Benefits and Drawbacks of Popular Cardio Equipment

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  • Benefits and Drawbacks of Popular Cardio Equipment

Choosing which equipment to stock in your gym is one of the many huge decisions you must make as a business owner. Especially when your budget and floor space are limited, the pressure is on to make your selections carefully. This week, we’ll be looking at some of the pros and cons of popular cardio equipment, so you can evaluate them based on your own priorities.


Regarded as of the most ubiquitous cardio machines out there, treadmills are popular for a reason. Running (or even walking) in and of itself is a fantastic, effective cardio workout that the majority of exercisers are capable of doing in some capacity. And, with a little bit of incline tossed into the mix, a standard running or walking workout becomes an intense way to torch calories.

Simply because of the popularity and effectiveness of treadmills, they appear at the top of the recommendation list of cardio equipment you should stock in your gym. While gyms can often get away without providing ellipticals, arc machines, and other fancy cardio gadgetry, a gym without a treadmill would feel incomplete to most people aiming to improve their cardiovascular health.

Ellipticals and Arc Trainers

Ellipticals and arc trainers are lumped together in this category because they perform a similar service: a low-impact, low-stress, and often low-to-moderate intensity cardio workout. You can opt to stock one or both options on your gym floor, or neither at all.

Advanced athletes and those going for pure intensity and calorie burn are probably not going to favor ellipticals or arc trainers as a top choice. However, if your gym attracts a demographic that skews more toward cardio enthusiasts or people who pop in some earbuds and watch TV for an hour on the elliptical, these machines can be a huge draw. You might even find they are constantly in use, with lines waiting for the next turn. Plenty of people want a simple way to get in a low-stress cardio workout that’s easy on the joints, and ellipticals or arc trainers often fit the bill perfectly.

Stair Machines

Stair machines lie on the opposite end of the spectrum from ellipticals and arc trainers. Known for punishingly intense workouts, stair machines are a favorite among athletes who strive for high-octane calorie burn and a great leg workout at the same time.

Due to the intense nature of a stair machine workout, most people will not use one machine for longer than ten or fifteen minutes at a time. This is in stark contrast to the one to two hours that some folks spend on the elliptical. What this means for your gym in practical terms is that, even if your stair machine is fairly popular, you can likely get away with stocking just one or two if you need to save gym floor space.

Stationary Bicycles

Stationary bikes cover a wide range, from the Airdyne-style bicycles with handlebars that provide a full-body workout, to the standard upright pedal-only spin bike, to the relaxed style of the recumbent bike.

If your budget and floor plan can support it, we would recommend stocking at least one of each type in your gym. That’s because each one appeals to a different style of exerciser. Similar to the contrast between the laid-back elliptical and the sweat-inducing stair machine, the difference in workout intensity between a recumbent bike and an Airdyne is striking.

If you can’t manage to offer the range of bicycles to your members, choose the model based on your usual demographic. If your members are mostly athletes training for events using HIIT and other intense training sessions, you won’t likely need a recumbent bike to suit their needs, for example.

Rowing Machines

Few cardio machines inspire such a strong cult following as rowing machines do. Providing an upper body, lower body, and back-strengthening workout while blasting calories and challenging your heart and lungs, rowing machines are highly regarded as a one-stop-shop for people trying to maximize results while minimizing their overall workout times.

For this reason, rowing machines are favored across the spectrum from beginners to advanced exercisers. If your gym caters to CrossFit athletes, rowing machines are a must-have. It would be a good idea to incorporate at least one of these machines into your gym equipment plan, if you can manage it.

Indoor or Outdoor Running Tracks

This one might be a little harder to get set up, but if you do, the rewards will likely outweigh the hassle. Running tracks do require a bit of ground-space, of course, but you can feel free to think outside the box. A balcony circling the entire upper level of your gym, perhaps, or an asphalt path that hugs the outside of your building, are both great compromises when you lack the space for a full-sized track. Even if runners must complete sixteen laps to a mile, they still appreciate the real running workout as opposed to the not-quite-as-effective treadmill exercise.

And, as a bonus, running tracks require little to no upkeep once they are properly set up. You might have to refinish the track surface once every several years, but overall, tracks are much lower maintenance than almost any other piece of cardio equipment you can provide to your gym members.


We used the phrase “lower maintenance than almost any other piece of cardio equipment” in the last section because we believe the kettlebell deserves the title of lowest-maintenance item. Literally a cast-iron ball with a handle, a kettlebell is nearly indestructible. Once you purchase a kettlebell for your gym members to use, that should be it. Forever. Someone would have to try very, very hard to break a kettlebell. In fact, you will probably need to worry more about protecting your gym floor against the kettlebells than you will about the kettlebells themselves.

In addition to being delightfully easy to maintain, kettlebells are also small and easy to store. When you have a kettlebell rack along a gym wall, the full range of weights take up practically no floor space at all.

Plus, any fans of kettlebell workouts can attest to the sheer calorie-burning and muscle-building power a proper workout can achieve. Kettlebells are so extremely versatile and convenient, that we would recommend always having some on hand if at all possible. If you’re deciding between stocking a rack full of kettlebells or yet another elliptical trainer, it’s an easy choice.