Here's The Real Difference Between The Gym's Cardio Machines

If your workout routine is missing cardiovascular exercises, you're losing out on a lot of benefits. "It has been proven that cardio can have a variety of positive effects on the human body, from enhancing cognition, to improving cardiorespiratory and cardiovascular fitness, to improving glycaemia and insulin regulation, to obviously strengthening the musculoskeletal system," physical therapist Thomas Falda said to Well and Good.

You can choose to do cardio outside — running and panting up and down your neighborhood or simply walking are great options. You could also combine cardio with resistance training for iterations of HIIT and functional training workouts. These may burn calories for longer with an "after-burn" effect while strengthening your muscles and joints at the same time (via Healthline). However, if you have a gym membership, you probably have a few different options to do in rotation. Read on to know the differences between cardio machines before you choose your fighter.

Strategize with your cardio machines

There are a few chosen ones who navigate the gym's many contraptions with a personal trainer but not all of us have that luxury. Most of those complicated machines are meant to train you with weights and resistance but the seemingly simple cardio machines have their own nuances. At first glance, running on a treadmill, alternating elliptical bars and walking up a StairMaster all help you do two things: burn calories and get your heart rate up.

But they do have differences and help achieve different goals. If you're looking to lose weight or sign up for a marathon, the treadmill wins the race. It's a weight-based exercise that can burn more calories than a stationery bike or an elliptical (via NBC). It's also better for your knees than running on a pavement (via Shape).

However, if you're recovering from an injury or just want to focus on a lower body workout, the elliptical is your best bet. Your core stays engaged while you balance your upper and lower body and it's also low-impact. The StairMaster is a great option for these goals, too. "Because the StairMaster engages resistance training in your lower extremities, it's a great choice if you're looking to build strength and endurance in your legs while also getting in some cardio," Rachel Southard from Anytime Fitness said to NBC. The final contender is the stationery bike — take a SoulCycle class if you're dealing with upper body injuries.