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Home cardio workouts: exercise bikes, treadmills, ellipticals and rowers for every budget

T3 logo T3 07/07/2019 Sarah Griffiths
a man holding a laptop: Premium home cardio machines: Peloton © Provided by Future Publishing Ltd. Premium home cardio machines: Peloton

Home cardio 

One of the things you may want to consider is just where you plan on putting a cardio machine, as they’re not small, as well as which type will offer the biggest bang for its buck. For example, if you gravitate to the elliptical trainer at the gym t makes sense to choose that instead of a rowing machine for your home. And then there’s budget. When it comes to exercise equipment, you get what you pay for in terms of build quality and specifications, but if you’re not 100% sure you’ll manage to hit your target of having a quick run on your treadmill three times a week, it makes sense to buy a more basic model first, rather than investing thousands of pounds. 

Jump to your favoured price point

• Premium cardio machines

• Mid-price cardio machines

• Premium cardio machines

And that is why, we have picked our favourite cardio machines for every budget, and whatever your goals and budgets. Aren't we nice?

Premium cardio machines

1. Peloton bike

Hollywood-approved spinning bike with live feeds of world class spin classes

PROS:

+ Fun and engaging
+ Good value for money

CONS:

- Not as sociable as going to a class
- Not for those who like quiet

• Buy direct from Peloton for £2,199

David Beckham, Hugh Jackman, Leonardo DiCaprio, the Obamas are all fans and Ellen DeGeneres said the Peloton bike and app has changed her life. So with such high praise from celebrities, a Peloton bike is a trendy option for cardio equipment. Each Peloton spinning bike has a 22” touchscreen attached that lets you log into its app and attend 8,000+ on-demand classes or 14 classes that are live every day. You can use the app (which requires a subscription) to choose from different length workouts, ranging from 5 minutes to a sweaty 120 minutes, as well as instructor, music genre or intensity. 

Users say it feels as if they are in a spinning class, thanks to quality audio and camera work, and while you don’t get the atmosphere, you don’t have to sweat profusely in front of strangers. There is the option of displaying performance metrics on screen and you can climb up the Peloton leader boards, competing with the likes of Michael Phelps, who allegedly uses the app under a pseudonym. The bike is pricey at £2,199 for The Works package, which includes shoes and other kit, and an additional monthly subscription is needed. But having the bike at home is a godsend for those of us with busy lives or an aversion to exercising in public.

• Further reading: best exercise bikes

2. Technogym MyRun

Best treadmill for home use and also found in many top gyms

PROS:

+ Sexy design
+ Clever app connectivity
+ Gym quality but small size

CONS:

- Quite large

• Buy from Technogym for £3,250

With a punishing maximum incline of 12 per cent, this surprisingly svelte, premium treadmill is as good for training for fell runs as it is for general cardio conditioning. it can be set up in a matter of minutes, and a built-in screen gives basic run information, but you'll want to pair with a tablet to get more advanced metrics. The Technogym app even makes it possible to recreate outdoor runs via GPS data. You can also do workouts that adapt to your favourite music. 

MyRun doesn't only justify its price with cleverly integrated tech; there's also mechanical innovations, including a running surface that actually adapts to the way you run, absorbing impact to reduce the risk of injuries without sapping power. TechnoGym products are found in top gyms around the world, and MyRun is an incredibly realistic running experience. This machine is also Zwift compatible.

3. Concept 2 Model E Indoor Rower

Like the one at your gym, and comes with a heart monitor

PROS:

+ Very professional kit
+ Quiet and smooth action

CONS:

- Not the easiest to store

• Buy from Argos for £1,059

If you always reach for the rower at your gym, why not get one at home? Chances are you have used a Concept 2, as they are fitted as standard in many gyms. The machine's flywheel is quite quiet and smooth, while an air resistance system with veriable tension control controls just how hard your work. The £1,059 rower comes wth a PM5 monitor, giving accurate, comparable data for every row. Other features include: a nickel-plated chain, adjustable footrests and ergonomic handle. The piece of professional kit isn't small, but can be divided in two for storage and comes with handy caster wheels too.

• Further reading: best rowing machine

4. Life Fitness FlexStrider cross trainer

Super elliptical trainer of the gods

PROS:

+ Loads of programs and flexibility
+ Big screen with stats and TV

CONS:

- Massive

• Buy from John Lewis for £11,995

The FlexStrider Cross Trainer is a highly-engineered and technologically-advanced cardio machine. If you're looking to invest in a machine for the long-term, or have plenty of disposable income, it's amazing. It has a smooth motion to mimic natural running or jogging and allows you to change your stride length in an instant and choose a workout that feels natural. The controls are located on the moving arms so you can easily adjust the intensity of your workout without losing focus and there's a 16-inch screen to show your speed, resistance and stride length at a glance, as well as let you watch TV, browse the web or listen to music as you work up a sweat.

• Further reading: Best elliptical machine or cross trainer

5. NOHrD Bike

Great-looking premium exercise bike

PROS:

+ Sculptural and beautiful
+ You choose the wood

CONS:

- No screen or metrics

• Buy from John Lewis for £2,245

Our favourite bikes are Wattbike's Atom and Peloton's Bike (above), but this is a completely different beast to them; just as good in its own way, but aimed at a more lifestyle, less MAMIL- or athleisure-style audience. And if you think sitting in front of a TV and peddling on an exercise is a bit naff, NOHrD’s bike must just change your mind. Perfect for working out your legs, abs and glutes, the piece of equipment is a modern reinterpretation of a traditional exercise bike. It’s got an adjustable seat and handlebars and uses ‘advanced planetary gearing’ to give you the resistance you need, but stats geeks might be disappointed that there’s no screen that shows distance and calories burned etc. 

What the bike lacks in tech, it makes up for in looks, because it is beautiful. Expertly handcrafted in small batches from solid wood in Germany, you can pick the type of wood to match your interior and the bike is so sculptural you won’t mind if it lives in your lounge (probably), or forking out £2,245.

Mid-price cardio machines

1. ProForm Cardio HIIT elliptical cross trainer

Compact machine with serious features

PROS:

+ Small footprint
+ Loads of HIIT-focused features

• Buy from John Lewis for £799

The Cardio HIIT Trainer from Proform promises a workout that combines the intensity of boxing with the movement of climbing stairs, for an all-body workout that uses more muscles for a more efficient training session. The machine offers High Intensity Interval Training (HITT) workouts and 32 Preset Workout Apps to hit calorie, intensity, speed or incline goals. If that's not enough there's also the ability to connect your tablet to access more training options. On the hardware side, there's a built-in fan, oversized pedals and 7-inch LCD screen. And the machine has a relatively small footprint and compact design, which is important if you don’t have a massive home gym. It offers a lot of bang for its buck at £799.

• Further reading: Best fitness trackers

2. NordicTrack RX800 folding rower fitness machine

A compact, mid-range rower

PROS:

+ Ergonomic seat and smooth movement
+ Can be folded and stored vertically

CONS:

- Not as many programmes as some

• Buy from John Lewis for £499

Rowing works both the upper and lower body as well as building your core strength and the RX800 can help. The machine is designed to offer a smooth and natural performance, with an ergonomically designed seat and soft touch handle. There's a screen showing all the stats you would expect, including a choice of 20 workout programs, and a built-in sound system that's compatible with your phone. It's a solid piece of kit of £499 and importantly, the rowing machine can be folded up and stored vertically, meaning you could stash it in a cupboard when it's not in use.

3. NordicTrack GX 8.0 indoor studio bike

Splendid for spinning nuts

PROS:

+ All the features you expect
+ Good build quality

CONS:

- You'll miss the class atmosphere

• Buy at John Lewis for £599

Whether you're devoted to spinning classes and want a way to keep cycling in between, or simply want to burn some calories in front of the telly, NordicTrack's GX 8.0 indoor studio bike may be for you. There's a quick-stop braking system to give you control over the 22kg flywheel, while you can increase the intensity with the adjustable resistance system for a harder workout. But, the adjustable, padded handlebars and saddle ensure that you’re in a comfortable position every second of the way...even if your glutes are burning. The price tag of £599 isn't cheap, but neither are extra spinning classes, and having the kit is your home is more convenient. The only thing that might be missing is the class atmosphere and a motivational leader shouting at you to pedal faster.

Further reading: Best running shorts

4. Reebok Sub Lite 8 treadmill

A big beast with loads for features

PROS:

+ Cushioning
+ Loads of programmes

CONS:

- Big!

• Buy at John Lewis for £1,229

The Reebok Sub Lite 8 treadmill is made for semi-serious runners (who hate rain) or those who have the space for a pretty impressive home gym. It features 'SubLite technology' for plenty of cushioning and a powerful motor delivering a max speed of 20kph/12.4mph across 18 levels of incline for an advanced cardio workout. There are 24 pre-set programmes and an integrated 'media hub' so you can play your music via speakers while your phone charges, as well as a tablet holder so you can watch a film if you fancy. The spacious 52cm x 152cm tread belt means you'll have lots of room to run, but would need a decent sized space to park this beast. 

Affordable cardio machines

9. Opti folding treadmill

A cheap solution for fair-weather runners

PROS:

+ Great value
+ Folds away

CONS:

- It's a bit basic

• Buy at Argos for £239

If you like to run, but not in all weathers, a treadmill may help you stay in shape. The Opti folding treadmill has lots of features for £239, including 10 pre-set smart workout programs, a pulse sensor, speed and start/stop buttons on the handlebars and an iPad holder so you can watch TV while you work out. The company says the machine's strong steel frame is built to last and while it isn’t as sturdy as the ones you may be used to at your gym, it does have three levels of incline and the advantage of being foldable. 

• Further reading: Best headphones for running

10. Roger Black electromagnetic rowing machine

Affordable, entry-level rower

PROS:

+ Handy console
+ The price

CONS:

- Not the slickest

• Buy at Argos for £199

Rowing is great for burning fat, losing weight and toning your muscles and the good news is that's it’s possible to get a rowing machine for less than £200 - just. The Roget Black electromagnetic rowing machine is much more basic than the Concept 2s in most gyms and perhaps doesn't offer all the options and a satisfying glide, but its electromagnetic resistance system with variable tension control will still put you through your paces and allow you to beat your best as you measure your time, distance, calories and strokes per minute. There's a basic console to count distance, calories, strokes and watts and adjustable foot straps so the whole family can have a go. Best of all, it folds up so when you've had enough of being Steve Redgrave, you can get your dining room back to normal.

11. Reebok Z-Power Cross Trainer

All the basics in one neat package

PROS:

+ Built-in display with lots of functions
+ Smooth and quiet

CONS:

- Not the prettiest

• Buy at John Lewis for £399

Elliptical or cross trainers tend to be quite pricey, but Reebok's Z-Power offering is great value at £399, exclusively at John Lewis. For the price, you get a 5.5-inch LCD screen built in, that shows eight types of workout data: speed, time elapsed, distance covered, calories burned, pulse, watts, RPM and your level profile chart. There's a choice of 20 console programmes and 32 levels of resistance too. Built-in sensors on the cross trainer handlebars take your pulse measurement when you want so you can track your fitness performance and the machine promises to be quiet(ish) and smooth, thanks to a 9kg rear-drive flywheel. It's easily adjustable too. While looks-wise it's not the best, this machine offers plenty of bang for its buck.

a close up of a device: Affordable home cardio machines: Reebok Z-Power Cross Trainer

Affordable home cardio machines: Reebok Z-Power Cross Trainer
© Provided by Future Publishing Ltd.
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