Cardiovascular machines, such as the treadmill, rowing machine and elliptical, are designed to help your body burn a high number of calories.
Often times, these machines will include a calorie expenditure display on them. This is a great way to estimate your caloric loss during a workout.
What is important to realize is that this is only an estimated value. The number of calories expended by your body during the workout depends on several factors, including previous adaptation to the machine itself. In other words, if you keep using the same machine the same way, you will burn fewer calories over time. To get the most out of your cardio workout, you must change the cardio machines that you use periodically.
The reason your calorie expenditure on a particular machine decreases over time is because your body is very good at adaptation. For example, let’s say it is your first day on a new cardio machine and you work out for 30 minutes at a level 1 and burn 400 calories. Two days later, you do the same thing and keep repeating this for weeks on end.
The machine will probably tell you that you have been burning the same amount of calories every time, but in reality, your muscles have been adapting to this machine and therefore become more efficient. This usually results in burning fewer calories during the same workout.
Hopefully, you were increasing the level of difficulty on the machine during these few weeks, which would help keep the number of calories burned the same or higher, but eventually, your body will become “bored.” This is called a plateau.
I suggest switching machines every four to six weeks in order to prevent this plateau effect. Beginners don’t have to switch as often because they are slower to adapt than advanced users. You want to give your body enough time to adapt to the exercise but not enough time to decrease the effectiveness of the exercise.
Some machines tend to be very similar in the motion they offer, such as the recumbent bike and the upright bike. Though you would be switching machines, the movement and the muscles used will be similar to the previous machine. As a result, you still wouldn’t be burning as many calories as you could be.
The best machines to switch to are those that are entirely different. Switching from a treadmill to a rower would be a perfect example of a good switch. The two motions are very different and as a result work different muscles causing an increase in your body’s calorie loss. Because the rower is so unique, it tends to be a great machine to switch to.
If you are really looking to increase the amount of calories you burn during a workout, it is best to actually skip the cardio machines and go right to strength training. Strength training isn’t always thought of as a fat-loss method, but I can assure you it most definitely is. It does this by increasing your basal metabolism (your metabolism at rest), turning you into a fat-burning machine even when you aren’t working out.
The overall theme that should be realized by those who are attempting to get a leaner body is that change is a must. You need to change what you are doing and also progress your workouts effectively so that your body does not become stale.
Your body will continue to burn calories and change as long as you continue to keep things challenging for it.