If you want to lose weight, increasing your day-to-day activity levels can help you get there, but what is the best exercise machine to lose weight?
One trick to a consistent and sustainable weight loss journey is creating a negative energy balance, also called a calorie deficit (opens in new tab). Think of energy as a currency — if you expend more energy than you consume, you’ll be in energy debt. Combining a slight cut in calories with an increase in your daily activity (sometimes referred to as non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or NEAT) (opens in new tab) can help achieve this negative balance and ultimately help you shed pounds. However, it's worth noting that other factors are also at play including genetics, lifestyle, and stress levels.
But is there a particular exercise machine that will help you get there quicker? Not quite. If you’re running to lose weight (opens in new tab), it makes sense to invest in the best treadmills (opens in new tab), but not everyone sees a 10km jog as a fun way to exercise. Instead, it’s more important to figure out what you enjoy and what will keep you motivated and adhering to your exercise routine, ultimately crushing calories (opens in new tab) in the process.
Our expert in-house testers reviewed and rated a range of exercise machines that span different budgets, home spaces, and workout preferences. We aimed to find the most effective exercise machine for losing weight, so you can invest in your health without breaking the bank.
Find the best rowing machines (opens in new tab) according to our guide, or read on for the highs and lows of these popular models and the best exercise machine to lose weight.
Best exercise machines to lose weight
Some small studies – including this one published in the Journal Of The American Medical Association (opens in new tab) – have suggested that treadmills are the best machines when it comes to energy expenditure. And if you're looking to get a thorough workout on a running machine, then we'd recommend our favorite model: the NordicTrack X22i.
It’s a market leader in the treadmill space, perfectly blending function and form. Provided you have both the budget and space for it, don’t overlook this incredibly sturdy machine with its pleasantly surprising range of incline (and decline) options.
Purely on specs alone, the X22i is a truly impressive piece of kit. Its powerful 4.0 CHP motor offers smooth and quiet power output, even if you’re hammering away at a steep incline. With regards to inclines in particular, the X22i offers an especially huge range of options with options from -5% to 40% meaning you’ll be able to replicate hill runs of any type, even downhills, a rare feature on treadmills.
The wealth of options extend to workouts too, with 40 pre-programmed ones available, and over 16,000 on-demand classes ready to access. Do bear in mind that you’ll need an iFit subscription to access this content though, which will add a monthly subscription cost of $39 USD to the premium price of the kit itself. The NordicTrack X22i is undoubtedly a premium treadmill though, whether you find yourself marvelling at its gorgeous design, huge 22” display or generous size. Yes, it’s a sizeable investment but if you have the space and the budget, you won’t be disappointed.
We couldn't find any reliable customer reviews for this machine – however, several other publications have reviewed the machine favorably, praising its excellent features and incline range.
- Read our full NordicTrack X22i review (opens in new tab)
The Yosuda Indoor Stationary Cycling Bike won’t blow you away with a wide spectrum of whizzy features, but nor will it blow a hole in your budget. At under $300, it offers sturdy construction and a smooth and comfortable ride for you to get your sweat on, all at a very reasonable price indeed.
It’s clear that Yosuda’s budget-conscious entry into the market isn’t aiming to be a baby Peloton. While the bike's small LCD display offers basic metric tracking, you won’t find anything in the way of live classes or advanced real-time feedback. For those out there wishing to be guided by routines though, the fitted phone holder means there’s always YouTube or other workout apps. And if you’re looking for more advanced real-time feedback beyond calories, distance and speed, you can always use a fitness tracker.
In short, although the Yosuda Indoor Stationary Cycling Bike may be light on features it offers a comfortable, quiet ride on a machine that boasts impressive build quality for such a modest price. If you're shopping on a budget or are simply one of those motivated types who just longs for a simple but sweaty spin session, this reasonably-priced, no-frills bike is the best choice in this particular category. It also boasts the best-cushioned bike seat that we've tested so far, so you can workout in comfort.
The bike has netted 4.4 out of five stars on Amazon, with users praising it's low price and easy assembly. Some negative reviews cite issues with the seat not adjusting properly and others stating that the resistance dial on the bike was difficult to move, although these weren't issues we came across in our hands-on testing.
- Read our full Yosuda Indoor Stationary Cycling Bike review (opens in new tab)
Step into a gym almost anywhere in the world and there’s a good chance that when you head over to the rowing machines, you’ll find yourself faced with a Concept2 RowErg. Concept2’s classic design is a mainstay of gyms and rowing clubs everywhere, and with good reason too. Packing trademark sturdiness into a unfussy design, the RowErg has long been considered as the industry standard for rowing routines, renowned for being great full-body workouts that are low-impact on the body.
You won’t find any top-end features on the RowErg, such as live classes or interactive routines and if that’s what you’re looking for in particular, you might want to check out some fancier models. Its backlit LCD screen does provide lots of data though, plus there are global rankings, options to program your own workouts and an accompanying app for those who wish to carefully scrutinise their performance.
What the Concept2 RowErg undoubtedly offers is a smooth, comfortable row on a durable, well-designed machine. At between 70-100Db, it might not be as quiet as a magnetic rowing machine, nor is it as aesthetically-pleasing as a solid wood rower, yet if you’re looking for straightforward bit of kit that does its job well for a competitive price, look no further.
This model has netted an impressive 4.9 out of five stars on Amazon, so it's clear that it's a massive hit with users globally. It's hard to find a negative remark about the machine, but one user did complain that the machine is better suited to cardio workouts than resistance training.
- Read our full Concept 2 Model D (RowErg) review (opens in new tab)
If you’re shopping at the premium end of the workout machine market, the Peloton Bike will likely already be on your radar. While the cost of the bike is high, with a $39 monthly subscription also required to access the live classes which truly make the bike shine, it’s a hugely impressive workout machine with superb classes that are both fun and intelligently-designed.
At 61KG, the bike itself is pretty heavy although it does come with two front-mounted wheels which makes moving it much easier. In terms of design quality and looks, the Peloton Bike is first-rate with its matte-black finish looking truly very luxurious. The saddle can take a little getting used to, so do prepare yourself for some initial soreness but that will soon subside though your enthusiasm for the experience won’t.
You will need Delta-compatible cleats to clip inside the bike’s pedals which is another expense, but if you’re seriously considering the Peloton experience, that won’t faze you too much. The overall and ongoing price really is the only potential drawback here in what is otherwise a supremely enjoyable and effective workout experience.
The bike has a cool 4.8 out of five stars on Peloton's site, with users raving about the classes and instructors available. Some customers have complained about pedals falling off, although this hasn't happened to our test unit which we've been riding for a year.
- Read our full Peloton Bike review (opens in new tab)
We all lead busy lives and finding ways to get in that quick workout can sometimes be tricky. If you’re looking for the last word in versatility when it comes to burning calories, then look no further than the Mobvoi Home Treadmill. Pop it under your work desk and sedately whittle away some calories as you focus on other things. Ready to go at it with a little more vigour? A quick lift of the Mobvoi’s riser and suddenly it resembles a slim and sleek running treadmill, ready for you to get your heart rate ticking with a gentle run.
Besides the appealing flexibility of the Mobvoi Home Treadmill, the cost is impressive too. At under $400 USD, its sturdy design and quiet motor offer great value. However, its limited speed means it won’t work as a treadmill for those looking for maximum exertion from their runs. Likewise, due to its smaller profile, those with a longer stride could also find it less useful. However, if you’re simply looking to get basic use from your treadmill in the form of gentler runs and high-tempo walks, the Mobvoi Home Treadmill’s price, versatility and build quality make it very worthy of your consideration.
Mobvoi has netted 4.5 out of 5 stars from its global Amazon ratings. Users praise the small, compact frame and its foldable design. Some customers have pointed out that it's heavy, so difficult to move around, while others complain that it's noisy at full speed.
- Read our full Mobvoi Home Treadmill review (opens in new tab)
The ProForm Cabon HIIT H7 is an intriguing piece of kit that can double as both an elliptical trainer and a stair master machine. The compact vertical design won’t take up too large a footprint in your personal space either. While the machine’s versatility is undoubtedly one of its strong points, those seeking guidance through classes and workouts may be a little underwhelmed by the range of iFit workouts dedicated to the machine, as opposed to more general purpose running-style workouts.
Build quality for the ProForm Cabon HIIT H7 is very good, with the high-quality materials offering a durable feel and great tactile experience, although the lack of a phone holder will irk some users who wish to have unfettered access to their screens during a workout. At the time of writing, ProForm are offering the Cabon HIIT H7 for free with a three-year iFit subscription, which is a great deal, providing you’re planning to make the most of the subscription app’s features.
With the 10-inch vertical elliptical stepping path able to simulate stair climbing and boxing, you’ll certainly find new ways to push yourself with the Cabon HIIT H7, whilst the magnetic resistance system offers quiet workouts, even when you’re pushing the pace. If you’re looking for a low-impact, high-intensity form of indoor training, the Cabon HIIT H7 is a model that you won’t want to overlook.
There are several comments on the ProForm website praising this machine, with users giving a thumbs-up to the innovative design and intense HIIT workouts. A couple of users do say that it has a slight 'squeaky' noise to it after a while.
- This machine is currently in the process of being reviewed. Once we have tested it, this guide will be updated accordingly.
How we tested
Our in-house team has tested each of the machines in this guide, trying out all of their features (including live classes) and pushing them to their max settings. To make sure that we thoroughly assessed each product, we did a minimum of three sessions on each machine, including at least one endurance session and one shorter, intense session.
Once we'd spent a day on the machine, we ranked it for usability, design, features, performance and value for money, giving it a final score out of five stars.
Resistance training vs cardio exercise
According to Emily Servante, global trainer education manager at Ultimate Performance (opens in new tab), both resistance training and aerobic exercise (opens in new tab) are helpful when trying to achieve fat loss.
Our round-up focuses on cardio machines this time, which can ramp up your heart rate and subsequent calorie burn, partly due to the ‘afterburn’ effect associated with high-intensity exercise. But Servante says both types can kickstart afterburn, meaning that your body continues to burn energy for several hours post-workout, at a higher rate.
Combining cardio and resistance training can build a stronger and more functional body. This can also be referred to as functional training (opens in new tab).
Servante tells us that both styles can improve how your body processes, stores, and utilizes carbs too, rather than storing them as fat. She recommends incorporating two to three weekly resistance sessions into your schedule in whatever way you like.
The benefits of adding resistance training into your routine include building stronger bones, keeping joints healthy, and maintaining or building muscle mass – which can be achieved while you lose fat, a process called body recomposition.
Learning how to lose fat and gain muscle (opens in new tab) takes a bit of know-how, but it’s possible.
Calorie intake and output
A calorie deficit lends itself to weight loss, meaning you burn more calories a day than you consume through food. But it doesn’t mean you need to bank arduous hours of exercise to shift the energy balance in your favor. Increasing your day-to-day activity levels and establishing an exercise routine will help.
This could include taking the stairs more often, walking or cycling to work, or even getting up from your desk more frequently for a quick break.
But should you pour more energy into energy expenditure or lowering your calorie consumption? According to Servante, fat loss focusing solely on restricting food intake isn’t very effective and would require severe caloric restriction.
“Small errors can knock you off course,” warns Servante. “Likewise, only increasing your output would require a high level of activity, which is unrealistic and unsustainable for most people.”
Instead, combining more movement with a sensible cut in calories can help you to lose weight safely.
Weight loss vs fat loss
According to Servante, any exercise form that helps burn calories will ultimately aid weight loss, but this doesn’t guarantee fat burn. To shred fat while maintaining muscle, adding resistance training into your routine is your best bet.
Two to three sessions a week is an achievable goal, but also make sure you hit each body part multiple times to ensure you retain muscle. For example, one session could include legs and chest, rather than just focusing on your arms.
A gentle calorie reduction of around 15-20% is a good place to start, in line with increasing activity levels. As previously mentioned, this can be an informal way of upping your step count — like taking the dog for a walk — or implementing structured cardio using one of our top picks from this guide. If you enjoy mixing it up, combining several methods will keep you feeling challenged and entertained.
What’s more, in the exercise bike vs rowing machine debate published in our best exercise bikes (opens in new tab) guide, we discuss how rowing works approximately 86% of your muscles. So you can drum up cardio and full-body resistance training in one sweaty sitting.
Servante tells us that your weight should gradually drop by 0.5-1% each week, so you’ll be able to keep track of your progress and make adjustments. However, everyone is different and progression isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, so focus on smart, sustainable, and achievable goals.
Most importantly, getting fit and healthy should feel challenging but fun, so make sure it engages you mentally and physically. Cutting calories isn't for everyone, so first and foremost ensure your diet is healthy and varied, including plenty of healthy fats, protein, and unrefined carbs.
- This guide was updated on the 20th September 2022 by Sam Hopes