The best cardio machine for an apartment?
April 10, 2013 10:56 AM   Subscribe

I live in an apartment on an upper level unit. I wish I could buy a treadmill to use at home, but I think the noise will bother my neighbors too much. I'm looking for a good alternative. Do you know of any?

I'm lazy. The only times I ever exercised regularly happened when I lived in apartments with gyms in the building (and those gyms were always empty, clean, nicely air conditioned and private). I could just wander down there whenever I felt like it, work out, go straight back to my apartment and shower. I've tried joining a gym--that was just money down the drain. Just thinking about gathering all my workout clothes/water bottle together, walking/driving to the gym, waiting for a machine, walking/driving back would demoralize me before I even got started. Like I said: Lazy.

My current apartment doesn't have a gym. So I've decided it's time to invest in some in-home exercise equipment. I want something that's as intense a whole body/cardio workout as possible where I can be sweating profusely out of every pore in 20 minutes. But I'm in an apartment. And I live on an upper floor with folks underneath me.

Some other factors to consider:

-Ideally, I'd want a treadmill. I really like how they force you to keep moving even when you're tired. But I REALLY don't want to piss off my neighbors, either. If you have a magical solution that really, truly gets rid of all the thumping noise from running on a treadmill on a hardwood floor, please let me know. Otherwise, treadmills are probably not a possibility.

-I don't think I want a bike. I don't want to just be pumping my legs in circles over and over again--I want to feel like my whole body is moving.

-This leads me to believe that an elliptical machine is my best bet. It's not perfect, but I'm okay with it. Do you have a favorite apartment-friendly elliptical? And if anyone has any other ideas for other kinds of machines, I'm definitely open!

-Willing to spend around $1,000

-Don't need any fancy doodads or gadgets like built in fans or speakers or fancy programming/memory options. Bare bones is fine.

-While I don't live in the 200 sq foot studios I once did, I don't have unlimited space, either. So something that's foldable and with the smallest footprint possible gets the most points. And...I won't be living in this apartment forever, so it will have to be moved eventually. Crazy bonus points if there's something that fits all the requirements above and is still somewhat portable!

Thanks everyone!
posted by dede to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
A rowing machine would be a good alternative. It's a hell of a workout and will take up a little less room than an elliptical (you can store them standing up). And they have wheels that you can move them around on. They seem to run within your budget. I guarantee that you'll be covered in sweat within 5 minutes on one of these.
posted by tripledrop at 11:05 AM on April 10, 2013 [9 favorites]

I don't like traditional ellipticals, but I do like EFX ones. I'm not big into cardio, but I always pick either the EFX machines or the stairclimber because they seem to burn the most calories. The EFX seems to be more challenging than the elliptical, and I've seen some with moving arms and some without. I'd get the ones with moving arms. The EFX is on a little track that sides up and down instead of the kind of bike movement of the regular elliptical. On a good one, you can change the height of the ramps making it more resistant.

Things that I'd look for in a piece of equipment:

- That it can do intervals easily. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is one of the best ways to work out b/c you're never letting your body get used to the activity, which often happens with women trying to lose weight... eventually they'll stop seeing results b/c they aren't switching it up enough. The HIIT makes it so you always get results and better endurance and strength. I'm not a trainer, so I'll let you google that if you want to.

- That it's good enough quality that the levels go high. My mom bought a treadmill that she never uses and I thought I'd do some hit on it a few times but found out it only goes to level 7 and that's pretty much a light run for me (and I'm short!) as opposed to a sprint. The treadmill is useless for those who want to improve or do intervals b/c it just doesn't go high enough in speed. I'd ask them when you're purchasing if they're comparable to the ones found in the gym in this regard because it may become too easy for you in say six months or a year once your body's used to the movements.

Anyway, good luck! :)
posted by DorothySmith at 11:13 AM on April 10, 2013

I agree with the above poster too! I used a rowing machine for the first time a month or so ago and I was dying (in a good way!) after only a few minutes.
posted by DorothySmith at 11:14 AM on April 10, 2013

Pay attention to the noise level if you buy a rowing machine. You are not really sparing your neighbours if you have a noisy resistance method on the rowing machines that results in you cranking your TV volume way up.
posted by srboisvert at 11:18 AM on April 10, 2013

I hate ellipticals but I can actually enjoy rowing machines. My fiance just got a Concept2 rower and LOVES it-- it does make some noise (kind of a swooshing sound?) and I think you would want it to be on a mat anyway, but it's far less disruptive than a treadmill. If you have higher ceilings it easily flips up, so the standing footprint is less than a foot and a half.
posted by jetlagaddict at 11:20 AM on April 10, 2013

Oh, and you can take it apart fairly easily. All of the parts fit into a Ford Focus without a lot of trouble.
posted by jetlagaddict at 11:21 AM on April 10, 2013

Have you thought of a rebounder? I have used one in an upper-floor apartment with hard-wood floors. It's surprisingly low noise and I never got complaints from downstairs neighbors -- YMMV, but it worked for me.

They're also available for around $50 at mega-markets, so they're a good cheap option to start with (and if your neighbors complain, hey, it was $50). They are quiet enough to use with a TV and provide a decent workout. (Not quite as much so as running, but you can work up a decent sweat.) They also can store in a closet on their side and are easily transportable.

Also, I love rowing machines. They are awesome.
posted by pie ninja at 11:22 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I lived below a rowing machine and it was hell.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 11:34 AM on April 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Of all the cardio workouts I've done, the only two that have left me destroyed afterwards were swimming and the rowing machine. I can't speak to noise, but a rowing machine is a GREAT whole-body workout.
posted by KathrynT at 11:36 AM on April 10, 2013

Seconding the Concept2. That thing will whip you into shape in no time. Makes loud whooshing noise but no thumps.
posted by Specklet at 11:36 AM on April 10, 2013

Significant noise reduction can be accomplished by putting more than one layer of gym floor mats under your not-a-treadmill. Also, good old fashioned jump rope makes people sweat, might work for you.
posted by katya.lysander at 11:50 AM on April 10, 2013

Years ago I had a friend who lived in an apartment and had a treadmill in her apartment. She had some special noise-and-vibration absorbing mat underneath the treadmill so she wouldn't piss off her neighbors, because she was on that thing for an hour every evening.

I have no idea what it was. But it seems like something that could work under a lot of different cardio machines.
posted by ambrosia at 11:53 AM on April 10, 2013

You can make a "rowing machine" from exercise bands, and i don't see any way it would bother the neighbours.
posted by windykites at 12:31 PM on April 10, 2013

A Water Rower rowing machine would be about 100 times less noisy to your neighbors than a Concept2. They're not cheap, but they don't look like a piece of gym equipment and the noise they make is far less obnoxious than other kinds.
posted by bink at 12:59 PM on April 10, 2013

If you are not sure what you want, look into renting a machine for a while from a quality supplier. You might decide after a month that a rowing machine or an elliptical isn't for you. That way, you get a do-over without the exhorbitant expense. Plus, they deliver and install, and you could maybe get them to throw in the super noise-reducing mats.
posted by vignettist at 1:50 PM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Agree with bink. I'm getting into Concept2, but a Water Rower, if you can afford it, is by far the best answer for a quiet but awesome workout. The C2 with thin walls will still potentially be loud as hell.
posted by drpynchon at 2:03 PM on April 10, 2013

Absolutely the Concept2 rower. Check out the website tutorials and learn good form, and it will be super amazing cardio.
posted by ktkt at 2:47 PM on April 10, 2013

An extra-thick yoga mat + ankle and wrist weights + jump rope.
posted by rada at 3:37 PM on April 10, 2013

Whatever you get, make sure you also get a thick gym mat to put the equipment on. Machines can put out vibrations that carry through to other apartments, and a gym mat will help mitigate those.
posted by quince at 3:50 PM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Precor ellipticals are pretty quiet and have the most natural movement of anything I've tried. Some ellipticals are like ski machines, where you are pushing back and force and it feels very unnatural. Precor, though, is basically like assisted running. I can easily do it with using my hands to hold me up and even though I sweat and get a good workout, it feels relatively easy to do, so I can focus on watching something or reading, if I want. If I could afford one and planned to live in this place for a while, I'd 100% get a Precor.

Honestly, just get a guest pass to a gym and try some out. I think most gyms offer one free day to try out a gym. I think you will find Precor ellipticals are the best. The only issue is, I think they are slightly over your budget, or perhaps you could find a used one.
posted by AppleTurnover at 9:19 PM on April 10, 2013

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