Help me pick a piece of home exercise equipment under $250
December 10, 2010 5:31 PM   Subscribe

Looking to get an inexpensive (less than $250, ideally less than $200) piece of exercise equipment to use at home over the next several months of chemo.

I've become much less active while going through treatment, and (with my doctors' blessings) I'd like to reverse that trend. I do a little yoga at home and try to walk the dogs daily, but I know I need more exercise than that. I can't go to the gym on a regular basis, and between the shorter days and the particular geography of my neighborhood, taking longer walks isn't really practical. So I'd like to get something -- probably either a stationary bike or a manual treadmill -- to keep my body moving but won't break the bank, take up all the space in our not-very-large living room, or over-exhaust me.

I've looked at a few bikes and treadmills at Amazon that generally seem to fit my parameters (and seem to have generally good customer ratings), but I don't really know which brands are best, etc., so would appreciate any specific suggestions or feedback. Looking to keep it under $200, and definitely not more than $250.
posted by scody to Health & Fitness (31 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I can't recommned a specific piece of equipment but do check Craigslist, Ebay, etc. for second hand stuff. Here in the UK you can pick up barely used equipment for a fraction of the original price.
posted by ceri richard at 5:42 PM on December 10, 2010

I agree with ceri richard, I recently sold my barely used very nice treadmill for super cheap on craigslist.

As for equipment - have you considered talking with a personal trainer about things that you could do at home using what you already have (or by supplementing a little bit)? My brother is a personal trainer and he showed me all sorts of things to do with just a few pieces of equipment - like strength bands, a simple chair, jump rope.
posted by Sassyfras at 5:48 PM on December 10, 2010

have you considered talking with a personal trainer about things that you could do at home using what you already have (or by supplementing a little bit)?

Normally I might, but right now I need the no-brainer option (because I often feel pretty no-brainy these days!) -- I want to jump on a bike or a treadmill (or something like that) and kind of just go for awhile while listening to music or watching TV. I do have some hand weights and also do some yoga, though even that's been tricky to do since I threw my back out a few months ago and it's felt not-great ever since.

So under normal circumstances I'd perhaps be interested in coming up with a fitness routine, but right now I'm simply not motivated/energetic enough to do it. If there was a treadmill in front of me, though, I'd get on it.
posted by scody at 6:00 PM on December 10, 2010

I bought a recumbent bike this past June and love it. This is the model I bought--very easy to assemble, and it folds up when not in use to easily fit in a corner. It's also in your price range. After purchasing it I went from getting virtually no exercise to sticking to a very regular exercise routine. I also have some lower back pain issues, and found that the recumbent bike (rather than a regular bike) takes a lot of the pressure off my back (and knees) while exercising.
Good luck to you with whatever option you decide upon!
posted by bookmammal at 6:32 PM on December 10, 2010

It seems like you are pretty well set on either a treadmill or stationary bike, unfortunately I cannot help you with specifics for either. However, if you are still open to other options, what about a Wii? It takes up very little space, there are a variety of games to play both solo and with others, and you can often choose your own level of intensity for your workout.

Another idea: have you considered an elliptical trainer? I find it is much easier on my back than riding a stationary bike. Our (refurbished) elliptical has a larger footprint than a bike, but a smaller footprint than a treadmill.

Lastly, Costco isn't a bad place to find pretty good discounts on these kinds of things.
posted by tidecat at 6:48 PM on December 10, 2010

Sure, suggestions for other types of equipment that fit my general requirements are fine. Thanks!
posted by scody at 6:56 PM on December 10, 2010

My mother is going through chemo currently. She is an energetic woman who will think "let me make a pot of soup, talk on the phone, and bake eight dozen cookies for a convent (seriously). She will get into it and her energy will suddenly drop or she will get light headed.

For those reasons I would recommend an exercise bike. It is a lot easer to go from 60-0 when you are sitting on a bike than when you are on treadmill.

You know what your energy levels are like though. Be well!
posted by munchingzombie at 7:06 PM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Any chance you live in a multifloor building? Climbing steps up and down makes for great exercise and the price is right.
posted by JohnE at 7:19 PM on December 10, 2010

Nope, live in a house with one porch step.
posted by scody at 7:22 PM on December 10, 2010

If you have Netflix you can stream workout videos. I was not a huge fan of workout videos at all but I like being able to switch it up and some of them are fairly good.
posted by fshgrl at 9:01 PM on December 10, 2010

As fshgrl hints, being able to change things up will help you. My concern with things like stationary bikes and treadmills is that they are boring, and only slightly less so if you have something to do while on them.

Honestly? Go with tidecat's Wii suggestion. I'd be willing to bet that, with a bit of bargain hunting, you could find a Wii and a Wii Fit Plus well under your cap. And that does all kinds of things -- balance, strength training, and cardio, plus you can play games on it and watch Netflix.

It's a pretty good workout (seriously, some of the strengthening and cardio exercises will kick your ass if you're not in good shape), and it's fun, plus you can set up different routines to give yourself variations day-to-day. And guess what? There are yoga exercises too.

If you're wanting good cardio and want to build up to running, I can't recommend Couch to 5k highly enough. I'd take it slowly and repeat weeks for a while, since you're so weak right now, but it is full of awesome sauce.

Feel better, scody. Loves from your Arkansas fanclub.
posted by middleclasstool at 9:38 PM on December 10, 2010

fshgirl, I appreciate your intention. But I ask everyone to please understand: I truly am looking only for recommendations/suggestions for a piece of exercise equipment that will allow me to engage in low-impact activity for the next 5 months while I go through chemotherapy. Pros and cons of one type of machine over the other are great. Recommendations of specific brands or models are welcome. Thoughts about ways to find bargains are terrific. Thanks to the people who have answered in that vein so far.

I sincerely do not have the stamina, strength, or interest in any other methods of working out at this time. Thanks for understanding.
posted by scody at 9:39 PM on December 10, 2010

(And I apologize for sounding cranky or for moderating my thread. I appreciate the input and the good wishes. Normally I'd be happy to entertain a wider array of options or suggestions; I'm just looking for something very specific right now. Thanks again, and my apologies for being a cranky-head.)
posted by scody at 9:43 PM on December 10, 2010

With the caveat that I haven't yet tried this equipment, but I've been researching it for a family member who is in a long recovery from a serious injury - pedal exercisers (if you search this term at Amazon for example you will get plenty of results). They are like an exercise bike but just the pedals. There is a big range of prices with these based on how complex and adjustable they are. The benefits over an exercise bike is they take up less space, you do not have to perch on a bike saddle (they are meant to be used while sitting in a chair), and they can be set on a table or counter to work the arms. I'm leaning towards the more expensive end of the spectrum, there are some by Magnetrainer that have generally good reviews in the $130-150 range. (I just noticed bookmammal's link to a recumbent stat. bike which is a pretty similar concept).

We have a treadmill and a nice treadmill is a great piece of equipment but I'd be cautious of what you'd get for $250 (ours was somewhat above the $1000 range). Still, it is the kind of thing people, if they're not using it, would almost pay to be rid of, if you can assemble the truck and the crew to collect it, so I'd agree with the Craigslist concept. Takes up a LOT of space though, and again I'd be a little leery about the sturdiness/stability of a really compact treadmill.
posted by nanojath at 9:55 PM on December 10, 2010

A few years back I got a Schwinn recumbent bike off Craigslist for ~120.00 - it was an amazingly sturdy piece of equipment and very comfortable to use. I ended up selling it when I moved cross-country but I would buy one again in a heartbeat.

I don't remember the specific model but the Schwinn home equipment generally has great reviews across the board.
posted by a22lamia at 10:22 PM on December 10, 2010

Do you have a bike? If so, you could get a trainer for it, rather than a whole stationary unit. The magnetic based ones are much quieter than the air resitance units.
posted by eriko at 10:30 PM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Give shovelglove a try. All you need is a $30 sledgehammer. I do it every weekday morning. You will be surprised at how much of a workout you can get swinging an 8-pound sledgehammer around [don't need much space, either.]
posted by chazlarson at 10:44 PM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I was going to suggest light dumbbells for weight resistance. Depending on your health and muscle tone, even the light 2-3 lbs ones up to the 10 lbs can be good for helping you keep muscle tone and bone density. You can get a pair for probably under $20.
posted by yeloson at 10:53 PM on December 10, 2010

1) Dumbbells are nice, but if you are prone to fatigue and spells of weakness, try exercise bands. They are a lot less hazardous and provide a decent workout - I've used them with people who were in very poor shape and seniors.
2) I don't know how low-impact your requirements are, but you could time travel back to 2003 and get a step for step aerobics. The advantage of these is that they are cheap, light and easy to throw under a couch with limited space.
3) You could also try a Yoga ball for ~ $20. The video workouts included can actually work up a sweat and are fairly safe. My wife did these when her back was injured and actually toned her muscles quite a bit.

Best wishes.
posted by benzenedream at 11:31 PM on December 10, 2010

Network! Ask all of your friends to ask their friends if they have an unused exerciser that they'd like to get rid of. Many, many people have exercise equipment that they never use anymore cluttering up their homes and would be relieved to give it a new home.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 12:02 AM on December 11, 2010

Home exercise equipment is dicey. You can't always adjust it properly, parts break, they are expensive. It is tough.

I recommend simplicity. A spinning bike is highly adjustable, not terrible expensive, and does not have a lot of parts that can go flying off. This one is inexpensive but not junky. If you already have an outdoor bike and are looking to spend a little less, this will allow you to use your bike indoors without leaving tire prints on the rug. If you are looking for a more traditional upright exercise bike, Vision Fitness makes a great product at a good price.

Hope that was more on topic and useful.
posted by munchingzombie at 12:56 AM on December 11, 2010

I came in to second eriko's suggestion of a bike trainer. Obviously, you would need to have your own bike already, but this is a great option if you do. Fluid trainers, in my experience, are more realistic feeling and a little easier. You can probably find them fairly cheap on Craigslist.
posted by smalls at 5:14 AM on December 11, 2010

I bought this bike a few months ago for $139.99 and free shipping with Amazon Prime. It is very small and very easy to put together, and I've had no problems with it. It's in my living room and I ride it while watching TV.
posted by amro at 5:55 AM on December 11, 2010

I bought a cheap ($150 new) upright stationary bike on Craigslist and would not recommend one. I'm blanking on the brand (I got rid of it a while ago), but I think my complaint is general to cheap stationary bikes--ow, my poor, sore butt! Maybe I could have replaced the seat (didn't look easy though) or found padding cycling shorts that ameliorated things, but my strategy of "just use it a lot and you'll get used to it" never worked. I'd recommend a recumbent stationary bike or used elliptical instead.
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:08 AM on December 11, 2010

Recumbent stationary bicycles are low-impact -- and the cheap ones actually take up very little space. We bought one at Walmart for $100 in 2008.

I find ours very comfortable to sit on - as a recumbent, you can lean back and relax if you need to. And I can go as fast or as slow as I need. It's not going to build up your muscles, but it will give you some good aerobic exercise.

Also, you can watch tv/play video games or read the web while exercising -- your head goes up and down less than with an upright cycle.
posted by jb at 8:54 AM on December 11, 2010

Sorry - my memory is off - looks like the bike we bought was $200.

But it has done 3 years of daily service. It's not fancy and the main stem has been bolstered by string (the screw to hold it was loose), but it chugs along and it's very comfortable. It won't do if you are very tall (6'), but does better than expensive models if you are short (5'3" and under) or have short legs.
posted by jb at 9:03 AM on December 11, 2010

Somebody was giving away a treadmill on East Bay Freecycle recently... Might start watching the Freecycle in your area.
posted by salvia at 10:05 AM on December 11, 2010

I learned of Shovelglove here on MetaFilter. And, like chazlarson above, I recommend it highly.
posted by partner at 10:37 AM on December 11, 2010

I scanned Craigslist for high-quality stationary bikes. When I saw ones that looked good, I copied down the model number and searched Amazon and Google for reviews. I remember most Schwinns getting high marks.

I ended up with a heavy-duty Schwinn from Craigslist for around $200. Not a lot of bells and whistles, but the thing is a rock, and it accommodates both short and tall exercisers.
posted by moira at 8:12 PM on December 11, 2010

I tried shovelglove with a very low weight and it made my back very sore. I saw a lot of reviews that said the same thing. Since your back is already iffy, don't even try it.

I'll also comment that if your goal for the equipment is just for a few months, it really doesn't matter if you get the best as long as it's good enough for now. Look through craigslist, freecycle, put up a wanted ad at your community center or church bulletin board.

If you find something, go try it out and if you can walk/ride on it pretty well, then just get it. Once you are done with chemo and you know you're going to want the equipment for the long haul, then do all the research and investment and get the best.
posted by CathyG at 11:08 AM on December 12, 2010

Thanks, everyone -- this has really helped me narrow down what I'm looking for!
posted by scody at 11:08 AM on December 13, 2010

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