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Aerobic activity burns calories, gets your heart pumping and helps your lungs use oxygen more efficiently. Aim to get at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise most days of the week, according to Mayo Clinic physician Edward Laskowski. Two aerobic exercise machine examples are the elliptical machine and stationary bicycle. Each offers benefits and disadvantages if you are choosing between the two options for your next workout. You can get an efficient, calorie-burning workout with either option.
An elliptical machine is an exercise machine where you place your feet on large pedals and move your feet in an elliptical motion -- much like a squashed circle -- to stimulate your heart and lungs. Some elliptical machines have moving arms to increase your aerobic effort and build muscle. The motion is similar to jogging yet does not require you to lift your feet off the ground, which makes using an elliptical machine a low-impact activity. A 150-pound person using the elliptical trainer should burn about 387 calories over a 30-minute time period, according to Health Status.
A stationary bicycle mimics the action of a bicycle without actually going anywhere. You can adjust the difficulty of pedaling to build muscle or challenge your body. Like the elliptical exercise machine, a stationary bicycle is a low-impact exercise machine because using it does not involve striking your foot against the ground. A 150-pound person cycling at a rate of 12 to 14 mph should burn about 297 calories in 30 minutes, according to Health Status.
Because riding a stationary bicycle does not require a person to stand during the exercise, indoor cycling may be preferable for those with arthritis or orthopedic issues, according to the Cleveland Clinic. This is because the stationary bicycle places less strain on the back, hips, knees and ankles than other low-impact activities, such as walking, can cause. If you have a knee injury, a stationary bicycle also may be preferable to an elliptical machine, according to MayoClinic.com. By contrast, an advantage of elliptical machines is their variability: You can pedal them in reverse and adjust your difficulty in pedaling, which allows you to work a number of different muscles. For this reason, elliptical machines can produce higher calorie-burning effects and more strenuous exercise than riding a stationary bicycle.
One key disadvantage of an elliptical machine is that learning to pedal the elliptical motion can be difficult. While the stationary bike motion may be familiar to you, using an elliptical machine can require a learning curve. Also, if you are a beginning exerciser or are more than 50 pounds overweight, an elliptical machine may be too strenuous for your health level, according to the Cleveland Clinic. If you wish to push yourself via a low-impact workout, the stationary bicycle may not be as effective as the elliptical machine.