Which is the best home exercise equipment to buy?
What type of machine will help me to lose weight or get fit?
You’ve made a decision. Maybe it’s a New Year’s resolution – “I’m going to get more fit”!
Or perhaps your doctor has told you that you need to lose some weight.
Together with a healthier diet, you know you need to do more exercise and you’ve decided to do something about it.
You can read about the reasons for buying something you can use at home versus joining a gym by clicking this link.
Here we’re looking at the different types of exercise machine and what they can do for you.
A treadmill is an exercise machine with a moving conveyor belt enabling the user to walk, jog or run whilst remaining more or less stationary by matching your speed with the speed of the belt, adjusted via controls on the machine. This situation is reversed on the least expensive machines where, as there is no motor, you generate the power by starting to walk or run and the machine keeps up with you.
Sometimes, depending on the sophistication and cost of the treadmill, the angle can also be adjusted for you to approximate the feeling of going uphill.
Treadmills aren’t a bad starting point for many, as everyone who isn’t physically disabled can at least walk, and even walking regularly can significantly help reduce the chance of illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, some cancers and numerous others. Walking, however, does not use up many calories per hour, and you’ll need eventually to up the pace and start jogging a bit.
For those who aren’t seriously overweight or elderly but want to get fitter, you’ll need to jog from the start.
Of course, if you’re in training for a running event, such as a marathon, then a treadmill is the best machine to help support your road running.
N.B. notice the phrasing… don’t just train on a treadmill and turn up on the day. There is a difference, as you’ll still need to put in the miles on the road.
One thing which is both a negative and a positive is that when running, and therefore using a treadmill, there is some impact on your joints – especially your knees and ankles – which makes it less appropriate for some older people or those with joint problems. The positive is that it’s slightly less of an impact than running outside on a hard surface such as pavement.
Treadmills can take up a bit more space than some exercise bikes or cross trainers, but there are a number of models which can fold up between use and stored somewhere more convenient.
Exercise bikes are possibly the no.1 choice for many people exercising at home because there are so many options, which is a good thing but it can be confusing if you’re not familiar with them. You can read a comparison of the different types on Which type of exercise bike should I buy?
One of the benefits that they all have in common, compared to a treadmill, is that there is very little impact on the joints. Because most people can ride a bike (though you don’t have to be able to, as they’re stationary and won’t topple over), it’s the next most familiar activity after walking and running (and, frankly, I know a few people who aren’t that familiar with running!)
As you generally do this exercise sitting down, many people also find it easier to motivate themselves to use the bike. It’s also usually quieter, as there is no pounding of feet, and you can often use it while watching television.
It is possible to use a lot of calories while cycling so it can be a good machine for losing weight, and it’s also quite good for High Intensity training.
Like exercise bikes, cross trainers (sometimes just referred to as “ellipticals”), are also a good low impact exercise. On these machines, you stand and the rotational movement is linked to a forward and back seesaw motion of the handles. Some machines have both static as well as moveable arms. When using the moving arms, the amount of effort you put into pulling and pushing is up to you, but it means that your upper body as well as lower body gets exercise.
It helps therefore with strength training as well as cardio training. Calorie wise, as it’s a slower motion than cycling or jogging, you may not use as many if you only use your legs, but if you use both at the same time, it increases the work you’re doing and burning calories is all about work.
By varying the effort you put in with your arms and your legs you can shift the balance of effort.
In other words, you could use just your legs and just hold the handles without putting any real effort with your arms – or you could generate most of the movement pulling and pushing with your arms and just allow you legs to go with the motion of the pedals. Or, of course, you can use both equally.
Either way, you’ll still be giving your cardio-vascular system a good workout too.
Personally, I really like cross trainers and sometimes find them easiest of all just to jump on when I’ve got just a little spare time. I find I warm up quickly with not too much effort, which is also a good thing to do before really going for it, such as in High Intensity training.
To see my recommendations for the best Elliptical cross trainers, click here.
One very popular solution is to combine both a cross trainer and an exercise bike into a single machine. Because the pedals of an elliptical machine have a similar action to those of a bike, the addition of a seat to an elliptical can turn it into a useable bike. There are slight compromises to both. It works better as a cross trainer as long as the seat doesn’t get in the way – you can slide it back a little if it does. As a bike, the pedals are the biggest difference and feel large at first but, in my experience, once you get going and start concentrating on your target, or not think about it and watch tv, you forget about them.
All in all, for many (including me – my first machine was a 2-in-1), the benefits far outweigh the compromises.
To see my recommendations for the best 2 in 1 Cross trainers / Exercise Bikes, click here.
Like cross trainers, rowing machines will give you a really good full body workout, utilising all of the main muscle groups. The calorific use for rowing machines is comparable with a treadmill or exercise bike for a similar intensity, so it’s also good for weight loss.
Like treadmills, their length in use means they can take up a fair amount of space, but there are also some models which will fold up, usually in such a way that the rail points vertically. Because rowing is not a natural movement, the correct technique needs to be learned, both for reasons of efficiency and for safety.
To see my recommendations for the best Rowing Machines, click here.
Whether you want to lose weight or get a bit more fit and improve your heart health, any of these machines will help you do so. The most important thing isn’t necessarily about whether you burn more calories per hour on this machine or that one, but that you actually use regularly. The most expensive and efficient calorie burning, heart pumping monster of a machine won’t do anything if it’s collecting dust.
A good workout stimulates endorphins which make you feel good, so exercise should be a pleasure, not a chore. So choose an exercise machine which you’ll most enjoy using and get into the habit of using it every day, even if you can only manage 10 minutes.
A lot of research has gone into these pages, so, once you’ve decided which to go for, do use the links on these pages to find the best one for you. It’ll save you a lot of time and effort compared to doing the research yourself.