Fitness and Exercise Equipment
Many people, such as your doctor, your boss, your friends, your mother, your children tell you how important exercise is. But often it is easier after a long day, or a busy week to sit down with a newspaper, or watch some television than to get moving and do some exercise. We have certainly all felt that way at one time, and the majority of us, many times! So, why is it so necessary to improve and maintain a moderate level of physical fitness?
Best home workout equipment
Everyone knows that some exercise gets your blood flowing, puts a glow in your cheeks, and makes your feel and look better. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there are eight main benefits to doing physical exercise.
- Controlling Your Weight – If you are looking to maintain your current weight or lose some weight, doing some exercise will balance out the caloric intake.
- Reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease – Heart attacks and strokes are a leading cause of death in North America. Improving your fitness lowers your cholesterol and blood pressure levels, which both greatly reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Reduce your risk of type-2 diabetes – Too much fat around your waist, high blood sugar, and poor cholesterol levels all lead to type-2 diabetes. Regular exercise can prevent or even control your diabetes if you already have it.
- Reduce risk of some cancers – Studies have shown that people who are fit are much less likely to develop colon, breast, endometrial and lung cancers.
- Strengthen bones and muscles – Many people lose bone density and muscle as they age. Exercise, including weight-bearing exercise, can improve your muscular fitness, strengthen your bones, and keep them strong and young.
- Improve mental health and mood – Feeling better physically makes you feel better mentally. Exercise releases endorphins in your body and has been shown to improve memory, judgment, reduce the risk of depression and help you sleep.
- Improve your ability to do daily activities and prevent falls – Doing regular exercise means that you have a healthy and strong body. Having a healthy and strong body makes regular daily chores such as walking, cleaning, standing, and reaching easier and less likely to cause injury. Also, being fit and having healthy muscles and bones will make you heal faster if you do have an injury.
- Increase your life expectancy – As if you needed another reason, people you who exercise are 4-% less likely to die early than those you do not exercise.
Aerobic exercise, also known as cardio training, is a relatively low-intensity workout that is important to build up your endurance, the ability to do exercise for an extended period. It is important to keep you from getting winded and builds lean muscle.
There are many different types of cardio machines, but the main types are treadmills, stair-climbing machines elliptical trainers, stationary bicycles and rowing machines.
Here is a brief overview of each type:
A treadmill is a machine that allows you to walk or run on a rotating track, permanently keeping you in the same spot on an ‘endless path’.
Many treadmills have a heart-rate monitor built in that you can clip to your finger which you can set to achieve your target heart-rate zone for your best cardio workout.
Stair-climbers: Climbing machines, such as a Stairmaster, work the user’s legs as they pump straight up and down, mimicking the motion of climbing stairs. Sometimes the machines have handles for your arms, which makes the exercise more like climbing a ladder to exercise the entire body. This is a fairly intense but highly effective machine.
Elliptical trainers: An elliptical machine is a cross between a tread-mill and a stair-climber. Generally less impact than a stair-climber, it has two tracks, one for each foot, that allows your legs to move in an ellipse shape. You can usually adjust the degree of difficulty in this type of machine.
Stationary bikes: Exercise bicycles have existed since the 18th century, and consist of a seat, peddles, and a bar to hang on to. The low-impact motion of biking and being able to sit makes a stationary bike an excellent choice for people who are recovering from an injury, or who are physically not able to safely bear a lot of weight for other types of cardio activity.
Rowing Machines: These machines simulate the activity of rowing and are beneficial for working out both the upper and lower body. They usually work on a pulley system. Some people find them less attractive and less of an impact, but as a benefit, the machines are often easy to collapse and do not take up as much room as the other machines do.
Anaerobic exercises are an essential part of your fitness routine. These types of activities promote strength, speed, and power and build muscle mass. These are important to keep your body strong and teach your body to do more strenuous activities in a short amount of time. Also, just having muscles helps you burn calories more quickly, improves balance, and helps prevent injury.
Lifting weights are the most effective way to build muscles and can be done using free weights, or on an exercise machine. Unlike a weight machine, free weights do not constrain the user to a set of specific, fixed movements. Although it requires more skill from the person exercising, it can also be more effective as it better targets muscles by having to use more effort than a machine.
There are three main types of free weights: dumbbells, barbells, and kettlebells.
Dumbbells are metal or plastic plates that fit on either side of a hand-held bar. A set of dumbbells can be used individually or as a pair, with one for each hand. The plates usually come in the following weights: 1lb, 2lb, 3lb, 5lb, 8lb, and 10lb. Because they are thin, you can use several plates together on the same set of dumbbells to increase the amount of weight that you are lifting.
Dumbbells are an inexpensive type of equipment, and also can be stored relatively easily. The most common exercises with dumbbells include bicep or triceps curls and bench press exercises.
Barbells are a similar set-up to dumbbells except that the bar is between four and eight feet in length instead of the size of your hand. While dumbbells are typically used in upper body and arm muscles building, barbells can be used to strengthen your entire body with powerlifting exercises such as squats (where you hold the bar on your shoulder and do knee bends).
Because you are working for larger muscle groups, the plates come in much higher weights, ranging from 1lb to 50lbs. Because of the amount of weight involved, you may need a bench press bench and benefit from a spotter – someone who helps you maneuver the weight safely.
A kettlebell is a cast-iron weight that resembles a cannonball with a handle. Kettlebells originated in Russia several hundred years ago and typically comes in standard sizes of 12kg, 16kg or 24kg. People who use these types of weight use basic movements such as swinging and lifting the kettlebells, the clean-and-jerk and build both muscular strength and endurance and large numbers of repetitions are often done.
People who use kettlebells like them for their whole-body workout, the fact that they improve cardio fitness, muscular fitness and range of motion, however, should be taken by those with weak shoulders or cores as the swinging motion can be dangerous for them.
Free weights are inexpensive and easy to use, they target muscle groups and are easily stored. However, because they require a certain amount of skill, you must use caution as they can cause injury if used incorrectly.
As we covered in the previous section, lifting weights is essential to building strong muscles and bones and has tremendous health benefits. If you are not sure that delving into the world of weight-lifting using traditional free weights is something you would enjoy, you might be interested in an exercise machine.
Exercise machines that build muscle strength are also known as weight machines, nautilus machines, or just a home gym. These exercise machines use gravity as their main force and rely on a series or pulleys; levers, wheels, and cables to increase resistance (make the exercise ‘harder’).
There are two types of weight machines: stack machines and plate machines. A plate machine uses plates, such as with a barbell or dumbbell that you can add or remove to change the difficulty of the exercise. A stack machine has a series of plates that lay horizontally on one another, forming a ‘stack.’
There is a hole drilled in the middle of the stack with a series of cables that run through it and to change the amount of weight you move the pin to the desired location in the stack.
There are some benefits to these types of exercise machines, for example, you do not require the use of a spotter the way you do with barbells. Also, it is very easy to adjust the amount of weight you use compared with dumbbells and barbells. However, you may need a few types of exercise machines including a smith machine (for squats), a cable machine (for upper body), and a leg press to get a full body workout.
Although these machines can be purchased fairly inexpensively, they do require a fair amount of storage space and people who use them often will need to dedicate a space in their home or garage for the purpose of exercising.
A ‘home gym’ machine is a stack machine that has some different pulleys with interchangeable attachments for specific exercises. You can easily work your whole body with a home gym machine, and although they are somewhat more expensive than the plate machines, they are easier to use and take up less room.
Some home gyms do not rely on gravity for resistance. The Bowflex uses fiber rods that bend under pressure and offer different amounts of resistance. Other machines like the Total Gym rely on your body weight for resistance. The benefits of these exercise machines are that they are far quieter, because there are no heavyweights crashing back to the ground at the end of a set, and because they do not require stacks or plates they are easier to store and move around. The technology involved does cost more of course.
No matter what type of weight training you do, the critical thing to remember is to build the number of repetitions you do. Typically you should do 3 sets of 10-15 repetitions for each exercise and after each set of 10-15 feel like you could not possibly do another (known as ‘to failure’). Weight training several times per week, you will see your strength improve quickly, and the health benefits will be sure to follow.
So far we have learned about the main types of fitness equipment including cardio machines, free weights and exercise machines to build muscle.
Other Types of Equipment
Cardio machines, free weights, home gyms… It seems like between these main types of equipment that your fitness needs would be covered – and in many cases they are. However, if you do not have the desire to store equipment in your home or the space to do it, what alternatives exist?
A stability ball is a large, inflatable ball, bigger than a beach ball that you can use while exercising to help build your core strength. Many people lie with the ball under their backs and use it to do situps, or place the ball between their back and the wall and use it to do squats.
Because you need to keep the ball steady, so it does not roll away, it can be quite hard work. The ball is easy to use, many exercises are available, and best of all, they are very inexpensive and easy to store. Often they come with a booklet or a DVD with information on how to use them best.
Elastic resistance bands come in a variety of resistance levels, which are usually identifiable by color. These bands are very inexpensive and often given for free to patients of physiotherapy. The resistance bands can be tied to a doorknob, to a tree, tied together, and then used in a huge variety of ways to increase strength and tone your body as you pull the band and work your muscles.
An abdominal roller or ab sculptor machine is a machine to help you properly do crunches or situps. You rest your head on a build in the pillow to keep you from leading with your neck and use your stomach muscles to roll your body up. While many people have difficulty targeting their abdominal muscles in the way a proper sit-up does, this machine takes away the guesswork and allows you to build stomach muscles more quickly and efficiently.
Some people believe that the best workout requires little to no equipment at all! Many exercise programs are available on DVD format and have become hugely popular over the last 5 years. The most famous of these exercise DVD programs include P90X, Insanity and the Tracy Anderson Method.
Tracy Anderson and P90X both use minimal equipment, some light hand weights, some resistance bands, and a yoga mat and Insanity needs no equipment at all. These DVD series include some different workouts and follow a guided program of between 3 and 13 weeks. The workouts are hard, the programs build in rest and recovery days and focus on improving both your cardio health and increasing your muscle stamina and strength.
The results can be amazing though! Many people choose this type of workout program because of the low overall cost, and virtually no need for storage in their home.
A home gym is a terrific way to help you improve your overall physical fitness. Not only is it convenient and affordable, but you can also do it in private and on your own time and turf.