The wrong equipment will end up gathering dust. Here's advice you can use yourself-and pass along to patients.
Some folks buy exercise equipment and quickly lose interest. Not Lawrence H. Durban, a cardiothoracic surgeon from Roslyn, NY, who works out at 5 am every day in a bedroom he converted to a gym. The 42-year-old has lost 50 pounds and says, "I have the best lipid level I've ever seen on anyone. With my schedule, it was difficult to get to the gym in town. Now I can work out whenever it's convenient."
Paul Reinbold, a 33-year-old internist from Federalsburg, MD, works out for 1 1/2 hours a day at his home gym. "I had gained 60 pounds in medical school, and my weight fluctuated for six years," says Reinbold. "I started exercising, lost weight, and got back into shape. Now I have the energy and stamina to maintain my busy schedule. I couldn't have done this is much work five years ago."
Both Durban and Reinbold avoided common mistakes in buying home exercise equipment. "People order equipment that they've never tried, from a TV informercial," says Scott Cassidy, a personal trainer and consultant with Fitness SuperStore in Cherry Hill, NJ. "Then they discover the exercise bores them, the equipment feels uncomfortable, or the machine doesn't do what they expected."
To avoid this plight, you've got to do your homework before buying equipment. "Visit a friend's gym use the machines, and see what you enjoy," suggests Vincent Scalisi, editorial director of Muscle & Fitness magazine in Woodland Hills, CA. "Or wear your workout clothes to the exercise equipment store and try the pieces for at least five minutes." The test run is important, even if you've used a similar machine at a gym. Home versions may differ from the gym machines.
Another blunder is getting cheap equipment that works poorly or needs frequent repairs. "If you get junk," Reinbold says, "it may be uncomfortable to use, the wimpy motor may chatter, it may feel rickety, and ultimately you won't use it." Adds Scalisi: "When you try a machine, make sure it remains solidly planted. It shouldn't wobble or shift."
Besides a sturdier base, heavier construction, and a stronger motor, a pricier piece of equipment will likely come with extra features and more sophisticated electronics that can keep you motivated and help you enjoy your workout. Many treadmills, stationary bikes, and other aerobic machines offer computerized programs that automatically change the speed, incline, or resistance to mimic a course over varying terrain. Some offer a heart monitor to help you determine whether you're in your target cardiovascular range. For example, the Cat Eye EC-1200 stationary bicycle automatically adjusts resistance to keep you within three beats per minute of your target heart rate.
What kind of exercise should you opt for? "If the machine will provide your sole exercise,...