If you really want to lose weight, cut fat, slim down, and enhance your cardiovascular fitness, there is really nothing better and nothing easier than running. Better than swimming, better than stair climber, and better than those radial things the housewives always use that the gym. I say this out of experience, not because I read it in the literature.
That's why its such a shame to live in this paved city. Not even the parks have unpaved running paths, and the longterm impact that all that pounding has on your knees, hips, and lower back probably more than makes up for the shortterm cardiovascular benefit you'll get by running here.
At the end of last year, with my sedentary job and somewhat careless eating habits, my waistline was getting out of control. In high school I stayed steady with a 30 inch waist. It moved up to 31 inches in college, and after several years of computer terminal jobs, I'm now at 32 inches. My pants have been steadily "shrinking" this year, bringing me close to 33 inches in November, so I had no choice but to put my foot down.
I had been maintaining a solid strength-weight routine for over a half year as of January and registered modest, incrimental strength gains becuase of it, but it did nothing to improve my heart health or slim me down. A super cardio/diet routine was in order, and running was out of the question because of the hard pavement, crowded sidewalks, and start-stop traffic lights around my house. I also counted out the treadmill becuase it's so horribly boring, and it is also bad for your hips. Swimming would have been a good backup option if there was a pool nearby--and there is not.
My only remaining recourse was/is the torturous stair climber. No doubt, it is an effective contraption and it can deliver a solid concentration of exercise. But in my opinion, you spend more energy wearing out your legs on the stair climber than you do increasing your heart rate, which makes it feel more like a strength routine than a cardiovascular one. Also, it hurts a lot, and it feels like you suffer twice as much to burn the same number of calories as you would running.
Mentally, any kind of machine is punishing. Unlike running outside or swimming laps, you cannot tailor your pace to your mood. You lock yourself in for a certain time and a certain difficulty, and you can't deviate from it. It is boring too, and there is little to distract your from your work other than the crap news or thinking about how much your legs hurt, yikes.
Flash back to six years ago: I was in pretty bad shape. I didn't exercise and was pretty reckless with my diet. On a whim, I decided to start running in the morning on a dirt track near my apartment. Within two months, all of the fat just melted off my body, and the whole process just seemed effortless. Unlike now, there was never a sense of forboding or dread when I started to run. I just did it. When I felt tired, I backed off, and I turned it on when I felt great. It was easy to add variety to the routine by running up stairs and doing sprints. Also, when I ran, I could zone out, look around, plan my day, and otherwise distract myself, and the workouts would always seem shorter than they actually were.
I guess there is nothing really left to say other than I wish there was more dirt in the city, more running surfaces than the concrete sidewalks, and more grass. It would be a lot easier for me to stay healthy if there were.