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If You See It Here, I've Used It Personally and I Recommend It*
* Except where noted below.
Must-Have Fitness Equipment for Your Home
With just a few carefully hand-picked items, it's possible to get in great shape and stay that way, in the comfort of your own home (or office, if you spend a lot of time there). Gyms are great, but whether you belong to one or not, having effective exercise options at home will always give you more choices, which means more consistency and better results.
There Are Two Items You MUST Get:
1. A Jumprope
Your Single Most Important Piece of Fitness Equipment
Travel, burning fat, building bone density, intense workout in literally just a minute or two per day! At only about $10, you just can't go wrong.
5' to 5' 5"
5' 6" to 6'
(Note: This links to the 8' model)
Instructions & Program for Exercising with Your Jumprope
2. BOSU Balance Trainer
After the jumprope, if you only get one other piece of exercise equipment, make it a BOSU.
BOSU has quickly become one of the most widely used pieces of exercise equipment in the world. Regardless of your age or fitness level (from total beginner to pro athlete), every home should have one of these. Famously great for core exercises and balance/coordination, but you can use the BOSU for exercising almost every part of your body. It takes up almost no room, is really fun to use, solidly built to last, and can be used in an astounding variety of ways (it comes with a DVD and exercise manual). I keep mine in my bedroom so I never have an excuse not to squeeze in a quick workout!
Other Highly Recommended Equipment
Gaiam Balance Ball Chair
Undo the Evils of Sedentary Desk Jobs
This may just save your body. The Gaiam Balance Ball Chair forces you to use your core muscles to maintain your balance while you're spending hours and hours at the desk working or surfing the 'net. I spend a lot of time at my desk, and it was starting to cause problems for my back, and prolonged sitting is terrible for your legs, blood vessals, spine, and general health. Not long ago, I had purchased a nice office chair, but could not shake the realization that I was doing harm to myself. So, based on reading tons of glowing customer reviews, I packed my fancy office chair away and replaced it with the Gaiam.
Wow, what a difference it has made. Every time I sit, I'm aware that my whole body is more involved and engaged with keeping me upright. It's not a workout, there's no noticeable "exercise" involved... it just somehow feels "right" in a way that's hard to explain. I'm always moving a little, almost like if you were grooving to music, and I feel much better as a result. Now, the best medicine here is simply to avoid sitting so long in the first place, but when I do sit, now I know it's not doing the same kind of damage to my body and I'm even getting in a sort of subliminal workout... you actually burn more calories sitting on a ball than in a regular chair, due to constant micro-adjustments your body makes to maintain balance.
All in all, it's a great health and lifestyle innovation. Some people take the idea even further, with standing desks (great for short tasks like paying bills or checking email) and even super-cool treadmill desks (below), although I haven't tried these. Not yet anyway!
Kettlebells, Dumbbells, or Both?
Dumbbells and kettlebells are great as home fitness equipment because they're inexpensive and take up almost no space. What's the difference between the two?
Dumbbells are great for working out almost any part of your upper body such as your biceps, triceps, pecs, and lats. But they generally don't do much for cardio or your legs or butt. Two dumbbels, combined with your jumprope, make a great little home gym that's so compact you could even take it with you on a roadtrip (or just the jumprope if traveling by plane).
I own a pair of 15 lb dumbbells, which I keep in my dressing area for easy access 2-3 times a week or whenever the urge hits... usually because a great song just came on!
Neoprene-coated dumbbells are nicest but most expensive. A little less nice and less expensive are vinyl-coated. The least expensive are just painted metal, which works just fine as far as your muscles are concerned.
Kettlebells, on the other hand, are experiencing a resurgence because people have figured out that their swinging motion allows for more full body and fat-burning cardio in addition to building upper body strength. Ideally you'd use both, but if you had to choose only one, kettlebells are looking pretty good.
The right size kettlebell for you will depend on your size, strength, and what exercises you plan to do. You want it to be heavy enough that you can feel the resistance but not so heavy that you can't control your motion. Here's a great video to help you decide what size. (1 kilogram = 2.2 pounds, so a common women's beginner weight is the 8 kgs or 15 lbs.).
Video: What Size Kettlebell Is Right for You?
Video: Beginner Kettlebell Exercises for Women
(I don't yet own a kettlebell, but I'm considering adding a 15-pounder to the mix for variety.)
Resistance Training Meets Ultimate Portability
Get a set of these, especially if you travel -- they're inexpensive, lightweight, take up almost no space in your suitcase, and provide an amazing variety of different exercises for every part of your body. Never again let travel be an excuse for interfering with your fitness.
Poor Man's Treadmill: The Rebounder!
Mini-trampolines... I just love these things!
See blog post: The Benefits of Rebounding/Trampolining
I've been bouncing up and down on my Rebounder for as long as I can remember. Whenever the urge hits, I turn up some tunes and go to town, burning calories with high intensity but low impact. Stores easily under the bed... but if you plan to use it daily, keep it in plain sight. Pro tip: Kids love it, too!
Note that I'm using the term "rebounder" generically here, as the actual branded Needak Rebounder® trampoline is a heart-stopping $300 dollars!@$%! I'm all for paying for quality (and true Rebounders are very durable), but for my get-in-shape money, I'd get the generic rebounder and splurge on a great high-powered blender. I haven't tried the specific trampoline manufacturer shown in the photo here, but with its great reviews and $48 price tag, it looks worthy of consideration if you want to save a lot of moola. If you don't like it, Amazon is great about returns.
High Quality Treadmill: Sole F80
The Ultimate in Convenient Indoor Calorie Burning!
If the poor man's teadmill is a rebounder, then the rich man's treadmill is, well... a treadmill! ($1,500)
That's not to scare you off from considering getting one; it's to underscore an important point: DO NOT BUY A CHEAP TREADMILL!
With treadmills, there's a spectrum from El-Cheapo, gear-grinding, ankle-snapping crap to Super Expensive Gold Plated Limousine-with-Disco-Ball varietes. You don't want either of these extremes. In fact, there's a sweet spot at the high end of the mid-range, in which you're getting superb quality, solid construction, smooth, quiet motion, and good features... but without all the bells and whistles or engineering required of "pro" models that see extremely heavy duty in gyms, where they get used all day long, 365 days per year. Even if you're the kind of person who likes to buy "the best," this is just silly overkill... buy two of these instead! LOL
Now, I'm blessed to live in Arizona, which has a gorgeous climate year round, including the summer because my husband and I take our walks/runs at night when it's hot during the day. Long story short: I don't own a treadmill or have need for one. That said, if I lived someplace cold or rainy, I'd get one without a moment's hesitation... as getting the body up and moving every day is just so important for long-term health. So for this recommendation, I enlisted the help of a trusted fellow fitness junkie, former personal trainer, and seriously the most picky/obsessive product researcher you'll ever meet. He recently moved from Arizona to Pennsylvania -- during winter! -- and did a ton of research before buying the SOL F-80, and he loves it! Here's what he had to say about it, and things to look for in general:
- There's a big jump in price for higher end units ($5-7K)
- Get a 3hp motor
- Make sure it's standard length and wide enough for stability
- Quiet track
- It should feel more comfortable than running on the street
- It should incline at least 12 degrees and still feel stable
- Should have a shelf and speakers for reading, MP3, iPod, etc.
- Make sure it has a cup holder
- It should fold up and have wheels for easy moving
- Sol has lifetime warranty on frame/rollers, 5 years on belts
- Free shipping with Amazon Prime! And NO sales tax!
Treadmill Desk... Pretty Neat, Huh?
(Treadmill not included)
Okay, when I first started hearing about these, I immediately thought, "Wow, how cool!" And then reality set in and I controlled my urge to impulsively buy this... I mean, how practical is it? Look at how much room it takes up! But then, I started thinking long-term and I've come full circle... I think this is actually very practical... especially if you consider the long-term effects of our sedentary lifestyle. I mean, think about it... it is absolutely absurd that we have difficulty finding time to walk a couple miles a day! It's what our bodies were designed to do! We were not designed to be sitting for hours and hours, and sitting a lot every day has recently been indicated as one of the worst things you can do for your life expectancy — and according to the study, this is true even for people who excercise every day! I haven't gotten one of these (yet) as I'm currently not sitting much during the day, but I'm anxious to give it a try and I highly recommend you consider it if your workspace is large enough and if you spend hours at your desk or in front of the computer every day.
"Barefoot" Running Shoes... These Are Pure Awesomeness!
I prefer long walks to running, but in the last few years, these crazy-looking shoes with "fingers" have been life-changing for millions of runners. My husband bought a pair of Vibrams and now enjoys running for the first time in his life and he no longer experiences the aches and pains in his shins and joints that he used to. "Barefoot running" (as it's called, even when there's a still a minimal amount of sole, but no cushion) has caught on like wildfire among fitness enthusiasts because it forces the runner to use a toe-striking stride (instead of striking with the heel), which is how the human body evolved to run... on our toes. It basically allows the foot and lower leg to absorb shock like a spring, rather than jarring your heels and knees and ending up with chronic injuries.
It took a couple of weeks for my husband to toughen up his feet and really get used to the new stride, but now he says he'll never go back to regular running shoes. He even calls them "life changing." You can read more about barefoot running here.
Due to the massive popularity, beware of knockoffs and counterfeit Vibrams. But you'll get the real thing through these links to Amazon.
Instructions for Sizing Vibrams