Finding the best exercise machine to lose weight can be a tricky task. Not because there aren’t any to choose from; on the contrary, there is an abundance of options available. However, they all target fat loss differently and can provide different results depending on how you use them.
If you’re looking to simply burn calories, a treadmill will help you take a step in the right direction on your weight loss journey. But it’s understandable if you don’t have the space or budget or if you need a low impact alternative to pounding the running belt.
Fortunately, there are a whole host of alternative exercise machines to choose from and a variety of different activities that will help you get fit from the comfort of your home (or garage). But first, as it’s still an investment, it’s worth finding the right tool for you.
Best exercise machine to lose weight
In our AssaultBike Elite review, we praised this exercise machine for its excellent build quality and a superbly robust drivetrain. We also noted that it "oozes commercial gym quality" without looking too out of place tucked inside the home or in a dedicated workout area outside.
While you can pick up an air bike for a fraction of the cost of the AssaultBike Elite – as evidenced in our best air bike round-up – you might be better placed to splash the cash for the added peace of mind that it’s not going to fall apart when you’re pushing yourself to your limits.
Aside from its gym-level build, the Elite has a number of great features. It allows for both a pronated overhand or bicep-centric grip, and footpegs enable you to focus solely on the upper body. Although its LCD screen is basic, you can sync up Bluetooth and ANT+ monitors to track your heart rate. It also doesn’t require mains power so can be used anywhere.
Exercise machines don’t have to be eyesores. Take the WaterRower as a prime example. Crafted in the US by hand from sustainably-sourced solid ash wood, this unique rowing machine brings a slice of style to your home but is also a fantastic way to get in shape. In terms of calorie burning, rowing is a full-body workout that engages nine different muscle groups and will leave you with a solid six-pack in no time at all.
The WaterRower’s water-based flywheel is different to chain- or fan-based resistance mechanisms in that it gets easier or harder depending on the effort you’re putting in. This mimics the real-life feel of rowing on the water and is noticeably smoother than alternative set-ups that we tested in our best rowing machines buying guide.
Read our full WaterRower Natural Series review
A SkiErg might get some strange looks, but it’s also one of the lowest impact methods of exercise around. Simulating the movement of Nordic skiing, it provides a full-body workout but focuses on the upper body more so than a rowing machine or an exercise bike. You don’t have to have skied in real life to get the most out of a workout, either, and it's quite easy to pick up compared to the likes of rowing.
The SkiErg from the well-known rowing machine brand Concept2 is a great piece of kit that adjusts its difficulty depending on how hard you pull the handles, but can also have its resistance tweaked to 10 different base settings. Its compact build has a smaller footprint than other alternatives, but its height and torture rack resemblance might be off-putting for some.
Read our full Concept2 SkiErg review
We’ve already seen above that running is tough to beat when it comes to calorie burning. But is it possible to invest in a home treadmill without also burning a hole in your pocket? The Sprint 5 from JTX was our favourite cheap running machine in our best treadmill round-up and manages to provide everything you could want from an indoor running experience without the professional-level price tag.
Its cushioned platform is kind to knees and dampens noise – ideal if your whole building doesn’t want to hear your exercise sessions. It also has a number of built-in HIIT workouts if you want to give some heart-pounding interval training a spin but don’t know where to start. Finally, its folding ability and short platform mean you don’t need to have acres of space to own one.
Read our full JTX Sprint-5 review
Elliptical trainers (or cross trainers as they were previously known) are one of the least efficient exercise machines for burning calories, but their low-impact nature makes them ideal if you’re coming back from injury or have joints that need preserving.
The NordicTrack E11.5 might not be as aesthetically pleasing as some of our other picks in this list, but it does the job and does it well. Its 20 resistance levels and 30 different workouts are perfect regardless of fitness level, and the latter is split between three different focuses – calorie, performance and intensity. There’s no getting around the size of the machine, but at least it does fold in half if you wanted to store somewhere it when not in use.
Read our full NordicTrack E11.5 Elliptical Review
There’s a lot to consider when buying a Peloton bike: the initial price, the ongoing subscription costs, if you have space in your home, if you’ll use it regularly enough to justify a purchase, and so on. However, such concerns will likely melt away as soon as that bike lands on your doorstep (and is subsequently carried over the threshold by the delivery guys, of course).
Thanks to its super robust construction, beautiful design with attention to detail, ease of use and comfort, we dare anyone not to become instantly obsessed with the Peloton Bike+. The premium experience it delivers is kind of magical, and as a result, we’ve used it almost daily over the past few months. We can’t get enough.
There’s a reason why Peloton is happy to provide a 30-day free trial with free delivery for newbies: the brand knows that as soon as a Bike+ virgin places their bum on that saddle, there’s no going back. An epic piece of home fitness equipment with an immersive top-notch platform to back it up.
Read our full Peloton Bike+ review
How to choose the best exercise machine to lose weight for you
While there are a number of things to consider when buying an exercise machine, it’s important not to lose sight of your ultimate goal – losing weight. So what is the best exercise for burning calories?
Harvard University conducted research that showed the calories you can expect to burn during a 30-minute session for a variety of exercises. The study found that the biggest calorie burner was running, with a 13st 3lb (roughly 84 kg) person running at 10mph for 30 minutes burning 671 calories. It’s worth noting that this is pretty fast, and the slower you go, the lower the total calories burned – the same person would burn 495 calories at a 30-minute 5K pace.
When compared with other activities (rowing vigorously, 440kcal; cycling vigorously on an exercise bike, 441kcal; SkiErg, 399kcal; elliptical, 378kcal), a treadmill is still the best bang for your buck but isn’t miles ahead of alternatives that might be better suited to your budget, underlying health conditions or space restrictions.
For a low-impact exercise machine that’s easy on your joints, anything but a treadmill is going to suit your needs, so it then simply comes down to space. Elliptical trainers and rowing machines have the biggest footprint, but it’s possible to buy fold-up versions of both. The most compact is an exercise bike, while a SkiErg is a similar dimension but requires tall ceilings.
Finally, it’s important to think about how much enjoyment you’re going to get out of the exercise machine – a fun exercise machine is one you’re more likely to use repeatedly rather than being an expensive decorative feature that just collects dust.