Selecting Home Exercise Equipment

Too often people spend a lot of money on large and extravagant pieces of home exercise equipment, fooling themselves into believing their guilt over spending so much will force them to use it. Don’t make this mistake! On the other hand, you may have some great reasons to buy exercise equipment to help you increase your cardiovascular fitness and stay in shape within the comforts and convenience of your own home. Many people choose to exercise indoors to avoid traffic or bad weather and have privacy.

According to the National Sporting Goods Association, in 1997 Americans bought more than $3 billion worth of new exercise equipment including treadmills ($1.49 billion), multi-station home gyms ($268 million), stationary bicycles ($189 million), free weights ($180 million), cross country ski machines ($83 million) and elliptical (cross-training) machines ($39.7 million).

Some questions to ask yourself before you buy home exercise equipment:

  • Do you enjoy exercising alone at home? Have you tried it with exercise videos, floor mats or other small-scale pieces of equipment?
  • Have you considered cheaper alternatives to expensive equipment, such as buying a stand to convert your own street bicycle to a stationary unit or purchasing a set of weights and a bench rather than a weight resistance machine?
  • Have you planned a place to put the item in your home where you will use it? Is the place pleasant, well lit and well ventilated?
  • Do you already know how to use the type of equipment you’re buying? Have you tried it at a health club, gym or somewhere else?
  • Do you have your doctor’s medical clearance if you have an existing condition such as heart disease, low back pain, arthritis, etc.?

Try before you buy

You have lots of options when you’re ready to buy home exercise equipment. Take your time, shop around and think carefully about what best meets your needs. Never buy exercise equipment on impulse. In fact, you should try out any equipment you’re considering (in your exercise clothes) at least several times before you buy. Newspaper classified ads might lead you to the cheapest prices. “Used” equipment is often “like new.”

Types of equipment

Motorized treadmills: Walking or jogging on these can improve your cardiovascular fitness and your lower body muscle tone. Some models add poles to give you moderate upper body conditioning as well. Most start slow and let you turn up the speed and increase the incline to intensify your workout. Treadmills made for your home generally range from $400-$1,500 and from .5 horsepower to more than 1.5 horsepower.

Stationary cycles: Many types are available for a non-impact aerobic workout. Most come with a digital timer and some add other devices to measure your distance, speed and calories burned and simulate road, mountain or racing conditions. You adjust the machine’s resistance to intensify your workout. Prices generally range from $100-$1,200.

Stair climbing machines: Using these can improve your cardiovascular fitness and leg muscle strength with less stress on your knees than using real stairs. Many come with monitors that display steps per minute, time and calories burned. Some models let you increase resistance for a better workout. Prices generally range from $200-$700.

Cross country ski simulators: These work both the arms and legs, helping you get the aerobic and muscle-toning benefits of cross country skiing without leaving the house. The machines have ski-like sliding footpads and rope-and-pulley devices for your arms. Some let you increase the incline for a tougher workout. Monitors record your heart rate. Basic models cost $300 or more.

Weight machines (home gyms): Most let you do a variety of strength-building exercises including triceps extension, pull down, shoulder press, leg extension, leg curl, chest press and biceps curl. The machines make it easy to set up and change weights. Prices range from $200-$3,000.

Using your equipment

Some points to keep in mind when using your home exercise equipment:

  • Start slowly and build up your exercise routine gradually over time. If at first you try to do too much, you can hurt yourself and lose the will to continue your routine.
  • Watch your technique. Poor exercise mechanics leads to overuse injuries such as shoulder problems in people who use cross-country ski machines or knee problems in those who use stair climbers.
  • Remember to do warm-up and cool-down flexibility exercises.
  • If using the equipment is painful, stop and rest for at least a day. Adjust the machine to make your exercise less strenuous.