The stair master, the stationary bike, and the elliptical — we all have our favorite cardio machine at the gym, but which one is the best one for your body? We asked Dr. Yoav Suprun, DPT, a McKenzie physical therapist at Canyon Ranch in Miami Beach to weigh in on the pros and cons of some of your favorite gym staples.
The Stationary Bike
Pros: Low impact, easy on the joints, offers a wide range of intensity options
Cons: The riding position can bring on back pain, or aggravate sciatica for some. “We flex our spine all day and sit for hours - why sit for a cardio session?” asks Dr. Suprun.
Pros: Low impact, upright position of the body, also easy on the joints and offers a wide range of intensity options
Cons: If you have a small structure or small frame, using an elliptical with handles would be pulling your body out of alignment. “People suffer from holding the handles as it pulls on the lower back and neck once the handle is moved forward,” explains Dr. Suprun.
Keep reading for more pros and cons of your favorite cardio machines.
Pros: Keeps your body in an upright position, allows for high or low impact options depending the use
Cons: “There is no wind resistance, and the belt is moving under you,” says Dr. Suprun. When you walk normally, your body is propelled to move forward, which is ideal, he says.
Pros:Offers a high intensity workout, more intense activation of the lower body muscles
Cons: This machine is where we most commonly see exercisers leaning on the handlebars to keep up their pace. This can cause excess strain on the wrists if you hold the railing for too long, and could start to strain your lower back, says Dr. Suprun.
And the winner is?
The treadmill. Dr. Suprun says this is the one machine he recommends most for general populations (those with specific injuries or limitations should seek the advice of a medical professional). “Functionally, treadmill mimics the one activity we MUST maintain until the last day on this planet — WALKING!” says Dr. Suprun. Even better, skip the treadmill and take your cardio outside — you'll burn more calories and activate more muscles and allow your body to follow its own natural range of motion.