The Right Exercise Equipment for You
A mericans spend more than $65 billion per year on fitness—everything from gym memberships to exercise equipment to infomercial weight-loss devices. But if our goal is to be more buff, we’re not getting our money’s worth. Obesity rates climbed to 38 percent for U.S. adults in 2014, up from 32 percent a decade earlier, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In fact, the number of obese Americans exceeds those who are merely overweight.
When we regularly do work out, two-thirds of us do so at home, mainly for comfort and cost savings. A sleek new cardio machine can, by itself, inspire and motivate, but take home the wrong one and it will quickly become the world’s priciest clothes hanger. Consumer Reports’ latest tests of treadmills and ellipticals—and an innovative piece of exercise equipment that’s a cross between the two—will help get you up and running, and keep you going through your favorite podcast or guilty pleasure on Netflix.
If you’ve been waiting to buy exercise equipment, your patience might have paid off. The latest machines are more connected than ever—to apps that track your results or hook you into a community of like-minded enthusiasts. Add a fitness tracker for dynamic feedback on your progress.
Treadmills are ideal for avid runners and walkers, especially those who live in regions where the climate isn’t conducive to year-round outdoor exercise. You can spend as little as $300 on a budget folding treadmill or 10 times as much on a higher-end nonfolding model. Serious runners who have the space should consider investing in a top-rated, nonfolding treadmill, because those machines tend to have a longer deck that’s better suited to a runner’s open stride. Work hard enough, and you could burn up to 350 calories in a 30-minute workout. That’s roughly equivalent to a slice of cheese pizza, so you can enjoy the occasional guilt-free indulgence, provided you put in the miles.
Ellipticals are best if you want a weight-bearing exercise that’s lower-impact than running. Most ellipticals have moving handgrips that allow for a more full-body workout. Calorie output tops out around 270 for a vigorous 30-minute session.
Most of the machines we tested cost $800 to $3,000. Many basic models provide sound ergonomics, solid construction, and a variety of exercise options, but you might have to pay more for connectivity. Several tested models feature iFit, which for a $99 annual fee allows you to track your workout data, choose from professional exercise programs, and create simulated workouts with Google Maps. Other machines connect to free sites such as MapMyFitness and MyFitnessPal, which measure how workouts are affecting blood pressure, cholesterol, and more.