Which Cardio Machine Burns The Most Calories?

Last Update:
GymCrafter is reader-supported. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Learn More.
most calories featured image

Are you looking to shed some pounds, build your strength, or just stay fit? Incorporating cardio into your exercise routine is essential for any of these goals.

Sure – there’s an array of machines in the gym, but if calorie-burning is what you’re after, then look no further!

In this article, we’ll be discussing all popular cardio workouts – from treadmills and stair climbers to stationary bikes and ellipticals – comparing them on their abilities to help maximize calorie loss with each session.

So get ready for a full breakdown of which cardio machine burns the most calories!

Which Cardio Machine is the Most Effective?

Technically speaking, elliptical machines burn the most total calories during a moderate to intense workout. The real determining factor, though, is the consistency of use. The most effective cardio machine for you is the one you’ll actually use regularly because you enjoy it!

That said, let’s take a look at each of the most popular machines and how many calories they’ll actually burn for you. These are ranked from least to most calories burned.

Inside of a gym full of cardio machines... which cardio machine burns the most calories?

6. Treadmill

250-350 calories/hour – at 5km/hour

treadmill
Treadmill

Treadmills have become ubiquitous in homes and gyms – they’re effective, affordable, and accessible! For beginners on a budget or experienced fitness fanatics alike, treadmills offer an excellent way to burn calories.

At 10 km per hour, you can expect to shed around 712 calories each hour (and more if you’ve got a healthy BMI). Furthermore, the speed of your stride as well as its intensity, directly affects how many calories are burned during those sweaty sprints, so remember to kick up the tempo for maximum calorie-burning potential!

Check out our recommended treadmills page for our current favorite treadmills!

5. Wildcard: The SkiErg

420 calories/hour – at a moderate pace

ski erg
Ski Erg

If you’re looking for a cardio machine that burns a lot of calories, the SkiErg is a great option. It is the most underrated machine but quite a great upper-body cardio machine.

At a moderate pace, you can burn 420 calories per hour with this machine.

The SkiErg is a low-impact machine, making it a good choice for people with joint pain and injuries in their lower body.

Check out our favorite ski erg from Xebex!

4. Bike/indoor bike

622 calories/hour – at a moderate pace

spin bike
Spin Bike

Biking is a great way to increase your heart rate and burn calories. But how many calories does biking really burn? It depends on a few factors, such as your weight, intensity, and duration.

At a moderate pace, biking can burn around 622 calories per hour for a person with a healthy BMI. This number will be lower for someone who is overweight and higher for someone who is very fit. The intensity of your ride also makes a difference. If you’re pedaling hard, you’ll obviously burn more calories than if you’re cruising along.

So, biking is a good option if you’re looking to burn some serious calories. Just make sure to vary your intensity and keep track of your duration to ensure that you’re getting the most out of your workout.

Check out our favorite indoor bikes by Nordic Track here!

3. Rowing Machine

622 calories/hour – at a moderately-high pace

rowing machine
Rowing Machine

A rowing machine is a great option if you’re looking for a cardio workout that will really get your heart rate up and help you burn some serious calories. A rowing machine is also a low-impact machine.

That’s why joint pain, injuries, and muscle problems do not count. According to HealthStatus, a person of average weight can burn 622 calories in just one hour of moderate-paced rowing.

If you crank up the intensity, you can burn even more. Almost all your muscles come into action on this machine, eventually resulting in major calorie burn. So if you want to make the most of your cardio workout, a rowing machine is a great choice.

Check out our favorite rower here!

2. Air Bikes

660 Calories/Hour – at a moderately-high pace

Xebex Air Bike
Air Bike

Air bikes are also known as assault bikes. They are quite different from regular bikes. When you pedal, the two fixed handles of the bike move back and forth.

These bikes use wind resistance from a flywheel. If you pedal faster, the resistance increases, which makes them ideal for high-intensity interval training. Some studies showed that ten-minute high-intensity interval training is more effective than a fifty-minute steady workout.

Air bikes are effective cardio machines and are a great option if you want to burn calories quickly. With air bikes, you can burn 20-30 calories in a minute and up to 300 calories in just 20 minutes.

Check out the absolute best air bike on the market here!

1. Elliptical

773 calories/hour – at a moderately-high pace

elliptical machine
Elliptical

The elliptical is one of the most popular cardio machines at the gym, and for a good reason. It’s a great workout for both your upper and lower body, and it’s a low-impact machine giving you a low-impact aerobic workout that is easier on your joints than on something like a treadmill.

But how many calories does an elliptical actually burn?

At a moderate pace, you can expect to burn around 200-300 calories in 30 minutes on an elliptical. But if you push yourself and go fast, you can burn upwards of 800 calories in an hour! Of course, this all depends on your weight, speed, and intensity level, but it just goes to show that the elliptical can be a great calorie-burning machine if you use it correctly.

See the elliptical that’s been studied to give the highest calorie burn here.

Factors Affecting Total Calories Burned

The total calories burned while using cardio machines vary from person to person. This disparity is primarily due to genetic factors, such as

  • Weight
  • Height
  • Body Composition
  • Metabolic Rate
  • Age
  • Fitness Level

On top of these baseline influences, there are other variables that can drastically affect how many calories a person burns while using a cardio machine.

Exercise intensity and duration – both play huge roles in the number of calories expended; the higher the intensity or longer duration, typically the more calories that will be spent.

Machine Adjustments – adjusting the machine’s settings on certain machines may modify the intensity or add resistance which will subsequently affect calorie burn. Additionally, an individual’s fitness level and cardiorespiratory endurance play an instrumental role in determining their calorie expenditure during any cardiovascular exercise.

All in all, it’s important to remember that everyone has unique characteristics that must be taken into account when estimating total calorie burn with a cardio machine.

The estimated calories burned are calculated in ideal conditions, which is never true when actually working out.

Accuracy of Calorie Counters

Cardio machines featuring built-in calorie counters are becoming increasingly popular, as they offer the added convenience of tracking your calories burned with the press of a button. With heart rate monitors and more sophisticated algorithms, they can give us an accurate snapshot of our workout intensity, not the calories burned.

Is it accurate??? There are many variables that must be taken into account in order to determine an individual’s total calorie burn — height, weight, age, and even body composition factors into the equation. These products provide us with useful information i.e., heartbeat and blood pressure. But…

The calorie counter in these machines is all estimation and mostly a marketing gimmick.

Maximizing Calories Burned

Maximizing your efforts while burning calories on cardio machines is something that requires more than just the newest, most expensive machine – it requires discipline and effort.

Fire burning calories
Burn, calories, burn!!!

Consistently pushing yourself to feel your muscles working during the session will help increase the number of calories burned in a short period, regardless of which machine you are using.

Make sure to start at a comfortable speed so you have enough energy left over to pick up the pace throughout the session. Start with a lower incline or resistance and gradually increase it throughout the session to keep you engaged and motivated.

You may even want to reward yourself for reaching small milestones along the way!

A Downside Of All Cardio Machines

Working out on any cardio machines can become repetitive, stressing the same muscle groups daily. Over time, damage accumulates to the point where your body begins to produce cortisol, also known as the ‘stress hormone.’

Overproduction of Cortisol production slows down metabolism & immune response and increases inflammatory stress response. Most experts recommend limiting cardio to two high-intensity sessions a week with two to four lower-intensity sessions (source)

The best way to avoid this s to either space apart your workouts or incorporate resistance and muscle-building routines into your regimen.

This will not only help increase the number of calories you burn while working out, but it will gradually help tone your body over time. After some time, you can even transition fully into resistance training and muscle-building exercises for your daily workout routine, giving you more control over your workouts and calories burned.

In other words, the absolute best way to burn calories is to build muscle. That muscle then proceeds to burn calories all day and night whether you are doing cardio or not!

Which Cardio Machine Should You Buy For Calorie Burn? – Conclusion

It can be overwhelming trying to decide which cardio machine is best suited for your individual fitness goals, but it’s important to remember that it doesn’t matter which cardio machine burns the most calories if you don’t use it. Lots of people buy an air bike only to find out that they prefer medieval torture devices more. Then the bike sits there and burns, you guessed it, zero calories!

If you aren’t sure what you would or would not use, head out and try them! Most gyms, if you ask, will issue a free week pass to those considering joining. That allows you to try everything before buying.

Outside of that, you can never go wrong with a treadmill. Treadmills are the most versatile of every machine we covered here and the most likely to be used. Even though it’s the lowest calorie burn on this list, the benefits of daily walking cannot be derived from any other machine on this list.

Sources and Further Reading

Design of a Secure Biofeedback Digital System (BFS) Using a 33-Step Training Table for Cardio Equipment

Exercise equipment: Assessing the advertised claims

The Big Fat Lie About Burning Fat

An evaluation of home exercise equipment claims: Too good to be true

Photo of author

AUTHOR

Shayla Whitters is an experienced fitness writer with degrees in exercise science and health and wellness. She is certified as a strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) and a sports nutritionist (CISSN). Her passion is writing about fitness so as to inspire others to change their lives for the better.

16 thoughts on “Which Cardio Machine Burns The Most Calories?”

  1. I’ve seen much different numbers than this. It seems like everywhere you look, there is different information. We can only afford one machine and we still can’t figure out which one would be the most effective.

    Reply
    • So the real answer to this question, as we highlighted in the article, is that it doesn’t matter. The one that you will use most consistently is the one you should buy and the one that will burn the most calories for YOU!

      Reply
    • If you still want to do cardio,there are a ton of other options! My personal favorite is a heavy bag. Go 10 3 min rounds on a heavy bag and I promise you’ll have had a cardio workout like no other. Skipping rope, bike riding, kayaking, hiking, and a ton of other activity based exercises work great too. The key is finding what you like and will actually do. It absolutely doesn’t matter if that thing is the MOST effective as long as you do it regularly.

      Reply
  2. Great post! More people need to understand this! So many people on the struggle bus every day using cardio machines they hate because the readout says it’s burning the most calories. SUre enough, those people all quit eventually. Finding the machine you actually enjoy is the key!

    Reply
    • Thanks for reinforcing this! It’s THE most important thing about training and at the same time it’s one of the least known and understood principles out there!

      Reply
    • Thank you, professor bro science! For everyone out there that is a professional body builder, this is great advice. For everyone else, please move on, there is nothing to see here.

      Reply
  3. How does the calorie burn from machines compare to actual activity? How about things like jump rope or a heavy bag? HIIT training with weights?

    Reply
    • I know this isn’t the answer you wanted, but it doesn’t matter. Do the thing you enjoy and will do consistently. People spend way too much time fretting over a few calories here and there and not near enough time making sure they train every day without fail. So, do the one you love!

      Reply
  4. does running outside or riding an actual bike outside burn more than machines? We live in San Diego and never have a problem going for a run or ride.

    Reply
    • It doesn’t matter! If you enjoy training outside, and you live in SD, that’s what you should do. But to actually answer your question, it depends on conditions, elevation, etc. One thing I think people forget about running and biking outside is that you can’t just quit if you get tired, you actually have to make it back home! Riding my bike outside always results in a longer ride and therefore more calories burned. Hope that helps!

      Reply
    • I 100% agree with you, but in sourcing the article, we couldn’t find any reputable journals or studies that didn’t say an elliptical burns the most calories. So while I call tell you 100% for sure that 30 minutes on a rower is a lot tougher than 30 on an elliptical. But I’m not in a lab measuring, so maybe I’m wrong? In any case, I hate using an elliptical and love my rower, so there’s that.

      Reply

Leave a Comment