipment itself may fit, for example, but if a low ceiling prevents you from using it properly, it should be avoided. 

You also need to think about your budget and the portability of the equipment. A rower, for example, is often used in a living room where there is a television to watch while working out. If that rower isn’t very portable, though, you will have a tough time getting from the storage area to the workout area every day. 

Low impact options, like exercise bikes, are best for bad knees. Rowers and treadmills offer low impact cardio workouts, but your body should tell you which is best. Perhaps you must be seated or need a low entrance level because of your knees. All of these factors will help you determine which piece of equipment is best for you (or which should be avoided).

See our complete guide on the best exercise bikes for bad knees to ensure you get an efficient, injury-free workout.

cardio machines in home gym

People Also Ask (FAQs)

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? 

There are mixed reviews and ideas behind the intensity and frequency of cardio workouts to lose belly fat. A lot will depend on your current situation, abilities, and goals. If you are just starting out, for example, you may aim for two days worth of cardio and three days of strength training. However, it is widely believed that you should engage in some form of cardio exercise for 45 to 60 minutes per day, at least 5 days a week.

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 a judgment call. Because there are two main benefits to morning workouts (low impact and will help wake you up), it is generally advised to perform cardio workouts after waking up in the morning. If, however, you cannot set aside the time, it isn't any less effective to do a cardio workout later in the day. 


Conclusion

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. 

Paul J