Angie's LIST Guide to
Cardiovascular training improves your heart and lungs through exercise. While basic activities like walking, jogging or running usually do not involve much equipment, inside your home or gym you can perform these activities better with a machine to help you hit a faster heart rate. Treadmills give you an aerobic workout by imitating a walk or a run using belts powered at a speed and resistance you choose. Treadmills are programmed to fit any fitness need, from that of a beginning walker to a marathon runner. Displays usually include heart rate, speed, duration of the run, calories burned and distance.
Stair climbers build strength in your legs and a good cardiovascular workout. One type of stair climber has foot pedals where you place each foot that are usually powered by hydraulics or air pistons. You can change the resistance level for the desired type of workout. Another type of stair climber resembles a rotating staircase. You can start with a five-minute warm-up on either type of machine to loosen your muscles.
Elliptical machines work both the upper and lower body to give you a well-rounded workout. Put your feet on the ramps, your hands on the handles, program the display for your desired workout and start moving. The feet never leave the ramps but rotate in an elliptical fashion, providing a lower impact workout. People with injuries may find the elliptical an ideal piece of fitness equipment that's easy on the joints.
Stationary bicycles offer good aerobic workout, and you can buy attachments to convert your regular bicycle into a stationary.
Rowing machines make you use your arms, legs, back and abdominal muscles, providing and excellent total-body cardio workout.
Make sure you test-drive your cardiovascular equipment before buying it. A wobbly machine, uncomfortable handlebars or slipping treadmill will not offer the confidence necessary for exercising at your highest potential—and may become an expensive coat rack if you give up using it.
Strength training and conditioning
Strength training equipment obviously improves strength. An all-in-one gym with resistance or weights can accommodate up to 50 different strength training exercises, but this equipment is expensive and takes up a large amount of room.
Another option is an adjustable weight-training bench specifically for strength training. The bench rests flat or sits at an incline. Some weight benches have a rack attached to hold barbells for lifting. Barbells are bars that accommodate weight depending on your strength. As you increase your strength, add weight to the barbell.
Free weights and resistance bands are less expensive and take up less space. Free weights, or hand weights, are available in a variety of weights. For the novice, start with five-pound, eight-pound and ten-pound weights. With resistance bands, the elasticity and resistance of the bands provide the workout. These bands are economical and can travel in your briefcase, allowing for an workout on the go.
A stability ball improves your balance, core muscle strength and posture. Purchase an anti-burst ball based on your height. They range in size from 45 to 75 centimeters. The ball works core muscles as you try to stay upright and works best with other strength-building exercises. For the best core-building plan, lift hand weights while keeping your balance on the ball.
Foam pads also hone your balance. Foam pads come in different sizes and add a level of instability. This instability works your core muscles while you do other exercises. Use the pad for lunges, squats or push-ups.
Wobble boards are flexible pods or boards that you stand on to exercise your core muscles. One effective exercise is tossing a ball up while standing on the board. As you catch the ball, core muscles strengthen and improve balance. Building core muscles helps you avoid fatigue and improves posture and stability.
Equipment for sports and activities
Name any competitive or recreational sport, and you'll probably need equipment for it. Unless you're running barefoot, you'll need shoes in addition to weather-appropriate clothing. Golfers need a set of clubs, balls, tees and spiked shoes to hit the links. Swimmers need goggles, suits, kickboards and fins. Cyclists need a good road or moutain bike and a helmet. You'll need a basketball for that pickup game, a football, flying disc or volleyball for that family picnic.
For many activities, you'll need the right clothing and accessories for protection and safety. Today's apparel is designed to wick sweat away and keep your body cool. Some sports watches will synch your body's metrics to your laptop of smart phone app.
You should consult a fitness trainer, coach or organizing group to make sure you have the proper equipment for your sport or activity.
Fitness equipment retailers
You can purchase all this equipment almost anywhere, at big box stores, chain or local sports stores and online retailers. Some stores buy and sell used sports equipment, and others specialize in certain sports or activities, like running, walking, swimming or outdoor recreation.
Of these stores, not all provide the best service or return guarantees. That's why you should look to Angie's List for member reviews and ratings of shops in your area.