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Best Cardio Machines to Achieve Your Fitness Goals

Treadmills are also a great option for people who want to train as quickly as possible. A 2019 study published in the International Journal of Research in Exercise Physiology found that at varying levels of self-reported exercise intensity, people were able to burn the most calories on a treadmill. However, this was a small study involving only 16 young adults. And that doesn’t mean a treadmill will provide the best workout for everyone — people can use a greater percentage of their body’s muscles on a rowing erg, Papanek says, which could help experienced rowers burn more calories. But this research and others show that a treadmill is an effective and reliable way to get a solid workout, even if you have limited time.

Someone who just wants to be able to walk while improving their fitness — using a Couch to 5k plan, for example, or working to establish a regular walking routine — may also benefit from a treadmill.

Not ideal for: Running on a treadmill is a relatively high impact activity, higher than on any other common cardio machine. That means treadmill running isn’t a great option for people with knee, ankle or back problems, Rogers says. (Walking would still be fine in general.)

If you’re buying a machine for your home, you should also consider that treadmills can take up a lot of space, Papanek says — even folding treadmills often take up almost as much space as non-folding models.

Treadmills also tend to be the loudest cardio machines, which can be a problem, especially for people who live in apartments, says John Galeotafiore, associate director of product testing at Consumer Reports.

Things to know before trying: If you haven’t spent a lot of time on a treadmill (or any machine), manually adjusting the speed and incline, before using automatic programs, can help you get used to its motion.

To safely use a treadmill, straddle the belt when turning it on and be sure to let the belt come to a complete stop before stepping off the machine. You can see more of our tips for staying safe on a treadmill.

Consumer Reports tests treadmills for ergonomics, construction and ease of use. Here are two top picks. (All Access members can also check out our full list of the best treadmills.)