i am fat and happy, and want to be less fat and more happy
October 13, 2009 2:58 PM   Subscribe

lazy slacker who dislikes people wants to start home fitness routine. the wii and some "move your butt" titles are less money than, say, a nordic track, but...

what's the best return on investment in in-home fitness equipment for the money?

i understand that motivation is the primary concern, and i think that not having to sweat in front of other people will resolve my lack of drive.

i'm not terribly overweight or terribly unfit, but i'm not exactly running marathons, either. i'm looking for an entry-level experience that will possibly inspire me to want to pursue further avenues.

a wii + some fitness titles w/ a balance board will run somewhere around the $350 range. the excercise equipment i've been looking at online (treadmills, recumbent bikes, the aforementioned nordic track) seems to start around $700 and go up rapidly from there. i also know that a step, some freeweights, and one of those giant ab balls would give me all the workout i need, too, if i knew how to properly use them all, but i'm also not sure rolling around with a giant ball is quite where i'm at yet (though i admit it looks intriguing).

what do you have in your house? how happy with the results have you been? how much did it cost? how long have you been using it?

i'm also interested in people who have integrated the wii into their fitness routines, and what impact they think it's had on their overall fitness. i've googled quite a bit and seen some of the opinions out there, but i'm always interested in what the hivemind thinks.

i see an awful lot of friends with expensive equipment that they use as a coat rack or "place to stack things". i'd like to avoid that, so i suppose a followup question would be what equipment would you NOT recommend? what failed you, let you down, didn't work as advertised?
posted by radiosilents to Health & Fitness (32 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
I have a number of friends with treadmill coatracks. I'm not big into home fitness; I ride my bike most places, and get the rest of my exercise out of other outdoor sports. That said, the only routine I had any success with at all uses only body weight: the 5BX Plan. I think I learned about it somewhere around here, actually.
posted by craven_morhead at 3:07 PM on October 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Resistance bands.
posted by fire&wings at 3:08 PM on October 13, 2009

Rowing machine. Works everything. I have a Waterrower but you can find a zillion cheaper options.
posted by bink at 3:10 PM on October 13, 2009

We have a proform treadmill that we "use." We've had it for about 2 years. I go in cycles as to whether I want to bother with exercising, so it's nice to have for the times I decide I want to be healthier. It wasn't terribly expensive - I think I got it for less than $350.00 on sale. If I were to do it again, though, I'd visit craigslist cuz dang there are always barely used treadmills for sale on there. I like having a treadmill that has an incline, time function, and distance function. It's "fun" to see how I can outdo myself from day to day - do just a little better in distance, speed, time or incline (or all of those!). Even if it's one second more . . . it's one second more than yesterday!

However, I seriously hate running on the treadmill unless I'm completely involved with a tv show or a movie while working out. But, running or walking outside - the time just flies for some reason! But the advantages of the treadmill makes it worth it to have (I don't need to get a walking/running partner, if the weather's bad, etc.).

Right now my treadmill is serving as a place to put the folded laundry (ok, and the not folded laundry). But like I said, it goes in cycles, pretty soon I'll be dusting it off and going all out on it. I don't know how to be consistent . . .

But I have noticed that I'm more motivated and consistent when I have mini goals . . . not just long term goals like losing 20 pounds or working up to run one mile . . . but little goals within the work out. When I was running and walking outside, I'd say "I'm going to run to the next tree and then I can walk." I'd make it to the next tree and decide, "I can make it to the next tree," and so on until I'd run a lot further than I ever thought possible.

You can apply the same thing to the treadmill . . . just 2 more seconds . . . I can do 1 more second . . .

So, that's my experience with a treadmill. That's all we have.
posted by Sassyfras at 3:11 PM on October 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Body weight exercises are king, and they're completely free. The single greatest bang for your buck is going to be an over-the-door pullup bar. They are fairly cheap ($20-100) and easy to setup. Pullups and chinups are one of the best exercises for you.

Here's what you do: put the bar over a commonly used doorway. I have mine over my bathroom door (I live alone, so keeping the bathroom door open isn't a problem). When I go in there to shower, use the bathroom, brush my teeth, look in the mirror, etc, I do one pullup. That's it, just one. Resolve to do the same. You don't need a workout plan or anything just yet. Maybe do a few if you're feeling frisky, but REQUIRE yourself to do at least one every time your cross that door.

If you CANNOT do a pullup, then this gets harder. You need to get a chair, stand on it in a position like you just completed a pullup, and slowly descend. Do it is slow as you can, and if you can hold yourself there for a second or so, do that. Eventually, when you can do one pullup, stop with the chair.

Pullups work lots of muscles. To add more to the mix, try to raise your knees up so that your thighs parallel the ground. This will give you some upper abs work at the same time.

Once you're comfortable with doing a few pullups at a time (maybe 3-4) then you can start a body weight workout plan. I'd suggest simplefit solely because it's painfully simplistic.

The single best thing you can do is keep this easy and accessible. You don't need equipment, you don't need DVDs, you don't need crazy complex movements. Keep it simple
posted by phrakture at 3:17 PM on October 13, 2009 [5 favorites]

I have a somewhat lower budget than you, so haven't explored such expensive toys.

My home fitness equipment consists of a pair of running shoes and the couch to 5k programme for cardio, and a chinning bar with the simplefit bodyweight training programme for strength. Both of these that start off at "total beginner" level and slowly ramp up the intensity as you progress. Shoes + bar came to about £100, and I'm making promising progress so far.

With that said, a friend of mine has a wii fit. She uses it pretty regularly, and says she finds it a good motivator and a handy way to track her progress. Apparently one or two of the games are fun too, which is a bonus.
posted by metaBugs at 3:18 PM on October 13, 2009

Best return? Hindu pushups and burpees.

Next up: resistance bands and that thing where you cover a sledgehammer with a towel.
posted by rhizome at 3:18 PM on October 13, 2009

You can get a set of barbells off caraigslist for $25 or so. That plus some jogging can get you pretty fit. That said, I've hurt myself through using bad form before, so they aren't without some drawbacks.
posted by lekvar at 3:19 PM on October 13, 2009

Best answer: My mom and I have both gotten the Wii Fit, with pretty different results. She used it faithfully, and tracked her results. I think she really hated seeing her weight tick up, which helped push her towards eating healthier. As she got more exercise and lost weight, she didn't feel as awkward about going to the gym. So now she has a gym membership, and doesn't use her Wii Fit, except to track her weight. (Which, just so you know, isn't particularly accurate. It's fantastic at measuring your balance, but if you move the board your weight will change. So it's smart to have a real scale) She's lost 75 pounds in the last 8 months.

I enjoy playing the Fit, and the new Fit Plus games. I think they're a lot of fun, and I can get a pretty decent workout out of it. The new Fit Plus irons out a lot, though not all, of the kinks in the old Wii Fit, which I think make it easier for actually using it. However I don't use it regularly like she did, and haven't become as fanatical about what I eat. (I'm sorry, I love ice cream too much) So I haven't had the same kind of success she has. But I can tell you I have a LOT of fun with it. The two games you'd want to look at would either be the Wii Fit Plus, (which should come with the board) and the EA Sports Active game. The other's haven't gotten nearly the good reviews as those two.

But you know, even if you fall off the wagon and give up...you still have a gaming system, not a coat rack.
posted by Caravantea at 3:21 PM on October 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:22 PM on October 13, 2009

You really don't need any equipment to get started. Building up to a 10-9-8... burpee pyramid will get you fit. This body weight workout [warning: really horrible sound] should be fun, although I haven't had a chance to try it yet. A fast jump rope and a $10 ab wheel, when used, are most cost effective. You can add a couple of kettle bells, and run/sprint/jog outside. No need to drop hundreds of dollars on equipment. You can also find a bunch of free 4 months Turbulence Training body weight workout manuals around the net, or dig into their site. Message me if you're interested but can't a find a copy.
posted by ye#ara at 3:24 PM on October 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

@rhizome: I agree 100% with the burpees. Great cardio work for small space, in addition to body weight exercises. Hindu pushups, however, can be bad for your back if you do them wrong, so be careful.

And the sledgehammer thing is called shovelglove
posted by phrakture at 3:26 PM on October 13, 2009

...that thing where you cover a sledgehammer with a towel.

Yes, the Shovelglove.
posted by torquemaniac at 3:27 PM on October 13, 2009

Investments are tricky: do you think you'll work out more because you've spent money on an item, or because you feel it's designed for fitness? I have a Wii and Wii Fit, but the balance board is under a stack of games currently. I love the Wii, but the Wii Fit has the same hurdle that any other exercise item has: you have to start using it.

Personally, I make up silly excuses and don't stick to my goals. I keep thinking "I'll use the Wii Fit 3 times a week," or "I'll go for a jog every day," but my enthusiasm wanes when I get home, or after I eat dinner. There's always tomorrow, right?

Figure out why you haven't started working out already, and find something you like. Do you have a nice neighborhood? Go for a walk or a bike ride. Maybe see how far you can get in a certain amount of time, and push yourself farther each time.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:28 PM on October 13, 2009

I'll second the Wii Fit. I have it and love it - even if all I'm doing is walking/stepping in place while watching a movie/tv show. It can be a little corny, but sometimes I get into the spirit that the little avatar shows (fist in the air with a "aye me!" emphasis!).

My mom has it, too, and she's lost 10 pounds in 80 days.
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 3:30 PM on October 13, 2009

This is probably not what you want to hear, but equipment does not really matter as much as motivation, and equipment is probably not going to motivate you to exercise. You might want to spend the money on a personal trainer or on the underlying problem that you're expressing ("I don't have motivation to exercise") rather than a tool that you hope will make the task more palatable.

There was a study done in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine about a year ago that dealt with this very topic; it was covered in the New York Times on the Well Blog in January of 2009. This article might be helpful to you. Basically, the study boils down to:
Buying an exercise machine does seem to influence whether people start working out. But some research suggests that the same people are less likely to stick with exercise over time than people who don’t own home equipment. People with a home exercise machine were 73 percent more likely to start exercising. But by the end of the year, they were also 12 percent more likely to have quit than people in the study who did not have home equipment. This doesn’t mean a home exercise machine leads to less exercise. It just means that having home equipment is not the most important factor. (Parker-Pope, T. 2009, January 5. "With the Right Motivation, That Home Gym Makes Sense." The New York Times, Well Blog.
posted by k8lin at 3:33 PM on October 13, 2009

Balance board, jump rope, and roman chair, plus a few pilates videos.
posted by headnsouth at 3:40 PM on October 13, 2009

Start doing a few push ups and assisted chin ups every other day. Do sets of 12-10-8 and gradually build up. Don't make it so difficult that you give up. Long term consistency will get you farther than big, short term heroic efforts. Don't add dozens of different exercises that will make the workout unmanageably long and boring and easy to put off.
posted by bonobothegreat at 3:43 PM on October 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

As an aside, diet is going to be a bigger gain here, so fix how you're eating while you're at it. Everyone knows how to eat healthy. It's not hard. Eat more fruits and veggies, eat some with every meal; skip the sugary stuff; etc. Again, don't make a huge giant plan to start with. Make small changes slowly. Make it easy for you.
posted by phrakture at 4:19 PM on October 13, 2009

I guess I'm different than you, because I need people around to give me motivation. I do my best when I take classes that I have to pay for, because I don't want to waste my money. By the time I drag myself there, you usually have an instructor whose job is to push you. However, I take spinning, which can be really hard for those who are just starting an exercise program. It was the only class I really saw at my gym where there were a good number of men though.
posted by greatalleycat at 4:58 PM on October 13, 2009

Since the biggest factor is motivation, the key is to find an exercise that you enjoy. Then it becomes less exercise and more what you do for fun. Indoor climbing was something I enjoyed from the very first time trying. I never would have imagined I would enjoy it as much as I did. As for doing a program like Stronglifts 5x5, I don't see it as a chore since the lifts are challenging, the time invested is fairly short, and I like watching my numbers go up. Mountain biking and road biking are also enjoyable, and I found that out riding a borrowed bike to class or the grocery store.

So I hope you don't just limit your search to just indoor activities at home. Although I'm fairly active, I absolutely dislike even doing push-ups at home. Something about the living room or my bedroom feeling like places of rest makes it difficult to motivate myself. Not to mention that it can be uncomfortably warm inside (I prefer it to be cool when exercising). It's easier for me to jog or bike to the nearest park and do my exercises there.

As for treadmills, my parents bought one and used it for maybe 2 months. They also purchased a total gym and that was rarely used. For the wii fit, do you have any friends that you can borrow it off of for a week or two? When you say your friends have expensive equipment, can you borrow it to see if you like it?
posted by just.good.enough at 5:06 PM on October 13, 2009

Also, diet goes an incredibly long way. Small changes are key, like phrakture said. For instance, cut back to one soda day to one soda every couple days, to no sodas at all.
posted by just.good.enough at 5:11 PM on October 13, 2009

Like treadmills, Nordictrack machines are readily found on Craigslist for cheap, and I have read that it's better to get one this way because you can get an older one that was made with better materials than are currently used. I think mine cost me $100. The carrot of being able to watch a movie while doing it was key for me at first. Also, having the thing there in the house takes away the excuse of it being wet or dark outside.
posted by lakeroon at 5:13 PM on October 13, 2009

I rented a treadmill and took up couch to 5k. Based on my history of buying things that I stop using, this was sensible, and I shopped around for a big, wide, solid treadmill.

I used it long enough to decide that it was something I was sticking with, and the company deducted a good deal of the rental costs from the final purchase price.
posted by tomble at 5:33 PM on October 13, 2009

I never use my ab roller like device.

I use my chin up bar a couple of times a week. Mine (a P90x-like bar) can also be used for push ups (if you get sore wrists).

Motivation is key. I go to a gym just because I won't do the exercise, otherwise. It's bad enough that I tend to drive to the gym, and then run outside at the gym - as opposed to at home.

Since you say the one thing you want to change is being less fat - the key to that starts in the kitchen. Use Fitday.com or or something similar (Lifehacker just had a best-of on this, so check with them) to track what you eat. "Lose It!" for the iphone works well too.

Exercise is definitely important, but you'll achieve quicker results by altering your diet as well.

Good luck.
posted by backwards guitar at 6:14 PM on October 13, 2009

It depends on what you want to do. If you want to improve your endurance/conditioning, you can do that entirely with bodyweight exercises like burpees, or jumping rope, or just running intervals.

If you also want to get strong, and I think you should, you'll need an olympic barbell, plates to put on that barbell, a flat bench, and a power rack or squat stand. You can find these things used on Craigslist for pretty cheap. Then read the aforementioned Stronglifts, or better yet, Starting Strength to learn what to do with those weights. I went from a clueless couch potato to a pretty strong dude in a year with this method, although I lift at a gym. A pullup bar is great -- I have one in my bedroom doorway and use it all the time. But long-term you want to have a complete program, and just doing e.g. pullups and pushups isn't going to cut it. Good luck.
posted by ludwig_van at 6:35 PM on October 13, 2009

Dance Dance Revolution. Don't laugh. I get bored doing regular types of exercise, and the game aspect of it keeps me engaged enough that I can play for more than an hour without really noticing. By comparison, an hour on the treadmill or the stationary bike feels like an eternity.
posted by emeiji at 11:10 PM on October 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Inspired by this comment, I decided to switch from playing Counter-Strike to exergaming--there's a number of computer programs that let you exercise along with a virtual personal trainer, which is a lot more convenient than going to an exercise class, and less repetitive than an exercise video. I ended up buying a copy of Yourself Fitness, which had good reviews. I thought this review was particularly amusing: Today, God help me, I bought an exercise step.

In terms of motivation, it seems to have worked pretty well--I've been working out for 15 minutes every weekday morning since I bought the program a couple months ago (and I'm not someone who really enjoys exercising). As you can imagine, it's highly customizable: you can decide how long you want to work out, how many times a week, what your goals are, etc. I assume it's making the exercises gradually more difficult. For more variety, it provides up to five background settings, gradually unlocking them if you follow your workout schedule.

It's not very expensive: I paid $35 for the PC version. There's versions for the Xbox and the Wii as well, but if you already have a PC that meets the system requirements (not particularly demanding, as it came out 5 years ago), you can just run it there.
posted by russilwvong at 11:16 PM on October 13, 2009

Best answer: what do you have in your house? how happy with the results have you been? how much did it cost? how long have you been using it?

I have an I-bike. It cost £169. It's not terribly fancy but you can change the resistance around and keep track of how long you've been on the bike and how many miles you've "biked". I've been using the bike for a couple of months, though I bought it ages ago - previously it was a coat-rack.

I don't weigh or measure myself, probably a bad thing, nor have I changed my diet, but I'm fitting into old clothes that used to be too tight, so that's something. My thigh muscles seem a lot stronger, and I feel great generally. I do it for 20 mins in the morning and 20 mins in the evening. Historically speaking I've never been particularly motivated to exercise, but I like the bit of "me-time" I get in the mornings and evenings pedalling away and listening to the radio.
posted by Ziggy500 at 2:46 AM on October 14, 2009

The only types of exercise I've stuck with for longer than two weeks have been Couch to 5K, and the Wii Fit. Similar to you, I don't want crowds or even company when I'm exercising, plus I don't want to have to travel somewhere before I can start.

The running was soothing and meditative, even on days I was struggling a bit, and required very little effort to get started each day: put running shoes on, grab iPod, walk out the door. I'd like to get back into it when the weather is nicer.

The Wii Fit is more fun, doesn't require any special clothing, and I don't even have to go anywhere to do it. I like the variety of exercises, and when I get tired of those I'll probably trade in the disc and upgrade to the Fit Plus or Jillian Michael's thing or whatever else is the new hotness. You do have to make sure you do more than just the Yoga and Balance Games if you want to lose weight, though.

If you've got money to spend, but not *too* much money, have you considered buying a secondhand Wii Fit set, or borrowing one from a friend to see if you like it before you commit? There's plenty of people using them, but there's also plenty who bought it and now let it gather dust.
posted by harriet vane at 6:01 AM on October 14, 2009

Hacker's Diet - the workouts start stupid easy, and by the time they get more challenging you are hooked. The online tool makes tracking everything easy too.
posted by o0dano0o at 12:21 PM on October 14, 2009

Nthing kettle bells (short of body weight exercises -- reverse pushups using your bathtub as a platform are great for your triceps!).

But one 25 lb. kettle bell can be used in a wide variety of ways, and there is a kettle bell 'game' for the xbox 360 (and likely the wii).
posted by kaseijin at 7:08 AM on October 15, 2009

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