There are many simple ways to get a good cardiovascular workout without having to go to a gym—talking a lunchtime walk with your co-workers, for example. But the advanced cardio machines most gyms and health clubs offer do have benefits and can be especially helpful to manage back or joint problems that may inhibit other exercise. Here’s a summary of pros and cons for five common machines from this month’s Berkeley Wellness Letter. For more information, you can also check out the American Council on Exercise here.
Elliptical Trainer: A unique fitness club invention. The weight-bearing movements help build bone strength, but it is low impact enough for joint problems or injury recovery. Forward and backwards movement engages a full range of different leg and buttock muscles; and movable poles engage chest, arms, shoulders, and back. Drawback: set stride length of machine may or may not correlate well with your own stride; can be awkward.
Treadmill: Weight bearing, and extremely easy to use. Belts are usually cushioned, so exercise is lower impact than walking or running outdoors, but much higher than elliptical trainer. Requires good balance and steady straight-ahead gait to stay on moving belt. Upper body can be engaged lightly by swinging or pumping arms.
Stationary Bicycle: “Just like riding a bike,” without worrying about traffic and potholes. Non-weight bearing exercise is excellent for users with joint or skeletal problems. Recumbent models simulating sitting in a chair as opposed to a traditional bike seat are usually available. Recumbent style can be beneficial for people with back problems and works hamstrings and buttocks more effectively. Drawback: No upper body workout.
Stair Climber: Weight bearing and low impact. Excellent for hips, buttocks, and legs; some models include ladder-type attachment to engage upper body. Drawback: can be very strenuous and uncomfortable for people with knee problems.
Rowing Machine: The hardest machine to use correctly. Proper posture is essential and can be tricky to maintain if you are unfamiliar with technique; improper technique may result in injury. Low-impact, non-weight bearing exercise. When used properly, a rowing machine can provide a total body workout, lower body, core, and upper body all at once. Wellness Letter recommends getting help from a trainer until you get the hang of this one.
No matter what type of workout or cardio machine you favor, consistency is the key: 30 minutes per day is ideal. Try to find exercise partners that keep your routines fun and satisfying. The FruitGuys can help your company develop a walking club and get you started with pedometers to track your progress - contact us at 877-FRUIT-ME or at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Jeff Koelemay