Maximizing your indoor cardio workout

Maximizing your indoor cardio workout

By Chris Strub

It feels like just yesterday that you were soaking in the sunshine, enjoying a relaxing afternoon jog.

But as winter settles in, black ice shrouding the few shoveled sections of your neighborhood sidewalk, the cardio machines at the gym look more and more appealing.

But where do you start? The options are plentiful and can be overwhelming, and your choice should depend on the results you're looking for:

The treadmill

Walking on a treadmill only burns between 150 and 400 calories per hour, depending on your speed and incline. The treadmill can be a great addition to the end of your workout - running up an incline can boost your metabolism for hours after you leave the gym. Try to avoid the handrails if possible - only use them if you have trouble maintaining your balance or while increasing or decreasing speed and incline. Hanging on to the hand rails while using an incline defeats the purpose of the incline, and significantly decreases the caloric burn of your efforts.

The stationary bike

A stationary bike is an excellent choice to incorporate the big and powerful muscles in your legs, allowing you to burn between 500 and 1,000 calories an hour. Make sure you select a resistance high enough to stimulate these muscles; riding without resistance leaves most of the work up to gravity. Proper form is key when using the bike - make sure you're sitting up straight and do not slouch. The bike might not be your best option if you sit for hours at a time at work: your tight hip flexors could be aggravated, causing posture problems.

The Stairmaster

Despite its popularity, the Stairmaster offers a limited scope of results. This machine will help sculpt your calves, as well as part of your upper thighs and butt, but even extra effort will burn somewhere between 400 and 500 calories - by comparison, less than two slices of 14" pizza -- per hour. The Stairmaster is also notoriously difficult on those with lower back pain. For better results, find a machine that resembles a stationary staircase - your legs will thank you.

The rowing machine

Now we're talking! If used correctly, the rowing machine can burn in excess of 1,000 calories per hour. It can also be one of the most boring machines in the room. The most common mistake? Focusing too hard on your arms. Try using one of the machine's built-in programs to ensure your form is correct and a proper pace, as it's easy to exhaust yourself.

The elliptical

Proponents of this machine point out the benefits of non-impact exercise. The elliptical causes minimal compressive forces on your bones and joints. Without arm movement, you'll burn about 600 calories per hour; machines with upper-body components can burn 700 to 900 calories per hour. It is recommended that you do not use the elliptical exclusively - performing only nonimpact exercise can negatively affect your bone mass and strength in the long run.

Sources: askthetrainer.com, huffingtonpost.com