PUBLISHED: 11:39 AM on Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Easy-to-use equipment aids in quest for fitness
If you can't make it to the gym today, you can still take action to promote your health with a few exercise accessories.

Fitness director Cathleen Reid said that someone preparing to purchase exercise equipment must determine if they want to lose weight or build muscle.

A treadmill, for example, helps a person improve cardiovascular endurance. Weights can increase strength.

"The more you enjoy the activity your equipment provides, the more often you will use it," Reid says.

A personal trainer or fitness instructor can demonstrate how to use exercise accessories.

Reid says the stability ball, also referred to as a yoga ball, is an excellent addition to any home gym. Depending on the brand, it can run from $11 to $20.

The ball provides balance exercises to improve core strength, agility and coordination in all sports. More importantly, the ball lowers risk of injury.

"It's easy to use, and it is effective," Reid says.

She also says dumbbells and free-weights are good resistance equipment. She recommends that at least four different weights be used to effectively tone and build muscle.

While the weights are reasonably priced, ranging from $5 to $50, and take up little space, they require more instruction and supervision for proper use. If not used properly, they are more likely to cause injury.

"You really have to find what works for you," Reid says.

When Victoria Rangel can't make it to the gym, she uses hand weights when she goes walking.

"I work out for my health," says the 52-year-old, adding that she also enjoys hearing the compliments about how young and in shape she looks.

Banker Michael Jackson says he prefers a treadmill for working out because it helps to maintain his weight, it is low impact and it helps to keep his heart rate and breathing adjusted. Jackson walks on the treadmill daily for 30 minutes.

"The treadmill is energy boosting, and it is a good stress reliever," he says.

Treadmills are a popular piece of aerobic equipment for home use. When purchasing, look for a solid, smooth action, a steady pace, wide belt, safety shut-off, and incline settings. Treadmills start at $200, and more quality models range from $1,000 and up, according to manufacturers' Web sites.

Bobby Castillo, who works out at home, uses an ab wheel, weights, a jump-rope and the stability ball.

He said that lack of exercise equipment should not be a factor in exercising because there are a lot of things that can be done without the equipment, such as walking, lunges, and jump roping.

Reid says that she recommends those starting a new exercise regimen consider purchasing a pair of well in-soled tennis shoes.

"You should replace tennis shoes each year," she says. "Worn out shoes can hurt your joints."

Workout videos and DVDs are popular for those who exercise at home.

When selecting equipment for home, consider the manufacturer's claims carefully. Does the exercise improve strength or cardiovascular endurance?

Home gyms or multistations are a major purchase, and the price often reflects the quality of the machine.

Elliptical trainers are the most popular items in health clubs and you may want to try out several models before selecting one to buy.

Measure the footprint of your new equipment, and consider ventilation, electrical outlets and noise problems, even storage, before you purchase it.