The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Home Exercise Equipment

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By: Ann M. Swank

Clinical adviser’s note: Keep in mind that a properly fitted pair of athletic shoes designed for your planned type of exercise (walking, running, cross-training or step aerobics, for example) may well be your most important and cost-effective exercise equipment purchase.

In 1982 sales were $723 million; today’s figures are past the $4 billionmark as individuals seek out the convenience of training at home. The mostpopular items include treadmills, stationary bicycles, stair climbers and weighttraining systems.

Aerobic exercise requires the use of the large muscle groups; walking,cycling, rowing, swimming and stepping are all forms of aerobic exercise. A goodrule of thumb for the purchase of home exercise equipment is to approach it asif you were buying a car. Do the same kinds of homework and research to makesure you buy the right kind equipment to meet your needs and that you will makegood use your purchase. Visit a health club and take your equipment for a “testdrive.” Be willing to spend the money for the right piece of equipment.

Treadmills provide effective lower-body and cardiovascular training with anatural walking or running motion that involves less impact than walking orrunning on most outdoor surfaces. A good motor-driven treadmill will cost aminimum of $500, with most health club models running about $1,000 to $15,000,depending on the power, grade accommodations and other bells and whistles.

Stationary bicycles provide effective non-impact cardiovascular andlower-body training. A disadvantage is that for the inexperienced cyclist legfatigue may limit training before cardiovascular fatigue is reached. A goodexercise cycle will cost between $200 and $800, with computerized models runninganywhere from $500 to $5,000.

Stair climbers provide effective lower-body training with impact to the feetand ankles similar to jogging. Stair climbers cost between $200 and $4,000, withmost home models at about $500. Programmable units may cost as much as $5,000.

Elliptical trainers are designed to exercise the whole body, incorporatingsmooth, natural movements. Elliptical trainers are popular as they eliminate theawkward and jarring movements associated with other types of equipment, and theyprovide a low-impact workout for the lower body. The cost for ellipticaltrainers is between $1,000 and $5,000 with some health club models costing asmuch as $15,000.

I have many friends with home exercise equipment now serving as veryexpensive coat racks. Ultimately, the best equipment purchase will be the onethat you will use regularly for a lifetime of fitness and health. So do yourhomework and make a good choice that meets your personal requirements. Have funwith your home exercise equipment, and we’ll see you “on the go”!

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