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Aerobic riders and calories? It's a slow burn


August 9, 1996
Web posted at: 11:50 p.m. EDT

From Correspondent Rhonda Rowland

ATLANTA (CNN) -- Which gives you the best workout: the treadmill, the stationary bike, a simulated cross-country skier or an aerobic rider?

If your goal is to burn calories, the aerobic rider comes in last, according to a study by IDEA, an international association of fitness professionals.

"Treadmills burned more calories than the simulated skier, which burned more calories than the cycle," said Len Kravitz, a researcher at the University of New Mexico. "And the calorie-burner that had the worst amount of calories was the aerobic rider."

Eighteen fit men and women between the ages of 21 and 48 used the aerobic rider, rating the workout as "somewhat hard." But Kravitz said their muscles were getting pumped more than their heart.


"For a fit person to get into the target zone, they had to increase the riding speed considerably," Kravitz said. The exercisers couldn't go faster, however, "because the action became so fast, they found a bit of discomfort in the upper body."

An infomercial for "Healthrider," the aerobic rider tested, told consumers otherwise. "It exercises all large muscles at the same time, accelerating fat-burning, increasing metabolism and speeding weight loss," the ad claimed.

Healthrider spokesmen criticized IDEA's study because it was not scientifically peer-reviewed, saying, "We have no way of knowing whether the results are reliable or merely an accident."

A small study done by California State University at Northridge, comparing three different aerobic rider brands to the treadmill, found the treadmill burned 25 percent more calories.


But experts say there is a place for the aerobic rider. "Those are probably more suited for people who are starting fitness programs and not as fit, because the exertion you have to use on those does not demand as much," said Kravitz.

Fitness expert Mary Jean Traetta suggested using the machine to warm up and for toning muscles with different grips. The aerobic rider is also good for people who don't like to exercise, she said. Because it's more fun to use, you're more likely to make the effort.

Overall, however, a combination of equipment may actually provide the best workout. For example, try the stationary bike one day and switch to the skier the next. Experts call this cross-training. By working different muscle groups every session, it minimizes injury and provides variety.


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