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How to Use The Cardio Machines You’re Afraid to Try at the Gym

We’ve all been there. You head to the gym after a tough day at work, open the door to the workout room, and see every single treadmill is occupied.

You scan the room and look with dread on the stair stepper and rowing machines. You picture yourself falling off of the former and the latter precludes you from reading that book you brought along. So, where do you turn? Not back out the door, that’s for sure.

Trying new machines at the gym, especially those you have been afraid to try in the past, is good for your overall exercise routine, health and wellness.

In fact, a study from the Journal of Obesity revealed that sticking to the same routine at every gym visit doesn’t lead to weight loss. “Most exercise protocols designed to induce fat loss have focused on regular steady state exercise such as walking and jogging at a moderate intensity. Disappointingly, these kinds of protocols have led to negligible weight loss.” And no one’s New Year’s resolution is “negligible weight loss.”

So even though you’ve put in your thirty minutes of a steady run on the treadmill, you won’t end up moving the needle unless you vary the intensity and intervals of your cardio routine. Trying new machines and workouts is a great way to kick up your heartrate and add more options to your gym repertoire. Here is a look at three cardio machines you’ve been afraid to try at the gym, but totally should.

Open Stride Machine

Open stride machines, also known as Adaptive Motion Trainers (AMTs), are really like stair stepper, treadmill and elliptical all in one. Based on the stride and motion you choose, the machine can adjust to allow you to walk as if going up steps, run as if on a treadmill, or keep an open, smooth stride like on an elliptical.

This machine is a great option for people who are bored by using the same equipment over and over again at every visit to the gym. Instead of needing to switch machines, you can switch your stride mid workout.

The same common features, like resistance and interval training are available on AMTs to help you vary your workout even further. No matter the machine you choose, be sure to add varying intervals of intensity to your workouts. Called HIIT, or High Intensity Interval Training, this approach not only helps you burn more calories while working out, it keeps your body burning calories for up to 24 hours after you step off the machine.

Underwater Treadmill

It’s well known that swimming laps is a fantastic cardio alternative to running or jogging. Take that water workout up another notch by running on an underwater treadmill, which allows you the benefits of the treadmill without the joint impact issues that come along with it. This exercise provides a dual health benefit of increasing the duration of your exercise, since your body isn’t as taxed by repetitive impact, along with the added resistance against your gait that the water provides.

This workout is also helpful for those recovering from injury, since the water reduces swelling and relaxes joints, in addition to taking body weight off of aching joints. Water workouts are an often-forgotten alternative to traditional gym equipment.

Rowing Machine

Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream. Ok, you probably won’t be rowing merrily along using the rowing machine at your gym. These seemingly old-fashioned gym staples are cardio powerhouses when used correctly. Because both your shoulders and legs are being activated as they provide resistance in both the pulling and pushing motions, rowing machines provide a full body workout that will have you sweating in minutes. The rowing machine is also a good option when you are in a hurry, since just ten minutes at a fast pace can burn over 150 calories.

And if you want to be on-trend, some people are heralding rowing as the new spinning indicating a fitness movement is in the works. This long underappreciated machine may soon have its moment in the spotlight, so hop on it soon before lines start to form.

The average gym membership costs Americans almost $700 every year. Those with a membership typically go to the gym twice a week. Given the time and money we invest in the gym, we should take steps to ensure our workouts are helping us reach our health and wellness goals.

Hopping onto the same machine and going through the motions of the same workout every visit will not result in weight loss or significant cardio benefits. Instead, trying new machines and choosing workouts that vary in intensity and time intervals will ensure that time at the gym is not time wasted. These three underused cardio machines are worth a go the next time you work out.

Photo: Laura D’Alessandro

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