By: Dale J. Buchberger, PT, DC, CSCS, DACBSP
As the weather improves many of us start to think of exercising to shed the winter pounds. A question that often comes up is, “what do you recommend for home exercise equipment?” The other question revolves around cost of the equipment. “Is this piece of equipment worth the money?”, etc. I’ll start with the second question first. Any piece of home exercise equipment is worth the money if you use it. If you buy a treadmill it is worth the money if you use it. If you don’t use it and turn it into a very expensive clothing rack then it’s not worth it.
Picking a piece of exercise equipment revolves around several things. First, what is your goal? Are you trying to lose weight? Continue a rehab process from an injury? Just get back some general strength and flexibility that may have been lost from age and inactivity? Perhaps you recently had a surgery or are planning a surgery and want to be able to exercise and rehabilitate more at home?
How much space do you have? Are you living in an apartment? Will you be exercising in the basement? Do you have any limitations? Can you leave the equipment up or do you need to take it down after each use?
It would be nice to be able to tell you that there is one great piece of equipment in the world that would allow us to exercise every part of our body the right way and allow us to achieve all of our goals in a minimal amount of time each day! Unfortunately, the answer to that question is no. Exercise equipment is as individual as we are.
A treadmill is a great device especially here is central New York. Walking, jogging or running on a treadmill is a great way to stay active in the winter months and do so safely. Here are a few tips on purchasing a treadmill. Most home-style treadmills are designed to save space by folding up and being able to push close to a wall. If you are a walker then a lower priced model will be fine for you. If you jog or run you need to spend a little more. Look for a motor of a minimum of 2.75HP. The speed should handle 0-15mph. The incline should span 0-10% grade. Always get the extended warranty on a treadmill! If possible have a separate breaker installed for the electrical outline you plan on using. As the speed goes up they draw more power and will blow a breaker. Holidays are great times to get a good deal on a treadmill. The last thing is to make sure you have it delivered and set up. It’s worth the $50-75 they charge not to deal with the hassle.
There are two pieces of strength equipment that we typically recommend: The Total Gym or a TRX suspension trainer. The total gym is a fairly versatile piece of home exercise equipment. People of varying ages and abilities can work safely and progressively on a total gym. There are a variety of models at prices that range from $400 to $2000. Many times they have sales as well and you can get a $2000 model for less than half the price. The Total Gym allows patients to exercise whether you are a triathlete or a patient who has had a total knee replacement. It folds up and is easy to set up. We haven’t had any patient complain after we recommended a total gym for home exercise purposes. It is also a great way to introduce adolescent athletes to strength training safely.
The TRX suspension system is less expensive than the total gym and does allow for a variety of exercise of the upper body, lower body and CORE. It uses suspension straps and truly strengthens your stability system and challenges your balance. It is great for kids and adolescent athletes. It is particularly safe for this age group since it is based on your body weight. The draw back is that you need to be able to change positions, get up and down from the floor and have some baseline mobility. The upside to a TRX is that it costs about $200, can be used from a door way (not the most functional) or from a chin up bar or ceiling hook (more functional but be sure the hook is tested ahead of time for security of your body weight).
Notice that I didn’t recommend any weight lifting machines. These are usually cumbersome, over priced, take up the most space, can’t be moved easily and give you the best opportunity to get injured. If you live in CNY and want to exercise economically at home, choose the equipment that meets your goals.