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The question: What are the best cardio machines at the gym? Which should I avoid?

The answer: I am of the opinion that, especially when you first start exercising, the cardio regime that is the "best" workout is less important than what you will actually do.

Pick a piece of equipment that gives you the greatest chance of actually completing your workout on a regular basis. The machine should be convenient and something that you don't hate.

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For me to train regularly, it has to be through activities like running and biking outside. I can't make myself use machines like the elliptical because they don't feel athletic to me. When I do use machines, I tend to use a treadmill or rowing machine, since they are full-body workouts that mimic athletics I could do outside.

That said, once you do get into the habit of working out, try to mix it up whenever possible. Any one piece of equipment, sport, activity or method of training will lose effectiveness if you do it too often. Your body and brain need variety to stay challenged, beat boredom and stay motivated.

For me, I make myself do more than just run. Running is my favourite thing in the world, but I know that to get stronger and stay injury-free, I have to do my second- and third-favourite activities like biking, swimming, yoga and weights.

Want some variety? If you usually run for 30 to 45 minutes on the treadmill, try this workout:

  • 10 minutes of walking uphill.
  • 5 minutes of skipping rope.
  • 10 minutes of walking uphill.
  • 5 minutes of skipping rope.
  • 10 minutes on the rowing machine.

If you usually do 30 minutes on the elliptical, try this:

  • 10 minutes on the StairMaster.
  • 10 minutes on the bike.
  • 10 minutes on the elliptical.

Trainer's Tip: Your cardio workouts don't have to be at the gym. Try playing "tag intervals" with a friend while running, swimming or cross-country skiing. Person A starts in the lead. Person B picks a moment to sprint and pass person A. Person A has to fight to keep up, eventually pass person B and return to the lead.

Kathleen Trotter has been a personal trainer and Pilates equipment specialist for 10 years. Her website is www.kathleentrotter.com.

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Click here to submit your questions. Our Health Experts will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail website. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.

The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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