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Cardiovascular Exercise Equipment Types, What You Need to Know

Cardiovascular exercise equipment types available on the market today are wide ranging in price, quality and application. The benefits of cardio exercises for all ages are well documented. Due to the ever rising interest in fitness exercises, designers of cardio exercise equipment have also invested a good deal of scientific research developing equipment that suits the needs of this expanding market.

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We recommend that for best equipment choice, were possible, it is helpful to have a glean at scientific findings on pros and cons associated with a particular type of cardiovascular exercise equipment. For example, a good number of studies have been done on the treadmill, stationary bike and stability ball, among others. We share some of the studies in this article.

Cardiovascular exercise is also known as aerobic exercise. Aerobic exercises require a high intake of oxygen to generate energy, increasing your heart rate in the process. Health benefits associated with cardiovascular exercises include lowering blood pressure, weight loss and muscle strength among a good deal of other benefits

General Cardiovascular Exercise Equipment Types

As mentioned, there are many equipment types available to choose from. The following are some of the most popular aerobic exercise equipment types found in gyms and general places of exercise. While these can also be found in the home, we have attempted to list the general ones first and then separately, down below, talk about cardio equipment most suitable for the home setting, small spaces and for seniors.

1. The Treadmill

We consider the treadmill the king of cardiovascular exercise equipment. This is no exaggeration or just for the fun of it, many people love treadmill too.

Scientific studies have also consistently put the treadmill ahead of a variety of other aerobic exercise equipment available on the market. The treadmill is a stationary unit consisting of a continuous turning conveyor-like surface upon which the user can walk or run. In many ways the treadmill is an indoor simulator of outdoor overground walking and running.

In showing the exercise value of the treadmill, a 1996 study published in the journal JAMA (1996 May 8;275(18):1424-7) concluded that the treadmill is a superior indoor cardiovascular exercise equipment compared to a range of other cardio exercise equipment types such as the stair stepper and Airdyne both of which we also list below.

Just as shown in the picture above, most gyms and exercise centers have numerous treadmill machines which is a pretty good indicator of its popularity driven by the exercise results it produces.

2. Elliptical Cross Trainer

The elliptical trainer is nearly equally as popular a piece of stationary cardiovascular exercise equipment as the iconic treadmill. The elliptical trainer simulates climbing stairs, walking and running.

We considered this type of aerobic equipment after the treadmill following the foot steps of scientific studies comparing the two. A 2010 study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (2010 Jun;24(6):1643-9) accepted the elliptical trainer as "an acceptable alternative to a treadmill". This means when using the elliptical trainer you are nearly as good as getting the same exercise benefits as from a treadmill.

The study stated that at the same perceived level of exertion (RPE), the elliptical cross trainer offers the same level of oxygen consumption and energy expenditure similar to the treadmill. However, the researchers noted that the elliptical trainer produces a higher heart rate than the treadmill. If you are mostly interested in a raised heart-rate, the study suggests that you may be better-off with the elliptical trainer

Clearly, the treadmill and the elliptical trainer are cardiovascular exercise equipment very close to each other in benefit and effectiveness. It may really end up the call of the individual as to which one to use.

3. Stair stepper/Jacob's Ladder

The Stair stepper machine which is often referred to as Jacob's Ladder. This borrows from the biblical Jacob's ascending ladder to heaven. It is a cardiovascular exercise equipment that simulates going up and down stairs.

The Stair stepper is an aerobic exercise machine that has been gaining popularity backed by scientific studies. A simple exercise of going up and down the stairs offers tremendous health benefits.

For example, a 2012 review published in the journal PLOS (2012; 7(12): e51213) confirms that stairs are an effective form of exercise. The researchers stated that "stairway climbing provides a ubiquitous and inconspicuous method of burning calories".

Furthermore, their research revealed that there is greater calorie burning benefit in climbing one step at a time. In addition, climbing a 15m high staircase 5 times each day burns on average 302 kcal per week. On the other hand, climbing two steps at a time only expended 266 kcal, according to the study.

In other studies, the stair stepper has been associated with rates of energy expenditure and higher heart rates compared to say the Airdyne or cycle ergometer. It is clear from these results that at the end of the day if you opted not to use the Jacob's Ladder and resorted to real stairs, there is more benefit doing it one step at a time.

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4. Indoor Rowing Machine

The Indoor Rowing Machine is a type of cardiovascular exercise equipment that mimics watercraft rowing. It is used for aerobic exercise as well as for real water rowing indoor practice. Due to its cardiovascular benefits, the use of the indoor rowing machine has since extended to ordinary folk simply looking for a good cardio workout.

Although one study on the effectiveness of the rowing machine published in the Annals of Rehabilitation Medicine (2015 Aug; 39(4): 592–598) in 2015 was focused at the visually impaired, it did confirm that the equipment is effective in weight loss.

At the end of the study, fat mass and total body fat percent went down significantly in the subjects. Furthermore, bad cholesterol also known as low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol also went down significantly.

5. Airdyne Bike

If you are looking for cardiovascular exercise equipment that has been around for ages you probably won't miss the Airdyne Bike. Introduced back in 1978, the Airdyne Bike is a familiar feature in many gyms across the globe. It is a bike with a huge fly wheel providing resistance training. It is classified as an ergometer. The Airdyne has many times been used as an alternative to over the ground cycling.

While useful in aerobic exercise, many studies have placed the Airdyne Bike further down the list in relation to oxygen consumption, energy expenditure and heart rate during exercise. Leading cardiovascular exercise equipment have high ranking numbers on each of these indicators. Although perhaps a minor issue and a matter of personal considerations, some have also expressed concern that the Airdyne Bike is not aesthetically pleasing to the eyes.

Cardiovascular Exercise Equipment For Home


Not everyone has the time nor fancy to be in the gym all the time. For these reasons, there is strong interest in cardiovascular exercise equipment for home use. For practical purposes, not all cardiovascular exercise equipment is suitable for home use nor is all equipment limited to the gym or public exercise center.

Below are some of our identified suitable cardiovascular exercise equipment for home application. We take note however, that some of the equipment that we have already discussed such as the treadmill and Jacob's Ladder may also be suitably used in the home.

1. Stationary Bike

Stationary bikes are among the most popular home cardiovascular exercise equipment. Scientifically, stationary cycling has been identified as key in high-intensity intermittent exercise (HIIE).

A 2011 study in the journal Obesity recommends HIIE for better weight loss. A stationary bike is well suited to perform high intensity aerobic interval exercises.

There are a wide range of exercise bikes available on the market which are of different sizes and electronic feedback technology. Considerations to make before making a purchase include size i.e whether or not it would fit in the home space available. Also to consider is whether or not the bike will be suitable for use by other members of the family.

2. Jump Rope

Among all the cardiovascular exercise equipment for home one could possibly imagine, no other one than the jump rope is better associated with childhood memories. This makes the jump rope one of the earliest introduced aerobic exercise equipment in the home setting thanks to the fun that comes with using it.

However, the jump rope of today is no longer as simplified as it used to be for many in childhood. It now comes with certain electronic technologies infused. This is technology designed to measure a number of indicators to better inform one's fitness regime as it unfolds. This is overall very beneficial and a good thing, not to suggest the good old plain rope is inferior.

Jumping rope is a cardiovascular exercise that has been shown by studies to be effective for a variety of purposes including burning calories for weight loss. For example, a 2010 report in the Journal of Sport Rehabilitation (2010 May;19(2):184-99) concluded that jumping rope brings with it potential for shoulder strength. Overhead athletes such as volleyball players envy great shoulders and therefore find the jumping rope a great companion.

Apart from super portability and easy storage, a jump rope is the cheapest and fastest route to getting some fitness aerobic exercises going at home.

3. Trampoline

A trampoline is as simple as a tension filled launchpad mounted to springs all around for use by almost all ages. The tension in the trampoline enables sustained bouncing. A trampoline provides all-ages fun aerobic exercise for the whole family making it a suitable cardiovascular exercise equipment for home use. We make a side note, however, that this excludes seniors.

Introduced back in 1936 as a circus performance tool, today backyard trampoline sales in the United States reach as much as half a million units per year. WebMD reports that the trampoline provides a very good exercise and that it's not all about jumping and bouncing but also that there can be a systematic approach to exercise on a trampoline such as doing trampoline prances and trampoline squats.

While we recommend the trampoline as a suitable cardiovascular exercise equipment for use at home, we hasten to highlight that it can also be equally dangerous. In fact the journal, Pediatric Child Health (2007 Jul; 12(6): 501–505) warns that injuries in children using trampolines appears to be on the rise. Adults ought to ensure a safe environment and safe set-up before children are left to enjoy the trampoline.

 4. Cross Country Skiing Simulator

Although it appears not that much readily available in mainstream market places, the skiing simulator presents an enjoyable opportunity for home aerobic exercise. Sports journals have considered this cardiovascular exercise equipment a full pledged exercise apparatus.

Whilst its a complex system behind the scenes, the basic system is that the operator of the simulator pulls cables which offer the similar resistance and feedback as one would experience whilst skiing. The simulator may also be accompanied by a screen which completes the simulation experience.

In our view, this exercise equipment borders on gaming whilst still beneficial as a fitness apparatus. This is also what makes it ideal for the home setting in a world were gaming has resulted in most cases in a harmful sedentary lifestyle.

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Cardiovascular Exercise Equipment For Small Spaces

With an increasing shift towards small spaces, cardiovascular exercise equipment for small spaces is a reality that a growing number of people in need of regular aerobic exercise have to contend with. Small spaces can be living spaces, on the plane, on the train or even in the office cubicle.

As if hearing the cries, manufacturers of cardio exercise machines are increasingly developing "pocket-size" equipment to meet this need. The following is a range of cardiovascular exercise equipment for small spaces that is worth considering;

1. Skipping Rope

The skipping rope or jump rope while suitable for home use, is also ideal in certain small spaces. A jumping rope will need just enough workout area to allow a good enough ceiling clearance. A balcony, sufficient area indoors or small backyard garden will be almost all that is needed to use a skipping rope.

2. Stability Ball

The stability ball, also known as the exercise ball among other names, has risen in popularity in recent years to become a household name. However, few are aware that it was developed back in 1963 and gradually found its way to join everyday cardiovascular exercise equipment for small spaces and regular spaces alike. It's suitability for use in the home stems from a range of sizes in which it is available. It has a diameter of 35 to 85 centimeters (14 to 34 inches).

Which size ball to use will depend on the individual to be using the ball. However, even at its maximum size of 85 cm it remains space friendly making it a proper cardio exercise equipment for small spaces. It is a good piece of equipment for improving muscles and balance as it targets the back and stomach muscles. This is a good resource for a variety of exercises that can be done using the exercise ball.

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3. Exercise Band

Also referred to as power bands, exercise bands are another type of cardiovascular exercise equipment suitable for small spaces. They are virtually usable in any space available big or small and are suitable for any ages. Because there are a number of variations on the market, it is worthwhile familiarizing with the different brands available.

Exercise bands can be as long as  30 cm (or 12 inches) allowing them to be stretched further. Each of the exercise band comes with a different strength to facilitate different workout intensities.

As a word of caution, for safety reasons, it is recommended that regular inspection be carried out on exercise bands for minute tears that may snap during exercise resulting in unexpected injury.

4. Yoga mat

Simple but very handy for limited spaces, the yoga mat facilitates a variety of exercises. This makes it an important cardiovascular exercise piece of equipment for small spaces. Exercises that can be done using a yoga mat include pilates, mountain climbers, opposite arm and leg lift, and the the roll up among others.

While it may look simple, a good yoga mat it is designed with safety and stability in mind on any surface in order to support these kind of exercises. Issues such as mat thickness and stickiness are important purchase decision considerations.

5. Dumbbells

Probably no list of cardiovascular exercise equipment for small spaces is complete without including dumbbells. Dumbbells can be very useful when weaved into metabolic circuits that increase heart rate and burn calories. They come in a variety of sizes and weights.When and how to use them varies to the same extent as the number of people who use them.

Cardiovascular Exercise Equipment For Seniors

Cardiovascular exercise equipment for seniors takes into consideration the needs and risks involved when seniors engage in fitness exercises. A prevalent condition that affects many senior members of society is sarcopenia which is age-associated loss of skeletal muscle mass and function.

As such the elderly tend to fall easily which in itself can be a source of complications. Studies recommend physical activity and exercise to counteract age-related skeletal muscle wasting. The following is a variety of well considered cardio equipment suitable for use with seniors.

1. Treadmill

As mentioned earlier, the treadmill has a home everywhere including for use with seniors. A 2014 study report in the Iranian Journal of Medical Sciences (2014 Nov; 39(6): 565–570) not only found the use of the treadmill safe by seniors but also found it effective in improving postural stability which itself is important for the improvement of balance to avoid falls among the seniors.

The study concluded that "twelve sessions of forward and backward treadmill walk are effective in balance improvement in elderly people".

2. Recumbent Bike

The recumbent bike is part of the cycle ergometers. Unlike the standard stationary bike, the recumbent bike has its pedals located in front of the body as compared to being vertically underneath the seat.

Therefore when seated, a person using the bike is in a reclined position reducing body fatigue and muscle soreness particularly around the upper body. This is what also makes this cardiovascular exercise equipment suitable for seniors. Furthermore, the bike is also suitable for people suffering from lower back pain, a common problem among many senior members of society.

3. Stability Balls

Stability balls or exercise balls which we showed earlier as suitable for small spaces are also a good type of cardiovascular exercise equipment for seniors.

In fact, a 2017 study published by the journal Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics (2017 Jul;71:66-74) in addition to step aerobics recommended the use of stability balls to improve balance in the elderly. In addition to balance, the stability ball was also shown to improve the quality of life in the seniors.

4. Elliptical Machine

Elliptical machines suitable for the elderly are sturdy and reputed for being extra gentle to the joints, to protect against injuries. According to the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine, in a report published in 2014, elliptical training is beneficial in reducing "weightbearing in the hindfoot, forefoot, and entire foot even at higher levels of resistance and incline".

5. Rowing Machine

Rowing machines are a suitable cardiovascular exercise equipment for seniors when approached gently. An 81 year old out of Australia has given a motivating testimonial of using a rowing machine on a regular basis. A rowing machine is good for improving strength and endurance in the elderly as well as exercising the legs, back and shoulders.

[Last updated: 09 November 2017]

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