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How to Evaluate and Purchase Quality Home Exercise Equipment

By IDEA Fitness

If you are reading this, it is probably no coincidence you are thinking about buying home exercise equipment. We at IDEA think that's great news, because encouraging people around the world to get and stay active is what we do. Great news, too, since study after study proves what we've known since we were kids: moving around is good for us, mind, body, and soul.

But we've also known someone (maybe even you?) who has brought exercise equipment home, only to have it end up gathering dust in the garage or doubling as a laundry hanger. Maybe you did not see the results it promised. On the other hand, perhaps you just did not enjoy the activity you performed on it. Whatever the reason, that is too bad, since fitness equipment not used equals health benefits not realized.

We want to make sure this time, you take home equipment you will enjoy using . . . and use regularly. So, we've taken everything we've learned about home exercise equipment during our 15 years as the association for fitness professionals worldwide, and distilled it into this informational guide.

Better Equipment and More Choices than Ever
The good news is, today's home exercise equipment is better constructed and more effective, and offers you more options than ever before. With choice, however, can come confusion . . . especially since equipment now comes in so many shapes, sizes and types, and is often marketed through glossy direct mail packages and sophisticated infomercials. Prices can range from $50 to $5,000 and up.

How can you possibly sort out all this information? Our panel of top international fitness experts offers you these tips on how to evaluate and choose quality exercise equipment.

STEP ONE - Determine Your Goals
Are you trying to lose weight? Do you want to get stronger or both? Knowing your goals in advance will help you make sure the equipment you buy will set you up for success, not disappointment. Determining your goal will narrow your search to far fewer options.

STEP TWO - Don't Forget About You
What activities do you enjoy most? Which don't you like? If you avoid taking stairs at all costs, you probably will not like working out on a stairclimber/stepper decreasing the chances you will use it regularly. If you love to take brisk walks, a treadmill or an elliptical exercise machine will give you a similar experience any time of day or night, in any type of weather. The more you enjoy the activity your equipment provides, the more often you will use it.

STEP THREE - Set Your Budget
How much do you have to spend? If you love that fancy, programmable $2,500 stairclimber at the gym, the $199 blue light special will probably prove a huge disappointment but a basic, quality $600-800 model might work great. A good strategy is to spend most of your budget on one solid aerobic training piece, say a high-quality treadmill, then build around it with inexpensive strength training equipment such as tubing and dumbbells.

STEP FOUR - Try It before You Buy It
All our experts concurred on this point. An infomercial or brochure may make a product sound great, but nothing takes the place of a personal, hands-on "test drive." Wear appropriate clothing and shoes and use the equipment precisely as you will at home. Evaluate how the well the equipment is constructed; how well it functions; and if the motions or exercises you perform feel natural and comfortable. Keep in mind that a store specializing in fitness equipment will probably offer better advice and service than a department store. Even if you do not buy from a specialty retailer, it is an excellent place to start.

STEP FIVE - Decide on Features and Functions
From televised displays to digital readouts, much of today's equipment incorporates an amazing amount of high technology. However, these "bells and whistles" often come at a price. Ask yourself if timers, heart rate monitors, calories-burned displays and the like will motivate you. If so, and you can afford them, great. If not, rest assured that a basic, good-quality piece will provide just as effective a workout. And you can often duplicate many features by using kitchen timers, keeping an exercise log with handwritten entries, even learning how to take your own pulse.

Other considerations include a reading rack, ease of adjusting variables such as tension, resistance and seat height, water bottle holders, and whether it folds up.

STEP SIX - Ask Questions!
Ask about warranties, return policies, satisfaction guarantees, frequency and cost of repairs. In most cases, a reputable dealer will let you to try out your new equipment at home for a specified time period, say, 30 days, and allow you to return it for a full refund or merchandise credit. The dealer should take care of pick-up, delivery and set-up.

Also, be sure to talk to the dealer about repairs and maintenance, they should have a trained technician on staff or on a consultant basis to handle repairs and maintenance. Most product warranties cover manufacturing defects and labor charges for at least one year. You won't enjoy the same service when buying direct by TV, direct mail or Internet!

STEP SEVEN - Using And Storing Your New Equipment
Many people anxiously await delivery of their new stationary bicycle or home gym only to find it does not fit in the space they had planned to put it! Measure the actual footprint of your new equipment, and consider ventilation, electrical outlets, and noise problems for neighbors even storage. Plus, consider placing a rubber mat under the equipment to reduce noise and absorb sweat and grease.

STEP EIGHT - Talk To A Pro Who Knows
Our experts also strongly recommended consulting a qualified fitness professional in your area, such as an IDEA Member group exercise instructor or personal fitness trainer, for guidance. Plus, many specialized equipment dealers now offer a complimentary personal training session with your purchase, call various stores in your area to see if any offer such a program, or can recommend a certified personal fitness trainer nearby.

last update: February 2009

This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use this material to diagnose or treat a health condition or disease without consulting with your healthcare provider.
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