Most of us know that we will probably never run in a marathon. But with the right exercise we can much more physically fit. Exercise can help keep our weight down, help our cardio-vascular system to be more healthy, and help us to have better health in general. I am a retired Physical Therapist and have seen firsthand how important exercise is for our health. When we decide to start exercising, we are faced with an almost overwhelming variety of options. Do I walk, swim, join a gym, utilize home fitness exercise equipment or choose from any number of other options. For any exercise program to be effective and to become a consistent part of our daily routine, there is one bottom line criteria. You need to enjoy it. If you don’t like what choose to do, it will soon become like a yoke around your neck and you will eventually become irregular with your exercise or quit altogether. So it is definitely worth your time to honestly evaluate your motives and your likes and dislikes. Choosing a form of exercise simply because you know you need to start exercising may not yield the results you are looking for.
These are some other factors to consider:
- Where you live – is the climate conducive to year-round outdoor exercise?
- Finances – an exercise program does not need to break your budget!
- Do you enjoying exercising with other people or do you prefer to exercise alone?
- What options are available in your area? Will you have to drive 30 minutes to a gym?
- Do you have health limitations to some types of exercise – back pain, h
- After considering these factors, you may decide that buying your own exercises equipment is the way to go. Below I have listed several general categories of home fitness exercise equipment with some pros and cons about each one. I hope this will help you be better informed and be able to choose the right equipment that will enable you to reach your goals.
Treadmills remain one of the most popular home exercise machines. Obviously, they come the closest to mimicking walking or jogging so they are very easy to use. Whether you are just beginning to exercise with a slow, level walk or are already physically fit and jogging up an incline, a treadmill can definitely give you a great workout. The top treadmills will have a digital monitor and will have preset programs that will automatically vary the speed and incline to make your exercise routine more demanding.
- Easy and safe to use
- Can be used in your own climate controlled home
- The treadmill’s walking surface is flat and smooth – not like walking or jogging outdoors
- It is great for weight loss
- It is an aerobic exercise and is great for a home cardio workout
- The digital displays can give you live feedback plus track your progress toward your goals
- They have the same impact on your joints as walking or jogging
- They may not be for you if you have back, hip, knee or foot pain
- You need to be able to stand and walk
- Good durable treadmills can be a bit pricey
A rowing machine simulates the motion of rowing a boat. It strengthens the hands, arms and back muscles along with the quads, glutes and calves in the legs. It is a whole body exercise and a good way to burn calories and help lose weight. Most rowing machines have an adjustable resistance so can be set from beginner to advanced workouts. It is great machine for a low impact cardio workout.
- Great upper body workout
- Also gives a good lower body workout
- Good for weight loss
- A good choice for low impact training
- A great machine for a low impact cardio workout
- May not be a good choice for someone with chronic back pain
- You need to be able to use both arms and legs and back to get an effective workout
- It will take a bit of time to learn the proper technique
The stationary bike is a great piece of home exercise equipment. The basic stationary bike is for the lower body only. Some other versions add an upper extremely component to achieve a whole body workout. Once the seat is adjusted correctly with about 10 – 15 degrees of flexion with leg extended all the way down, they are easy and safe to exercise on. They are a good choice if you have knee pain as they are low impact while getting good range of motion in the knees. The best stationary bikes will have a digital screen to keep track of time, distance, and the resistance used and can also have preset programs for a more varied workout. Many bikes utilize a computer controlled magnetic resistance for a smooth transition from one resistance to another.
Another approach to the stationary bike is the air resistance bikes. These utilize a fan for infinite wind resistance. The faster you peddle, the more resistance. These do not require any power supply for the basic bike function although they will need batteries if they have a digital monitor.
- Very easy to use
- Safer than riding outdoors
- Low impact
- Good for persons with knee or foot pain
- Good machine for a cardio workout
- The basic exercise bike does not strengthen the upper body
- Some seats may be uncomfortable
The stair stepper or stair climber utilizes the stair climbing motions for lower body exercise. While they are great for lower body strength, they are not a whole body exercise machine. Having said that, they do provide a good cardio workout and will definitely help with weight loss. They are great for toning up the lower-body muscles and strengthening the large muscles in the lower-body. The stair stepper may not be a good choice for someone with knee problems and are little higher impact than the elliptical trainers.
- Less expensive that elliptical trainers
- Great for lower body strength and muscle toning
- Excellent at increasing calf muscle strength and tone
- Higher impact that elliptical trainers – may not be the best for someone with joint problems or who is overweight
- Burns 50% fewer calories than elliptical trainers
- Requires good posture for maximum benefit
- Limited to up and down motion
An elliptical trainer or cross-trainer is designed to simulate stair climbing, walking or running. While they are low impact, the motion is not as natural as walking or running so may take some getting used to. They exercise the whole body and are great for general conditioning. They provide a good cardio workout without stressing your joints. And, of course, they can help you burn calories and lose weight.
- Great whole body workout
- Burns about 50% more calories that the stair stepper
- Low impact
- Good cardio workout
- Good for weight loss
- Can be pedaled backward to strengthen different muscles
- One size fits all
- Good ones are quite expensive
- Requires a little practice to get the most benefit
- Requires concentration to keep the level of exercise at your target – not motorized like a treadmill
The machines we have discussed so far are single machines that are designed to exercise the whole body or at least a large portion of the body at once. I would definitely recommend one of these for overall better health and conditioning. But for those of you who are looking for a way to strengthen specific muscles instead using the whole body approach, a home gym might be just what you are looking for. You can get a good whole body workout with a home gym but it requires a combination of several exercises. While it is not as effective for a good cardio workout it can definitely improve muscle tone and burn calories.
- Great for targeted muscle strengthening
- Good if you are looking for muscle bulk instead of just muscle toning
- Usually take more space
- Not the best for a cardio workout
- Takes longer to learn the different exercises for a whole body workout
One Last Word
While the purpose of this article is to introduce you to different types of home fitness exercise equipment, I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you that what you eat is also very important for good health. A diet that is rich in fruits, whole grains, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products and includes nuts, beans, fish, poultry and red meat is one of the diets recommended by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) (chapter 5).
Be sure to check with your physician before you start your exercises program. Then follow the instructions that came with your exercise equipment and progress gradually. There is no shortcut to good health! And lastly, listen to your body. Any unexpected pain is your body trying to get your attention. Happy exercising!
Please feel free to leave any comments below.