What Cardio Machines Burn The Most Calories? Top 7 Ranked by Weight Loss

Weight Loss & Diets | Written by Nathan | Updated on 25 December 2022

Two women in pink and black gym attire question what cardio machines burn the most calories as they both hold the heart rate and calorie tracking handles on an elliptical and high five each other with the other hand.

Knowing what cardio machines burn the most calories is helpful to ensure you’re burning the most calories in a given time frame but it’s important to note that the intensity and resistance of a machine plays a huge role in the amount of calories burned off.

In addition, there’s a variety of factors to consider like how mobile someone is, their goals, and what machines they find most enjoyable.

For this reason, we ranked the top 7 cardio machines by weight loss potential alone so you can decide which will ultimately work best given your body, preferences, etc. 

But first, let’s explore what makes a good cardio machine and the top calorie burning cardio machines. 

What Makes a Good Cardio Machine? 

There are a few different things to look for when picking a cardio machine. A machine that can burn a lot of calories but also is something someone enjoys using and has easy access to are important things to note

For each machine there will be pros and cons and it is important to consider individual preferences and limitations when picking a machine. Additionally, the intensity, weight, speed, and resistance while using a cardio machine will have a big impact on the effectiveness of the machine

What Cardio Machines Burn the Most Calories? Which Exercise Machine Burns the Most Calories? 

While each cardio machine will have pros and cons there are a few that stand out as being the highest calorie-burning machines.

In general, the following cardio machines burn the most amount of calories if all other things are equal:

  • Rowing machine
  • Treadmill
  • Assault (air) bike

Below is a comparison of 7 cardio machines to help identity which machine may be the best option for each individual. 

A woman in an orange tank and black yoga pants has on white shoes and is on an elliptical machine and there's 2 other machines to her left and right.

When determining what cardio machines burn the most calories it is important to recognize the metabolic equivalent of a task (MET). MET is a simple way to determine the intensity of an exercise.1

For example, a sedentary activity such as sitting may equal to 1.5 or fewer METs, body weight exercises may produce moderate intensity such as 4-5 METS, and high-intensity activities such as running or kickboxing may be between 7-9 METs.

The intensity or MET of an exercise will have a big impact on the number of calories burned and may even have a larger impact than duration.2

1. Elliptical

Pros: One of the biggest pros is it’s possible to burn close to 500 calories in 1 hour of work.

The elliptical is a reasonably low-impact machine that will put limited pressure on one’s joints. Additionally, the poles on the machine allow one to engage their arms, leading to a full-body workout. 

Cons: The movement of the machine could irritate hip joints so those with hip pain should remain cautious. Being lower impact, the elliptical will be less likely to tone one’s legs compared to some other cardio machines such as the stair stepper and treadmill. 

The chart below shows the number of calories burned during a 1 hour low, moderate, and high-intensity workout based on weight.

It is important to note that research has shown the calorie tracker on elliptical machines often overcompensates so keep that in mind when tracking calories burned.

Weight (lbs) Low Intensity 

MET: 4.6

Elliptical resistance setting: 2

Moderate Intensity

MET: 4.9 

Elliptical resistance setting: 5

High Intensity 

MET: 5.7 

Elliptical resistance setting: 8

125 274 calories 292 calories 339 calories
150 329 calories 350 calories 407 calories
175 383 calories 408 calories 475 calories
190 416 calories 443 calories 516 calories
200 438 calories 467 calories 543 calories

2. Rowing Machine

Pros: One of the biggest pros of the rowing machine is the unique mix of cardio with a great upper body workout, specifically targeting the traps and lower back.

The upper body focus makes the rowing machine a good option for those with hip or knee problems. Furthermore, while the upper body is targeted with the rowing machine, one will also get a great leg workout. 

A guy in a blue shirt has on black wrist bands and grey knee sleeves on as he pulls on a rowing machine.

Cons: Some cons of the rowing machine is it can become very tedious and boring. And if one is not following proper form, there may be lower back pain.

Additionally, this is not a great option for someone who already has a back injury or back pain

The chart below shows the number of calories burned during a 1 hour moderate, vigorous, and very-vigorous-intensity workout based on weight. 

Weight (lbs) Moderate Effort

MET: 7

Rowing Output: 100 Watts

Vigorous Effort

MET: 8.5

Rowing Output: 150 Watts

Very Vigorous Effort

MET: 12

Rowing Output: 200 Watts

125 417 calories 506 calories 714 calories
150 500 calories 607 calories 857 calories
175 584 calories 709 calories 1000 calories
190 633 calories 769 calories 1086 calories
200 667 calories 810 calories 1143 calories

 

3. Stairmaster

Pros: The Stairmaster is a fantastic workout for the lower body, specifically hitting the glutes, quads, and hamstrings. It is a very easy and natural movement and most beginners can easily complete the exercise with proper form.

Cons: The most notable con of the Stairmaster is the upper body is not engaged at all. Additionally, this exercise is heavy on the legs so beginners may take some time to build up endurance to be able to use the Stairmaster for an extended amount of time. 

The chart below shows the number of calories burned during a 1 hour low and high-intensity workout based on weight. 

Weight (lbs) Low Intensity 

Stairmaster resistance setting: 5

High Intensity 

Stairmaster resistance setting: 10

125 238 calories 523 calories
150 286 calories 628 calories
175 333 calories 733 calories
190 361 calories 796 calories
200 381 calories 838 calories

 

4. Stationary Bike

Pros: There is a growing popularity of the stationary bike from a variety of spin classes such as SoulCycle and the popular home bike Peloton so there are always stationary bikes available at the gym.

The stationary bike is a great way to increase endurance and is very low impact and has a proven track record for being a great weight-loss tool.

A woman in a blue t-shirt and black pants is on an indoor stationary bike inside a room that has concrete walls and a dumbbell rack mounted on the back wall.

Cons: There is a greater emphasis on the lower body with the stationary bike. Additionally, proper form is necessary as bad form can lead to back, hand, and wrist pain.

The chart below shows the number of calories burned during a 1 hour low, moderate, and high-intensity workout based on weight. 

Weight (lbs) Low Intensity 

8 mph-10 mph

Moderate Intensity

10 mph-12 mph

High Intensity 

8 mph-10 mph

125 345 calories 405 calories 476 calories
150 414 calories 486 calories 572 calories
175 483 calories 567 calories 667 calories
190 525 calories 615 calories 724 calories
200 552 calories 648 calories 762 calories

 

5. Treadmill

Pros: One of the most commonly seen cardio machines is the treadmill. A few pros of the treadmill is there are a lot of variabilities to increase the intensity of the workout from adjusting the speed and incline.

Additionally, running or walking on the treadmill is a great way to tone the lower body. This is also an exercise most beginners can pick up very easily.

Cons: The treadmill has the potential to be hard on joints although running or walking on a treadmill can be a better option than walking on the hard sidewalk for some. Also, the upper body is not targeted on the treadmill. 

The chart below shows the number of calories burned during a 1 hour low, moderate, and high-intensity workout based on weight. 

Weight (lbs) Low-Intensity Treadmill speed setting: 3 (quick walk) Moderate Intensity

Treadmill speed setting: 5 (jog)

High-Intensity 

Treadmill speed setting: 7 (quick run)

125 333 calories 516 calories 700 calories
150 400 calories 619 calories 839 calories
175 467 calories 423 calories 978 calories
190 507 calories 785 calories 1062 calories
200 533 calories 826 calories 1118 calories

6. Arc Trainer

Pros: While the Arc Trainer may look similar to the elliptical there are some notable differences. There is less pressure on the knee using the Arc Trainer.

Additionally, there is a greater emphasis on the glutes and hamstrings which makes it a great calorie-burning machine. 

Cons: These may be less common to find in the gym and this would be an expensive option to purchase for an at-home gym. 

The chart below shows the number of calories burned during a 1-hour moderate-intensity workout based on weight. 

Weight (lbs) Moderate Intensity

120 Steps/Minute

Arc Trainer resistance setting: 5

125 340 calories
150 410 calories
175 445 calories
190 510 calories
200 565 calories

 

7. Assault (Air) Bike

Pros: The assault or air bike provides a fantastic full-body workout. It is a great machine for HIIT or interval training.

Additionally, it is a low-impact machine so it is gentle on the joints. With the air bike using a fan as the front wheel the harder one pedals, the more resistance which makes for a customized personal biking experience.

A woman with red hair and a black full-body suit on is pedaling an a black air bike inside a gym that has three treadmills in the back and grey carpet.

Cons: On the same note, the only way one can adjust the resistance is by pedaling harder which can make this machine difficult to use for a long time and there are fewer features as compared to a stationary bike or other cardio machines. 

The chart below shows the number of calories burned during a 1-hour moderate-intensity workout based on weight. 

Weight (lbs) Moderate Intensity
125 520 calories
150 640 calories
175 720 calories
190 775 calories
200 850 calories

 

What Cardio Machines Burn the Most Calories for a Home Gym?

  1. Elliptical: There are a lot of fairly affordable elliptical options to add to one’s home gym. It is likely someone would be able to find a machine for under $1000. With the elliptical being such a great full-body workout this could be a good option for a cardio machine to have at one’s home gym. 
  2. Rowing Machine: For someone looking for a cardio machine that is under $300 that is also a caloric burner the rowing machine would be the answer! Additionally, the rowing machine is a compact machine that could fit into a small space so it would also be a good option for someone with a smaller space for their home gym. 
  3. Stairmaster: A Stairmaster may be one of the most expensive cardio machines to purchase for one’s home gym. To purchase a stairclimber comparable to the ones at the gym those are averaging almost $4,000.There are some more affordable options but the machine would be vastly different from the standard stairclimber found at the gym. For someone looking for an affordable cardio machine, the Stairmaster may be best skipped. 
  4. Stationary Bike: Stationary bikes are becoming a very popular home gym item. Peloton has become such a popular cardio machine for weight loss and home exercises and could be an affordable option with Peloton’s monthly payment option.It’s possible to get the bike along with the accessories for $1,500. It is important to keep in mind that after the initial Peloton purchase, there is a monthly fee of $44 a month for the extensive classes membership. 
  5. Treadmill: Not only is the treadmill a popular gym cardio machine, it also frequently is seen in home gyms because of its compact size and reasonable price. One could find a good quality treadmill for under $500 and because of how popular they are in the home, it may be possible to find some used ones for even cheaper. 
  6. Arc Trainer: An arc trainer is an amazing option for those who are looking for a full-body workout that offers less pressure and stress on the joints. It is possible to find some of these for about $500 with high-quality, brand-name machines being closer to $1,500. 
  7. Assault (Air) Bike: The assault bike is another option one could find for under $500. If the assault bike fits into one’s goals, adding it to the home gym may be a great option due to it being less common in gyms. 

What is the Best Cardio Machine for Weight Loss?

Looking at the comparison of the 7 different cardio machines, the assault bike, treadmill, and rowing machine come up in the top three whereas the rowing machine is number 1.

When determining what cardio machines burn the most calories, it’s important to note that these calorie estimates could vary greatly based on intensity and duration

Additionally, when deciding which machine is best for weight loss, it’s important to evaluate one’s current physical fitness to decide which machine may be the best option to start with first.

For those beginning a weight loss journey, starting small and slowly building on the exercise is a great way to create a sustainable and long-term exercise plan for weight loss.3

How Many Calories Can I Burn in 30 Minutes on a Cardio Machine? How Many Calories Can I Burn in 1 Hour Doing Cardio?

The number of calories burned during a workout on a cardio machine will greatly vary depending on the type of machine used, intensity, and duration. Additionally, one’s current weight, gender, body fat %, and current fitness levels will impact the number of calories burned.

The below chart shows the estimated calories burned by a 150-pound individual working out at a moderate intensity level.

Machine 30-minute workout  60-minute workout
Elliptical 175 calories 350 calories
Rowing Machine 250 calories 500 calories
Stairmaster 143 calories 286 calories
Stationary Bike 243 calories 486 calories
Treadmill 310 calories 619 calories
Arc Trainer 205 calories 410 calories
Assault (Air) Bike 320 calories 640 calories

Best Calorie Burning Machine That’s Low Impact

The top calorie burning machines are the assault (air) bike, rowing machine, and the treadmill. All three are fairly low-impact machines but all have their individual flaws and reasons why they may not be suitable for someone.

For example, for someone who already has lower back pain, the rowing machine may not be a good option because the lower back is targeted. 

With each machine, the intensity can be customized to one’s personal fitness level by adjusting the speed and incline on the treadmill and resistance on the rowing machine. So it would be easy to start slow and steady with each of those machines.

It is important to note it may be more difficult to have the same personalized experience with the assault (air) bike because the rider is the one who controls the resistance by pedaling faster and there are no specific settings to change. 

How Are Calories Burned on Cardio Machines Calculated?

When beginning the conversation of how calories burned are calculated it’s important to first understand what happens to one’s body at rest. At rest, energy is expended as cells maintain their normal function for life.

This forms the body’s basal metabolic rate and this can range between 800 and 1500 calories depending on the individual’s weight.4

Furthermore, it’s important to keep in mind that different body weights can have an impact on calories burned. A larger, more muscular person will use more energy during a workout thus burning more calories compared to someone who is smaller, weighs less, or has less muscle mass. 

Research has shown that the calorie readings on most machines can actually be incorrect because they do not factor in the many variables that do impact calories burned such as weight, age, fitness level, gender, and body fat percentage.

For one wanting to calculate the number of calories burned this formula could be followed:

[(Age x 0.074) – (Weight x 0.05741) + (Heart Rate during exercise x 0.4472) – 20.4022] x Time / 4.184= Calories Burned

This formula was coined by the Journal of Sports Science and could be an easy way to calculate the number of calories burned. It is important to note that this formula does not take into account another very important aspect of calories burned: body fat percentage. 

In conclusion, the best way to get the most accurate calorie-burning number would be to wear a heart rate monitor that will take into account all of the important factors, including body fat percentage.

Additionally, while calorie-burning readings on cardio machines may be inaccurate, they do present a great estimation. 

Which Is Better: Cardio Machines, Weight Lifting, or Other Forms of Cardio Like Swimming?

When determining which type of exercise one may want to do there are a lot of factors to consider with one of the most important being: what the ultimate goal is. For someone who is wanting to gain muscle composition and tone, weight lifting would be a great option.

Weight lifting in general can provide more noticeable changes to weight loss alone as muscles grow and the body gains lean muscle. 

On the other hand, cardio machines and other forms of cardio such as swimming will burn more calories compared to weightlifting alone. Additionally, cardio is great for heart health and endurance. 

The most important factor to consider when deciding what exercise plan to follow to work towards one’s dream body is finding an exercise plan one enjoys. Finding an enjoyable exercise routine is more likely to lead to long-term success and a commitment to the program.5

How To Spot Fatigue & Program in Recovery Days When Using Cardio Machines 

Alongside wondering what cardio machines burn the most calories, one may also be curious to know what signs to look for to recognize burnout and fatigue and when to take a rest day.

Recognizing fatigue is very important because overtime fatigue can lead to a muscle’s decline to perform, which would impact long-term goals and take a toll on the body’s overall well-being.6

A pale women in a light blue shirt is holding the cardio machine handles that monitor heart rate and calories burned and there's another woman in white pants and a grey top behind her.

Some of the most common signs of fatigue to look out for are:

  • persistent soreness
  • muscle cramps
  • slow reactions
  • feeling overall weaker
  • pain

Typically symptoms will go away within 3 to 5 days. If symptoms last longer more rest may be required.

It’s important to recognize that if symptoms are persistent it most likely means one pushed too hard and one should keep that in mind for future workouts. 

If fatigue symptoms are severe:

  • Taking a deload week may be beneficial. A deload week will vary based on individual needs.
  • This time off could look like doing fewer reps, reducing the intensity or duration of the workout, focusing on stretching, or purely only resting and recovering as sleep is crucial to muscle growth

If symptoms are milder:

  • It could be helpful to take a day or two off. It is most important to listen to one’s body and be kind and gentle to oneself. 

While there are many different factors that play into what cardio machines burn the most calories, it’s crucial to find a workout plan and machine that works best for one’s individual goals and is something one enjoys

Frequently Asked Questions

What Exercises Can I Do Outside To Burn the Most Calories?

Hiking is an excellent outdoor activity that can burn a lot of calories. One could burn up to 400 calories an hour depending on the hike’s difficulty.

At Planet Fitness, What Cardio Machines Burn The Most Calories?

The PF 30-Minute Express Circuit is a great, efficient workout that targets every muscle group and offers cardio and strength training. The workout includes 20 stations: 10 machines and 10 stepping blocks that you work on for 60 seconds then move on to the next station, totaling a 30-minute workout.


References

1Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. (2022). Staying Active. The Nutrition Source. <https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/staying-active/>

2Gaesser, G. A., & Angadi, S. S. (2011). High-intensity interval training for health and fitness: can less be more? J Appl Physiol. <https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21979806/>

3National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2022). Tips for Starting Physical Activity. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. <https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/weight-management/tips-get-active/tips-starting-physical-activity>

4Robergs, R. A., & Kravitz, L. (2022). Making Sense of Calorie-burning Claims. UNM. <https://www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article%20folder/caloricexp.html>

5Hagberg, L. A., Lindahl, B., Nyberg, L., & Hellenius, M. L. (2009). Importance of enjoyment when promoting physical exercise. Scand J Med Sci Sports, 19(5). <https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18694433/>

6Enoka, R. M., & Duchateau, J. (2007). Muscle fatigue: what, why and how it influences muscle function. The Journal of Physiology. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2375565/>

About the Author

Nathan

Nathan has been a fitness enthusiast for the past 12 years and jumps between several types of training such as bodybuilding, powerlifting, cycling, gymnastics, and backcountry hiking. Due to the varying caloric needs of numerous sports, he has cycled between all types of diets and currently eats a whole food diet. In addition, Nathan lives with several injuries such as hip impingement, spondylolisthesis, and scoliosis, so he underwent self-rehabilitation and no longer lives with debilitating pain.