Shopping for Workout Tools and Exercise Equipment
When choosing exercise equipment, knowing what your goals are relating to fitness is important. Be sure to look for information in reviews and do your research.
QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE YOU BUY:
- Will I use the fitness equipment regularly? Do I enjoy exercising alone? Think of what you enjoy doing. If you do not like jogging or running, maybe a treadmill is not such a good idea.
- Have I planned the space for the exercise equipment, such as the exercise bike? Check how much space you have before buying equipment, and plan where you will put it. Be sure the space is well ventilated and lit.
- Do I already know how to use the exercise equipment, such as the rowing machine? Having tried it out at a gym, health club, or elsewhere ensures that you know how to use it, understand its features, and will more likely stay committed to using it.
- Will the fitness equipment, such as the treadmill, help me accomplish my goals? Do not fall for gadgets that promise quick fixes. Be wary of any hype or false claims.
- Which type of exercise equipment is the best for me? Before buying, test out the equipment, and select what feels best for you. Whether to get a home gym or separate pieces of equipment depends on your preferences and goals.
What kind of exercise equipment should I use at home? What are the features to look for?
Here, we cover the main types of fitness equipment and make recommendations to help you meet your goals and budget.
Stair steppers are a low resistance way to burn the same number of calories as you would from climbing stairs. They allow you to work your lower body and tone your thighs, so they are a great way to build muscle in your legs and buttocks. While stair steppers are a low-impact alternative to running, use with caution if you have knee problems because pressing your knees forward can add stress to your knees. The portable Stamina SpaceMate folding stepper is recommended for your stepper exercise. Stamina’s SpaceMate folding stepper comes with handlebars for balance, adjustable resistance, and a display screen telling you the total steps, steps per minute, time, and calories burned.
Exercise bikes are low-impact on your joints and effectively work your leg muscles and most of your lower body. They are safe and fun way to get your cardio exercise. There are four main types of exercise bikes: upright, recumbent, dual action, and interactive.
An upright bike is one that most strongly resembles a traditional bike; you would be positioned in the same way as you would on a bike outdoors. A recumbent bike allows you to be seated in a reclining position so that you can thrust your legs forward rather than downward as you would on a traditional bike. A dual action bike has handle bars attached to the pedals, which allow you to work your arms and provide you a full-body workout. An interactive bike offers features for your entertainment, such as an LCD screen and earphones so that you can enjoy a video game or a movie while you ride.
Unique in design and functionality, the Schwinn Airdyne exercise bike is one of the better known exercise bikes. Its fan-driven design requiring only two AA batteries means low-impact for whatever facility or home housing the machine. The price of the machine averages $700, which is a competitive price compared to the other equally efficient exercise bikes. The exercise bike has handlebars that allow you to get a total body workout. However, the machine does not have a heart-rate monitor or built-in exercise programs for those looking for a little more information and direction in their workouts. Because of the fan design, exercising can also get too noisy for listening to music or watching TV.
Another recommended competitively priced exercise bike is the Stamina exercise bike, which is about $300. Like the Schwinn, it does not have a heart rate monitoring system or built-in exercise programs, but it does feature magnetic resistance of up to 8 levels and is a good bargain for those who just want to do some biking indoors without the need for extra information and a variety of options.
For those of us who just want the peace and tranquility of rowing, in exercise form, luckily there are rowing machines. Rowing machines simulate the motion of rowing a boat and provide incredible cardio and upper body exercise. There are two main types, piston rowers and flywheel rowers.
Piston rowers use pistons with long handles to provide resistance. Do consider Kettler rowing machines, known for German engineering, mobile seats and strength building. Multiple joints accurately describe the rowing motion while mobile seats slide along a groove. The sliding seat works the legs in addition to the upper body and core, giving a full strength and cardio rowing experience without the sun, birds or capsizing.
Flywheel rowers use a modified fan for air resistance, not pistons. Stamina rowing machines provide a great line of flywheel machines. The fan cools the user and has the added benefit in that it creates a breeze similar to what one would experience rowing on the lake. A small benefit, but noticeable around the twenty-minute mark. The fan is connected to a rope with a stick, seats come in both stationary and mobile forms. While the Kettlers are for strength, Stamina rowing machines are all about cardio. If weight loss is more important than a muscle-bound torso, go for the Stamina machines.
Elliptical trainers are ideal for those who want the exercise of a treadmill without the impact and noise of running. They come in three varieties: rear drive, front drive and center drive. The positioning of the drive doesn’t really affect anything but style and looks, but newer models tend to be center drive.
Elliptical machines were thought to burn more calories than treadmills, but research proved them both similar. However, it is easier to vary the length of the strides in an elliptical machine, and longer strides burn additional calories. It is also easier to “run” on an elliptical than it is to run on a treadmill, especially for those with joint problems or those who can’t handle the impact of regular running. So while both machines have the same physiological results, i.e. burn the same number of calories, ellipticals are a little easier on the body.
One of the most popular home elliptical trainers, the Schwinn 431 elliptical trainer, features a front drive compact system. With over 19 different programs, it is one of the best rated elliptical trainers around. Additional hand levers work the arms for a more thorough upper/lower workout.
Another popular brand of ellipticals is ProForm. The ProForm elliptical trainer comes in a variety of models and styles; prices range anywhere from $200 to $1,300. Front, center or back, if you want a decent elliptical trainer for any location, give ProForm a shot.
Elliptical vs. Treadmill: Both have their benefits and disadvantages. Treadmills are preferred by those training for a marathon because they offer a running experience. However, if you’re not looking for a running or walking experience or training for a similar event, elliptical trainers are especially efficient for a cardiovascular workout. They offer cross training by working your upper and lower body. Because they are impact free, safer, and gentler on your muscles and joints, they’re often preferred by the elderly and those recovering from joint injury. Ultimately, both machines are great for cardiovascular workouts, so deciding which to get depends on your personal preference.
To keep your heart and circulation healthy, you need at least 10 minutes of exercise each day. Because the biggest muscles we have are in our legs, swimming or walking is most efficient for increasing our cardio output. However, when you face a less than desirable outdoor exercising environment, such as a pitch black sky before 6 p.m. during the winter, or nippy cold weather, you're likely to skip on those critical minutes of exercise. Luckily, mankind is advanced and has developed machines to give us our much needed exercise indoors. Here are two recommended treadmills that can fold up and are quiet, even when running on their maximum speed. They both include speakers with iPod input.
The ProForm 590T treadmill is probably the best bang for your buck. While other treadmills will run you about one grand, the ProForm is competitively priced at around $500. It is known as one of the better budget treadmills to purchase. Splendid features include the iFit technology that allows you to get computer cards loaded with exercise programs and that can be plugged into your treadmill.
This treadmill is ideal for walkers, but runners who like to take big, long strides might find the treadbelt size a bit too restrictive. However, you can still burn many calories with the 12 Quick Calorie-Burn Workouts that allow you to adjust your speed, incline and workout time to the number of calories you want to burn.
The Freemotion XTr treadmill is a step above the ProForm for many reasons. The machine comes with a lot more features and can accommodate runners more easily with its larger belt. Cool features include handlegrip sensors that monitor your heart rate and a Graphical Backlit Display to ensure clear readings of heart rate, speed and incline. It also features iFit Live, but that requires purchasing the iFit Live Fitness Module first.
Although the machine is a good buy given the functionality and specs, the one year warranty on parts is a drawback. The motor itself has a lifetime warranty, but what good is a treadmill if the roller isn’t working? The Freemotion costs between $1,000 to $2000, a decent value compared to other bigger names such as Reebok or Pacemaker. Just make sure you have access to replacement parts if something goes wrong after the first year.
Home gyms provide a total body workout and different weight-resistance exercises that will strengthen and tone your muscles. Once used to be exclusively in health clubs, home gyms have become popular for the home because of the benefits of easy access, privacy, and workout versatility. They help you build strength and mass, tone up, and improve performance.
There are two main types of home gyms, those that use weight plates and those that use resistance bands or tension rods. Serious exercisers will find that home gyms with weight plates work best for them because these offer greater resistance exercises similar to those in a commercial gym.
Most gyms have a single stack of weights, with multiple exercise stations. Examples include home gyms with a bench press, lat pull, leg extension or leg curl station, and a flat bench. The bench press is good for chest exercises and working your core muscles and upper body. The lat pull allows you to strengthen your back. Vary your grip on the weight bar or hand position to add variety to the exercise and to challenge your muscles differently. Leg curls and leg extensions are important for trainers and bodybuilders because they shape the front and back of the leg and strengthen your knees, hamstrings, and quadriceps. The flat bench is ideal for core exercises for your abs and lower back muscles, including crunches, leg lifts, and back extensions. You may get an ab crunch bench for your home gym, which utilizes your lower body and helps you focus on your lower ab muscles for effective results.
Other home gyms that don't use weight stacks for resistance use rods, allowing you to adjust resistance levels as you add or subtract rods. Home gyms also use resistance bands that work with your body weight and give you a complete upper and lower body workout. These gyms usually have an incline bench so you can control the difficulty of your exercise by adjusting the incline. These home gyms, although less expensive than home gyms with weight plates, may not be best for serious exercisers who may find the weight too light for them.
TIPS FOR BUYING A HOME GYM:
- Advanced weight lifters should go for a 200-pound weight stack. A 200-pound weight stack is sufficient for advanced lifters, while a weight stack over 150 pounds will do for overall body toning.
- Consider a second weight stack. Dual weight stacks allow two people use the gym at the same time; they also can be combined so that you can perform other exercises like leg presses, squats, or bench presses.
- Make sure your home gym is made of steel and a solid frame. Critical features of the home gym are the frame, cables, and pulleys. The frame should be made of 11 or 12 gauge tubular steel. The cable should be able to handle up to 2500 lbs, and the pulleys should be made of nylon. Making sure you have these features with those specifications will ensure that your gym operates smoothly.
- Paying for assembly is recommended. Home gyms are often difficult to assemble due to unclear instructions and unlabeled individual parts.
However, do note that for an in-home effective workout, spending a huge sum of money on a complete home gym is not necessary. Instead, you can buy separate pieces of equipment, such as an Olympic weight bench, an adjustable dumbbell set, and a Powertec power rack.
Exercise Tips for Staying Fit Year-round
Make little changes to your daily routines to reach the recommended 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, which will help you maintain a healthy weight and balanced lifestyle. Follow the easy steps to a fitter you, and you’re set!
Incorporate workouts while you watch TV
Place a folding exercise mat or a workout bench in front of the TV, and make a habit of working up your upper and lower body in between commercials. You can lie on the floor to do leg raises and pushups. If you’re in a chair, do chair squats and muscle up with resistance tubes or dumbbells for arm raises, shoulder presses, and bicep curls. Your TV can also be useful for video game exercise, which can be a fun supplement to your workouts at home. Consider video games like the Wii Fit and Wii Sports, which are good alternatives to exercise DVDs.
Monitor your goals and progress
If you’re trying to lose a few pounds, having a digital pedometer with a digital calorie counter will help you keep track of your goals. The gadget measures distance walked, steps taken, and calories burned. Also keep track of what you eat. This will help you reflect on your eating habits and make you become more accountable for what you eat. In a study done by Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Health Research, those who recorded their food intake daily lost twice as much as weight as those who didn’t. So keeping a journal of what you eat each day is an effective way to double up your efforts to lose those few pounds!
Get more active with healthy alternatives
You can become more fit by doing simple things such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator and substituting your car for small distances with a Schwinn bike. If you’re more of an adventurous type, hit the mountains with Marin mountain bikes. Your efforts to incorporate simple, healthy choices, such as taking your bike out and going for a ride for a breath of fresh air will pay off.
Having trouble staying motivated? Below are strategies to help you stay committed.
Spice up your fitness gear
What do you wear for your workouts? Looking good in your fitness gear can be a key motivator. Invest in a good pair of Reebok running shoes, such as the Reebok DMX Ride running shoes if you enjoy running or jogging. The Reebok DMX Ride shoes are suitable for keeping you in comfort as you run for miles; they provide exceptional cushioning and a mesh upper for breathability and support. While you’re on the run, monitor your performance by wearing a stylish yet functional Timex heart rate monitor, which tells you your activity time and your average, maximum, and minimum heart rate. For a complete look for your run, put on an Adidas tracksuit.
Gear up on sports accessories
Likewise, if you play sports, put on some accessories to add a twist to your normal sports outfits. If you play tennis, a tennis skirt is a splendid way to glam up your look while you move around on the court. An accessory like a Timex Ironman watch can be functional yet chic for the committed athlete who will find it versatile for multiple purposes. The watch is ideal for swimmers because it is water resistant and comes with features of your choice, such as a chronograph, interval timer, lap counter, and training log.
Look good at the gym
If you go to the gym, looking good there is also a key motivator. A wrinkle-free Gildan t-shirt will help you look sharp and polished; it's a great choice due to its quality stitching and durability. A sports bra is also a smart choice if you work out at the gym. Not only are sports bras essential in preventing discomfort and sagging breasts, but they are also important in highlighting your curves, which will motivate you to keep up your hard work. We recommend the Nike sports bra or Moving Comfort sports bra because of their quality sweat-wicking fabrics engineered to help you stay dry and comfortable. To complete the set, workout pants complement the sports bra. Also, instead of an old tote, carry a chic Adidas gym bag with you – the bag isn’t just ideal for storing your shoes and towels but is excellent for keeping you organized. Your gym bag will become an important part of your workouts.
Stay on the Run; Get Moving! Having a goal in mind is crucial to sticking to your fitness plan. Find a fitness routine that you enjoy doing, otherwise you’re not as likely to stay committed to it. Eliminate boredom by spicing up your exercise, such as carrying a Toshiba portable DVD player for your daily jogs, gym visits, or even treadmill runs at home. If you can’t seem to stay committed, find a fitness buddy who will support your goals. Share your goal with a fitness buddy, such as preparing to run for a half or full marathon. Your chances of success will be much higher if you have someone to celebrate your milestones with and to lean on in times of need.
Have You Reached a Fitness Plateau? Tips for Overcoming a Workout Rut
Is your progress slowing down? Are you no longer seeing visible results from your workouts? Below are easy steps to return on track.
Increase your metabolism by training with weights. Strength training stimulates muscle growth and raises your resting metabolic rate so that you burn more calories even when you’re at rest.
Intensify your workouts. Your body has become conditioned to the workouts. Turn up the intensity and frequency of your activities, and vary them a bit. Add a level of challenge, such as alternating between running on the treadmill and doing jumping jacks. Leg weights also make your workouts more efficient.
Go outdoors. Physical activity can be fun and doesn’t have to be limited to working with machines or fitness equipment. Spend a fine day outdoors, and go rollerblading with a pair of K2 inline skates!
Exercise at work. Exercise doesn’t have to be separate from work. To take it up a notch, use a power stepper under your desk. Tone up while you’re at the office!
Sleep well. If you’re tired throughout the day, you will put on unwanted pounds by skipping exercise and snacking on junk food to stay awake. Your metabolism gets slower when you’re deprived of sleep.
Most importantly, stay active. By squeezing in some time for physical activity and by doing things a bit differently, you will become a fitter person. Hopefully, these tips have given you a good overview of what fitness equipment is best for you and what fitness gear and accessories to have for your workouts. Now that you have grasped the basics, get started on your fitness shopping! For more advice and useful tips on fitness, check out our Be Active blog.