“Which exercise machine burns the most calories?” is a common question posed by all newbie keep fitters. Most are looking to lose a few pounds as quickly and painlessly as possible and with the plethora of gym equipment to choose from confusion abounds.
A little light research quickly reveals that your best option for loosing a few pounds is to watch your diet (count those calories!) and increase the frequency of your cardiovascular workouts. A pound of fat generally equates to about 3500 calories, getting your heart rate up during exercise burns calories so a machine that gives you a good cardio workout can be a wise choice if your are looking to lose a little weight or uncover those abs.
What The Scientists Say
Most gyms will offer treadmills, ellipticals, stair masters, rowing machines and stationary exercise bikes. All these machines can give you a good cardio workout, but some are better than others. Here is what the clinicians recommend :
Treadmills – generally recognised to be the best calorie burning cardio workout you can get in a gym. A high intensity run on a treadmill can burn as much as 1200 calories in an hour session. Walking briskly can contribute to 472 calories burned in an hour. One of the main reasons these machines are so effective is that the body has to support itself during the activity, all that balance through the running action involves using muscles that burn calories. A drawback of the treadmill is that it is a high impact machine meaning your joints will take a pounding.
Stair Masters – Ever tried walking or jogging up several flights of stairs? That is what the never ending stairway on a stair master replicates. Your heart rate will soar and calories will be burned as well as your thighs getting pumped. Expect to burn 700 calories an hour on this machine if you can last that long. They are definitely lower impact than treadmills but the higher resistance generated by lifting your body weight vertically on each leg with each step will tone muscles and in some cases help generate muscle growth. Choose a stair climber with care, often dubbed the stairway to heaven because you will feel like you are dying on this machine.
Elliptical Trainers – Like a stair master this machine will help burn off up to 700 calories per hour. These machines are increasingly popular as they are low impact (the body is supported) but you exercise with balance so get to use core muscles for extra calorie burn. With these machines technique and resistance is everything. The wrong technique like not using handles properly or allowing the machines momentum to carry you will lead to a more inefficient workout.
Rowing Machines – Depending on technique and athleticism you can burn 600-1200 calories per hour but you need technique. The rower is low impact and utilises upper and lower body to get your heart rate up but if you use incorrect technique or poor form you can do serious injury to your back. If your technique is good reaching the “bonk” is very possible.
Exercise Bikes – A perennial favourite at home and in the gym. Expect to burn 500 calories an hour on a bike. Your body is supported so joint damage is a rarity. You won’t get the massive calorie burn of other machines because you just don’t use enough muscle groups, but the lower intensity can be habit forming.
The reality is that the best exercise machine for burning calories is a machine that you can get your heart rate up on, don’t mind using, won’t cause injury, or be excessively intense and therefore off putting. Burning 3500 calories or more is going to require more than one session a week so you need a machine you can use regularly.
If you do not already have a body that is used to exercise should you really consider pounding out a couple of miles on a treadmill? No, many people who begin to get fit just don’t have the muscle tone early on and end up injuring themselves and bringing their exercise regime to a halt. Pick a machine that you can use and commit to.
An exercise bike may not be the most efficient calorie burner, but if you can use a bike three times a week for a month that is a better outcome than injury on a treadmill or rower after a few sessions.
Exercise Intensity For Better Results
Whichever machine you go for your calorie burn will be dependant on how high you can get your heart rate and for the duration of this higher heart rate. Training with intensity or a higher heart rate burns more calories than training with a low heart rate. If you are unfit your heart rate will rise during mild exercise pretty quickly until as you get more used to exercise you have to work at higher levels of intensity. Pick a machine that suits your level of fitness and allows you to moderate your heart rate by dropping intensity then progress to more intense workouts and machines as your fitness develops.
Alternatively, consider doing interval training on your chosen machine. Interval training is where you might do a high intensity interval of a minute to spike your heart rate and then drop back to a lower intensity whilst your heart rate recovers to a normal working level. As soon as you are back to normal spike your heart rate up with another fast interval. This technique is a good method for training your heart to deal with stress of harder exercise whilst researchers have found that the technique leads to elevated levels of calorie burn even after the workout has finished.
The best exercise equipment for burning calories will be the machine you can see yourself using week after week. If you are not used to exercise go for a low impact machine that will reduce the chance of injury and opt for a machine that doesn’t require to much technique. As your fitness grows, muscle tone improves and weight comes off look to the more intensive machines to maintain your progress.