Which Is Better: A Stationary Bike or a Stair Climber?

People in spin class

Exercise machines such as stationary bikes and stair climbers can be real life-savers when the weather is hot and unbearable. Once you've escaped the heat, you'll need to decide which machine is best for you. While stationary bikes and stair climbers have some differences, they also share some similarities. Your personal preferences and fitness goals will ultimately decide which machine is better for you.

Muscles Worked

Stationary bikes and stair climbers both put the majority of the work on your lower body. Your glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps and calves will all be sufficiently taxed after spending some time on either machine. Because the stair climber is used in an upright, standing position, your back and abdomen will also work throughout your workout to stabilize and support your upper body. If you opt for any other stationary bike other than a recumbent, which has full back support, you will have the opportunity to get some upper-body work in on your back and shoulders, as they support your upper body.

Impact and Safety

Both types of machines offer a low-impact workout. The stationary bike, however, wins out on this category because it has virtually no impact. This makes it appropriate for nearly every fitness level as well as any physical condition such as injury, arthritis, osteoporosis or obesity. While the stair climber is relatively low impact, it's not appropriate for someone with a lower-body injury or who may have balance issues.

Calories Burned

The stationary bike and stair climber are both effective ways to burn calories, but once again the bike slightly elbows out the stair climber. According to Harvard Health Publications, a 155-pound person will burn about 260 calories riding a stationary bike at a moderate intensity for 30 minutes, while that same person would burn only 223 calories using a stair climber for 30 minutes.

Workout Opportunities

If you're the lone wolf type who prefers to work out on your own, then you can go ahead and choose either the bike or the stair climber. If, on the other hand, you enjoy the social aspect of working out, then the stationary bike may be your weapon of choice. Most gyms offer Spinning classes, which consist of high-intensity cycling in a group atmosphere.

Get Down to Business

Once you've decided which type of exercise machine is better for you, it's time to get to work. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends getting a total of at least 150 minutes of exercise per week. This can be achieved by exercising at a moderate intensity for 30 minutes a day five days per week or exercising at a vigorous intensity for 20 minutes a day three days per week. You can do an entire workout at once or break it up into 10-minute segments throughout the day. If you're new to exercise, ease your way into the recommendations, gradually increasing your workout time or intensity.