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The Most Popular Home Fitness Equipment

How many of us have expensive “clothes racks” in our bedrooms, basements, and rec rooms because we simply don’t utilize home fitness equipment as we’d hoped? Avoid this mistake (or don’t make it twice!) by familiarizing yourself with the advantages and disadvantages of some of the most popular pieces of cardiovascular equip- ment available for use in your home.

Stationary bikes (upright or recumbent):
  • Excellent choice for heavier individuals and beginners.
  • Low-impact movement is ideal for people with a history of low back problems or joint pain.
  • Relatively inexpensive.
  • Require less space than many other pieces.
  • Two basic models—upright bikes simulate outdoor cycling and tend to cost less; recumbent bikes provide a more relaxed, extended position and more comfortable seats, and are easier to mount and dismount for people with lim- ited mobility.
  • Resistance can be provided by friction (cheapest), air (moderately priced), and magnets (most expensive and highest quality).
Treadmills:
  • Easier on joints than walking/running on pavement.
  • Encourage high energy expenditure due to weight-bearing nature of the movement.
  • Look for models that allow you to choose the incline—set at 4% or greater to better simulate walking/running outside.
  • Nonmotorized models not recommended—check for warranty on motorized models.
  • Test the equipment to make sure it accommodates your walking and running stride.
  • May require more space than other pieces of equipment.
  • Look for models with safety handles and emergency stop features.
Rowing machines:
  • Simulate outdoor rowing; resistance provided by air or water—the harder you pull, the higher the resistance.
  • Works lower and upper body muscle groups.
  • Low-impact movement ideal for heavier people and beginners.
  • May not be comfortable for people with a history of low back pain/injury.
  • Look for machines that offer smooth, even resistance throughout the move- ment and a comfortable, non-slip seat.
  • Models with adjustable, pivoting foot plates allow for greater comfort.
  • Educate yourself on proper rowing technique before use, or have a fitness pro- fessional evaluate your technique in person.
Elliptical trainers: 
  • Simulate a cross between running and climbing; feet create an elliptical pat- tern during the movement.
  • Some models offer upper-body resistance with “poles” that coordinate with leg movements.
  • Can be used in reverse to stimulate different muscle groups in the lower body.
  • Provide a low-impact, high-intensity alternative to walking/running.
  • Tend to require more space, coordination, balance, and practice.
  • May be costly for high-quality models.
Stair climbers:
  • Resistance via air, hydraulic, or magnetic brakes—hydraulic or magnetic brakes are preferred, and magnetic brakes offer the smoothest movement.
  • Offer high-intensity, low-impact workouts.
  • Some models utilize foot plates that operate independently—both can be up or down at the same time. Others utilize dependent foot plates—when one goes down, the other automatically goes up (nice for beginners, but doesn’t provide the same level of intensity).
  • Require a little more coordination and skill than some other types of equipment.
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