Americans have an extremely important decision to consider this fall. One that will help dramatically shape their futures.
No, I'm not talking about the Presidential election in this instance. I'm talking about the decision of how to furnish your home gym. Exercise is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. It can help people have a longer and healthier life.
The Department of Health and Human Services provided the government's first Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans in 2008 to help people understand the types and amounts of physical activity that offer important health benefits.
“Physical activity is any form of exercise or movement of the body that uses energy,” the DHHS reported. “The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend 60 minutes of physical aerobic activity daily for children ages 6-17 (there are no specifications for those 5 and under), and 30 minutes daily for adults ages 18-64.”
In addition to aerobic exercise, strength training is also important, even for senior citizens, as it can help muscles and bones stay stronger longer.
Having fitness equipment at home, or better yet a home gym, is a great way to make sure you get the proper amount of exercise.
We've all heard of treadmills and ellipticals, free weights and home gyms, and different types of exercise bikes. But which are right for you?
That's a decision you should be considering this fall.
To help sort out the many candidates, here are my takes on the key fitness equipment issues you might be considering:
** Treadmill or elliptical machine?
Either a treadmill or elliptical would be a great addition to your home gym, but it's important to fully understand what your fitness needs are. And try out several models before making a purchase. Pick the style of workout equipment that you're most likely to use.
Treadmills and Ellipticals both offer outstanding benefits for any home gym.
Depending on what your needs are for space, finances and training goals, there are many options to choose between them.
Treadmills have been around a lot longer than elliptical trainers and are more widely recognized.
The biggest difference between the two is that you're not physically connected to a treadmill. There is no pre-set motion to follow and one size fits all. Anyone from a rehab patient who walks at an extremely slow pace to a marathon runner putting in a grueling indoor workout can use a treadmill.
Right behind treadmills as the top selling fitness equipment are ellipticals. Ellipticals are excellent for a cardiovascular workout that will not put as much impact on a person's joints. Since your feet are placed on a pad, you are burning calories but not getting as much shock to the knees or hips as with a treadmill.
Another factor to consider is “perceived exertion,” or how hard a person thinks they're working. Since we can all practice walk, or maybe even run with our eyes closed, it might not seem like we're working as hard as when we're following a less natural movement pattern on the elliptical. The truth is you're working hard on both of them if you're putting out effort.
If you're trying to get more motivated, then this aspect of the elliptical might be a good selling point for you. The elliptical can be set for forward or backward movements. Elliptical handles allow a person to get more of an upper body workout than with treadmills.
Both pieces of equipment can usually change the plane you're moving on and offer different workouts, such as fat burning, aerobic or strength training.
For hard-core walkers, joggers or runners, it's hard to beat the treadmill.
However, for older people, those with joint issues or maybe just people looking for a new twist on their workouts, then an elliptical might be the best choice. Octane and Life Fitness are two leading brands for ellipticals. Both pieces of equipment are excellent ways to burn calories and improve your aerobic health.
** Stationary bike or recumbent bike?
Upright stationary maneuver bikes have been around a long time and look like the bikes we grew up riding on. They have no back support and are a great way to work out the legs, especially the quads. For avid outdoor cyclists, during the cold months they're the next best thing to riding outdoors.
Upright bikes are also a great way to warm up before a workout, cool down and-or get a cardio workout on.
To more and more people, though, recumbent bikes are the popular choice.
You get a lot more support from a recumbent bike, which offers a back rest with curved lower-lumbar support and puts more emphasis on the hamstrings.
If you've had any back trouble, a recumbent bike might be the best choice because of its added support. When choosing a stationary bike, comfort is a big key.
For many people who are way overweight a recumbent is a great way to start the process of trimming down. You can get a cardio workout on it without putting much stress on the back and joints.
Each type of fitness bike has its pros and cons depending on your riding preferences and fitness goals. Whatever type of exercise bike you decide on, make sure you test ride a variety to make sure you'll want to use it.
Some people feel the recumbent fitness bike is more ergonomically and bio-mechanically correct because of its frame and handlebar design.
** Home gym or functional trainer?
Many people prefer to use a “machine” over traditional free weights in their home workout room. But did you know there are two different types of those machines available?
The more traditional Home Gym is what most people are familiar with, dating back to the days of the Nautilus machine. The Home Gym includes one or two weight stacks, with fixed arms and hand grips. It can be bulkier and more expensive than Functional Trainers. Most movements on a Home Gym follow a set plane, such as military press for shoulders, bench press for chest or leg extensions.
Home Gyms are great for beginners as they are generally considered to be easier to use, but they can also benefit experienced lifters. They can be a good complement to lifting with free weights because Home Gyms will keep you on a controlled lift and do a good job of isolating specific body parts.
Functional Trainers have increasingly gained popularity as they are often less expensive than Home Gyms and take up less space. Functional Trainers have weight stacks on their base, too, but the main difference is in the cable systems that come with different shaped handles. They provide more options for working out and because the cable does not have to follow a fixed plane more sports specific routines can be implemented.
For instance, a golfer can hold the cable handle and simulate his or her swing. A baseball or softball player can grip the cable handle and mimic a throwing motion. There are hundreds of different movement possibilities for a Functional Trainer.
You can even incorporate an exercise ball into your workout, sitting on it and pulling the cable handle toward you at a variety of angles.
However, these machines can also be harder to use and some people are not sure if they're following the right movements. It's important that they ask questions when contemplating buying a Functional Trainer and have correct information on how to use them.
Whatever direction you decide to go, the Home Gym or Functional Trainer will provide health enthusiasts a means to get a total-body workout. You should also consider how these two choices would complement the other fitness equipment you already have, such as free weights.