Active Lifestyles: Rise of the cardio machines

Hayley Blackburn


T Frank.jpg
Tony Frank walks past the Rec Center windows. (Hayley Blackburn | Collegian)

Every time I walk into the gym, the sounds of treadmills whirring and dumb bells clanking greet me. On the far side at Miramont, the cardio machines rise toward the ceiling on theater-style steps with nine televisions in clear view.



The array of machines is almost dizzying. From stationary bikes to the elliptical, machines designed to help you move are just waiting — but which one should you choose? Wonder no more because some machines are certainly better than others.


The treadmill is the classic, and most efficient, cardio machine, in my opinion. Running one mile, no matter how slowly, burns about 100 calories. The beautiful thing about the treadmill is how you can control every aspect of your run. The speed and the incline are easy to adjust, so you can sprint uphill, walk on the flats, and repeat for a fat burning session. Plus, I love looking out the window over the IM fields at the Rec Center while I run.

Stair Climber

Holy moly, this machine always puts the hurt to my legs. After just a few minutes of climbing step after step, I am panting and my buns are burning. Climbing stairs can burn about five calories per flight (around 12 steps), but make sure you don’t rely on the rails for support. Let you legs do the hard work here.

Rowing Machine

When I splurged and bought a session with a personal trainer, Kris had me warm up with 500 meters. I knew I was getting my money’s worth from the workout right then – my upper and lower body had to work in sync to pull the cable as fast as I could. My heart was pumping overtime to get blood to both my legs and arms. This is a quick and effective way to get your heart rate up, but I wouldn’t want to stick with it for a 30-minute cycle, which would burn 200-300 calories.

Spin Bike

Freshman year, I took a spinning class that showed me what a hard cardio day really meant. The spin bike lets you adjust the resistance to feel like you are pushing to the top of Le Mont Ventoux in the yellow jersey. The spin bike can be great if you have knee or ankle injuries, but watch out for the seat. The next day, my bum is always sore from the extremely hard and uncomfortable seat, so bring a cushion if you can.


This is the worst machine in the gym. Please do not waste your precious time by spending 30 minutes doing nothing. This machine doesn’t make you work because the arms and legs move for you. The resistance settings don’t create much impact. Don’t be fooled by the “calorie tracker” here. The elliptical is good for cooling down or pretending that you work out.

In the end, find the cardio machine that works the best for you, as long as it IS NOT the elliptical. The gym offers so many ways to get active, so take advantage and try something new.

This week, I challenge you to try running, stair climbing, rowing, and biking to find a cardio machine that works for you!


Collegian writer Hayley Blackburn can be reached at or on Twitter @hayley_blckbrn. If you have a specific question or topic, let her know. Leave a comment!