01.Home fitness equipment
- Home fitness machines can be a convenient way of integrating exercise into your life.
- CHOICE subscribers told us noise, space and boredom were the main disincentives to continued use — things to consider when buying.
- If you’re not sure which machine — if any — is right for you, try hiring first.
We asked readers who own exercise bikes, treadmills and elliptical trainers about their experiences with equipment designed for domestic use, including what makes for a good or bad purchase decision. With your help plus information from our overseas counterparts who’ve tested this equipment, we’ve put together some tips on what to consider when buying home fitness equipment.
Please note: this information was current as of September 2005 but is still a useful guide today.
Try before you buy
If you’re not sure which — if any — home exercise equipment is right for you, you could try hiring first. In fact you might prefer not to buy at all — you could simply hire a series of different types of machine over time so you don’t get bored. There are plenty of hire companies out there.
Prices range from around $100 to $200 per month for a treadmill, depending on the features and maximum speed.
Bikes and elliptical trainers are more like $80–$120, with prices as low as $50 for basic bikes.
If there’s only one of you using it, that may be more expensive than the average gym membership, but you’ll get a much better idea of what it’s like exercising in your own home (the good and the bad). It gets cheaper if you hire for a longer term, and many companies will let you deduct some or all of the rental money you’ve paid if you decide to buy the machine.
Why buy fitness equipment?
Many readers in our survey pointed out you can exercise free — cycling, walking, swimming — and saw little point in buying exercise equipment. Or you could go to a gym where there’s more variety and better equipment, as well as company.
But this doesn’t suit everyone, and people gave us many good reasons for using home exercise equipment:
- Parents with small children could do it at home when the kids were in bed.
- Difficulty of fitting in a visit to the gym (or no gym nearby)
- Being able to exercise in private
- Living in a neighbourhood where it’s unsafe to go out to exercise after dark, or with no proper footpaths.
- The convenience of getting straight out of bed, onto the treadmill and into the shower before breakfast.
- Combining exercise with watching TV or reading time
- Being able to exercise any time in any weather
The main complaints or reasons for giving up using exercise equipment were:
- Loss of motivation
- Not being able to watch TV as planned, because the machine was too noisy
- Taking up too much space
- Niggling faults with the machine, or breakdowns
- Some were disappointed that home machines weren’t as good as those you find at the gym.
In our survey, people who’d bought exercise equipment in the previous 12 months were typically using it three to four times a week. However, usage tended to drop off over the years, and by five years about half of our respondents who’d bought treadmills and three-quarters who’d bought exercise bikes were no longer using them.
Most people were satisfied with the machines they’d bought, especially those who’d bought treadmills (87% were satisfied, compared with 77% of people with exercise bikes or elliptical trainers). Not surprisingly, the more satisfied people were, the more likely they were to still be regularly using the machine.