Some common reasons for not exercising are lack of time, inconvenience and a dearth of venues, such as nearby parks. If those are your excuses, a home gym might help.
Treadmills are the leading home exercise machines, and elliptical exercisers have been increasingly popular as well. Consumer Reports' tests of 67 machines, from $450 for the most affordable elliptical to $3,800 for the priciest treadmill, prove that there are models available for many budgets.
If you like the natural feel of your own stride, walking or running, a treadmill might be your best choice. On most models you can adjust the speed and incline for your workout. If your own stride doesn't inspire you, an elliptical exerciser can provide one for you. Those machines mimic the motion of running without the impact, making them a good choice for people with achy joints or extra weight.
More Americans work out on treadmills than any other machine. Walking briskly for 30 minutes most days is an easy way to meet the Department of Health and Human Services' physical-activity recommendations, and running is one of the most aerobically challenging cardio workouts. CR tested 36 treadmills, rating ease of use, ergonomics, exercise range, quality and durability of construction.
Spending more on a treadmill usually buys your more horsepower, sturdier construction, better hardware, a longer deck and a longer warranty. The top-rated non-folding Precor 9.31, a powerful, well-constructed model that earned high marks in every category, is among the most expensive at $3,300. But you can get a decent machine that provides a good workout for a fraction of that price. The Horizon T202, a very good and easy-to-operate folding treadmill, is a CR Best Buy at $800. The ProForm 590T, the Horizon T101, and the Gold's Gym CrossWalk 570 CKL are also CR Best Buys at $600 or less.
Controlling your run or walk can involve more than just adjusting the speed. Running downhill can work muscle groups differently, for example. Some models, including the PaceMaster Platinum Pro VR,$2,000, a CR Best Buy, and LifeSpan TR2000,$1,400, simulate that effect with a negative-incline option. Other models offer adjustable cushioning to replicate different running surfaces. A good version of that feature, found on the NordicTrack A2550, $1,300, allows you to adjust your workout to mimic the feel of running on concrete or running on a padded track.
These machines have pedals that revolve along an elliptical path, so every stride you make is uniform. CR tested 31 ellipticals, evaluating exercise range, ergonomics, construction, safety, and more. Like treadmills, the pricier ellipticals generally have sturdier designs, more features and better warranties. The top-rated Diamondback 1260Ef, for example, is well built and easy to use at $2,200. But the Nautilus E514, a CR Best Buy, also performs well for just $750.
Adjusting the resistance allows you to crank up the workout level for strength training. Many models allow you to adjust the incline and stride length of the elliptical path for a more varied workout. Some machines, such as the Diamondback 1260Ef, have a range of adjustment that's large enough to allow you to make the transition to a step-climbing-style workout.
Try before you buy. Some attributes to consider include:
• Dimensions. Nonfolding treadmills and most ellipticals are about the size of a small couch, but sizes can vary greatly.
• Ergonomics. Make sure the deck on treadmills is large enough for your stride. The optimal treadmill deck for most runners is about 60 inches long by 20 inches wide.
• Display. A good display will have easy-to-use controls and will show some combination of heart rate, calories burned, speed, resistance levels, and details such as time and distance.
• Versatility. Consider speed and incline when choosing a treadmill. Most models have a maximum incline of at least 10 percent, but several are well under that.
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