Top Cardio Machines for Your Home Gym

By Jason Parker

Cardiorespiratory health increases lung capacity and enhances breathing during exercise and everyday life. Proper cardiorespiratory training enhances the heart’s ability to function, reduces cardiovascular risk factors, and decreases the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease.

Beyond these health benefits, cardiorespiratory exercise can assist in weight loss and weight management, reduce mental anxiety and depression, and improve performance at work, in life, and in the pursuit of hobbies, interests, and sports.

And yet, cardiorespiratory activity is often underrated and misunderstood. The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity cardiorespiratory activity per week in at least 10-minute episodes—but cardio activity is often left out of workout regimens.

Investing in a cardio machine for a home gym allows an exerciser, regardless of experience or current fitness level, to reap the benefits of cardiorespiratory activity. No gym membership is necessary—these functional cardio machines can be easily installed in your home.

Seven cardio machines for your home gym

1. Treadmill

Treadmills offer low-impact and high-impact cardiorespiratory training and can enhance overall fitness. You can expect to pay between $549–$4,000 for a treadmill. The more features a treadmill includes, the higher the price point. Treadmills do come in different size lengths and widths, so when shopping for a treadmill, always test as if you were completing a normal training session.   

2. Rowing ergometer

Rowing machines are excellent for home gyms as many models can be stored vertically or folded to a compact shape, helping them stay out of the way when not in use. Ergometers provide an intense full-body cardiorespiratory workout and strengthen the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, back, shoulders, arms, and core muscles. Prices range from $180–$900.

3. Exercise bike

Perfect for low-impact exercise, an upright exercise bicycle provides a cardiorespiratory workout that also relies on core stability and works the muscles of the lower extremities. To determine if an exercise bike is right for you, consider attending a spin or cycling class before investing in a machine. Your instructor can teach you how to adjust a bicycle and offer personalized training-interval settings. You can expect to pay $140–$1,995 for an exercise bicycle.

4. Airdyne bike

These exercise bikes use a slightly different resistance mechanism than standard cycling or spin bicycles. This option requires a more upright posture and arm motion to operate. Test out airdynes and standard exercise bikes to determine which bicycle will work best for your home gym. Airdyne prices range between $279–$900.

5. Elliptical

Ellipticals deliver the same amount of caloric burn as a walking session of a similar length and intensity. Additionally, an elliptical machine burns calories with less weight bearing on joints of the lower extremities. Ellipticals are a very low-impact workout with less joint stress—a good option for anyone that struggles with sore ankles, knees, or hip joints. Ellipticals range from $400–$2,200.

6. Stair mill

Also known as a stairmaster, stair mills provide an intense cardiorespiratory workout while simultaneously stimulating the muscles of your lower body. It’s a neverending set of stairs—see how many flights you can climb during your training session.

7. Arc trainer

Easily confused with elliptical machines, arc trainers are low-impact machines that are meant to simulate specific motion paths shaped in an arc rather than an ellipse. The design creates less stress on knee joints compared to walking. Arc trainers may not fit the stride lengths for exercisers that are short or tall, so be sure to test out an arc trainer before you invest in one for your home. Arc trainers are a more expensive option, ranging between $1,000–$3,593.

Specialized cardiorespiratory equipment

1. Treadwall

The treadwall is an indoor climbing wall that constantly rotates new grips as you climb. Climbers are never more than two feet off of the ground, and no harness is required. Excellent for those that love to rock climb, treadwalls are most often found in climbing gyms but have started making appearances in specialized home gyms. These are very heavy and require a significant amount of vertical space as well as clearance space around the machine. Expect to pay $6,000–$11,000 for this piece of highly specialized equipment.

2. Jacob’s ladder

While stair mills are never-ending stairs, a Jacob’s Ladder is a never-ending inclined ladder. The machine is fairly large compared to other cardio equipment, but if you’re interested in a cardio machine that strengthens the entire body and enhances core stability, this might be a great option. It’ll take a few training sessions to get used to the machine, so it’s best if you’re able to test it before you commit to purchasing the machine. Prices range between $2,237–$4,195.

3. Skierg

This machine is similar to a rowing machine but is used standing upright. This enhances the upper body work required to complete the downward skiing and rowing motion. Add a partial squat to enhance the work for your lower extremities. This piece of equipment doesn’t mimic everyday motion, so unless you’re a regular or weekend skier, another cardio machine likely makes more sense. A skierg is much more affordable compared to other specialized equipment and can cost between $730–$1,130.

Additional benefits to installing a cardio machine at home

There are several additional benefits to adding a cardiorespiratory machine to your home gym, including:

  • Anytime use—You can use your machine on your own schedule without needing to plan when or how to get to a gym or worrying about a machine being available when you arrive.
  • Affordability—Despite up-front costs and minimal maintenance fees, investing in a home cardio machine can save money in the long run.
  • Privacy—Your space is set up for you and your needs.

Final considerations for cardio machines

When selecting a cardiorespiratory machine, consider these three factors for delivery and installation:

  1. Home delivery and costs—Some cardio machines require extensive assembly and are heavy when fully assembled. When you find the machine that fits you best, ask about home delivery and setup—and confirm any additional costs.
  2. Returns—It’s critical that you have the chance to complete a full workout or two on the machine. Be sure you ask about the return policy, including how return shipping is handled, any fees that you would be responsible for, and how long you have to return the equipment to the store.
  3. Warranty and guarantee information—Are there any warranties that come with the purchase of your machine? Look for a warranty that provides at least one year of labor and three years for parts. Most models are sold with a lifetime warranty on the frame.

A final consideration for your machine—safety. If you have children at home, machines represent an injury risk, even when turned off. Design and build your home gym to give you easy access—but not your children. And only let those who are trained on proper use utilize your cardio machine.

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