Choosing home exercise equipment is the easiest thing in the world — if you know what you’re doing. If you’re not careful you’ll fork over your cash or sign your credit-card slip and only later realize you’re stuck with an expensive knickknack. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when looking for home exercise equipment:
Make Goal-Oriented Buys
Choose a piece of equipment that will compliment other activities you do. If you walk regularly, consider buying a stair-stepper, elliptical machine or stationary cycle. And remember, there is no one magic gadget that does it all. The complete home gym includes a cardiovascular piece, some strength-training equipment and a place to stretch.
Measure, Measure, Measure
Make sure you have room for the equipment you’re considering. Does it fit through the door and around those tricky corners of your spiral staircase? If space is a problem, look for movable, collapsible or smaller equipment. For instance, you can now get a pair of dumbbells that takes up no more space than a flower vase and adjusts from 5 pounds up to 65 pounds. Fitness balls, jump ropes, steps and tubing are also good, compact choices.
Be Realistic: What’s Your Exercise Level?
An exercise that looks easy when an Olympic athlete demonstrates it on TV can be tough when you try it out yourself. If it requires a high level of coordination and fitness to get the most from your workout and you’re starting from scratch, consider other options.
Do You Really Need That?
Carefully consider fun (read expensive) bells and whistles. Many fancy add-ons go unused and may ultimately be a waste of money. The “extras” that help track distance or time add value only if they inspire you to exercise consistently.
Look for Quality
The most important features to look for? Sturdy construction and smooth, quiet operation. Most machines feel fine during the first few minutes, so spend at least 20 minutes trying the machines out. And yes, you need to go to the store prepared to do a workout.
Check Out the Best Equipment First
Trying out the top of the line first will give you an idea of what quality looks and feels like. Start your shopping excursion at an exercise equipment specialty store that carries brands you’ve seen at health clubs. In general, cheap, “bargain” department-store fitness equipment won’t cut it.
Fit it to Your Body
Nothing you buy should put excessive strain on your back or other joints. Also, look for equipment that adjusts to your height, size and fitness level.
Watch Out for Fitness Fads
It may sound good when that guy with the hair talks about it on the infomercial, but it may not deliver what it promises. Beware making a decision based solely on what you see on TV: Equipment that you can’t try before you buy is a risky purchase.
Use all Your Resources
Ask questions of fitness professionals, friends who are avid exercisers, and equipment representatives before buying. Be sure to find out about equipment delivery, setup, warranties and return policies.
Don’t Rush It
As with any major purchase, take your time to investigate and try out as many options as possible. Your equipment should inspire you to work out, and it should last a long, long time.