Home Exercise Equipment
June 3, 2007 5:59 PM   Subscribe

Are home-grade exercise machines a waste of money?

I started working from home about a year ago. Since then, I've put on some weight from mostly being much more sedentary than I used to be, just from not going to/from the office any longer.

I have a gym membership, however, with long work hours, it is not convenient to go as much as I would like. I used to be a gym rat, going 5-7 times a week to do cardio at least, and weights often.

I have considered purchasing a home elliptical machine, to work out a few days a week, and then go to the gym 3 days a week. So esentially, the elliptical would get used 4-5x a week on average.

Question is, will a lower-grade "home" elliptical hold up, or would I be better off just forcing myself to make the time to get into the gym more often. Work keeps me going constantly, unfortunately it isn't more than being in front of a computer doing statistical analysis, creating reports... Excel is hardly a workout.
posted by benjh to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It's only a waste of money if you don't use it. However, you stated that you'll be using it 4-5 times a week, and that it will be a real convenience for you. Sounds like a good investment to me.
posted by amyms at 6:06 PM on June 3, 2007

I have a stair stepper machine that was probably pretty fantastic about 10 years ago that is now nearing "junky." However, using it 3-4 days/week for only 30 min/day keeps my legs pretty killer. :) In my experience the home grade machines aren't as cool, functional, or heavy (stable-feeling) as the gym machines, but you get out of them what you put into them. They just don't do your body any good when they're used as a clothes rack -- via people I know, *that* is their major downfall, not the quality of the machine.

(I bought it used for $50 after I started working at home and was having a hard time getting myself to the gym. The gym is easier to get to when you're already out driving somewhere, such as, home from work.)

A friend has a home elliptical machine that I used when I stayed at her house, and while not as stable feeling, yadda yadda, it made my legs feel great.

Unfortunately I don't have any specific recommendations for machines or even brands. My inclination is to not go for the bottom of the line models, of course. I'd go somewhere in the middle.
posted by iguanapolitico at 6:07 PM on June 3, 2007

It isn't exactly what you're asking, but I have found the iPod Mini and the Nike Plus kit to be really motivational. Those and an audible.com account have been enough to regularly get me out of bed for a morning run daily. And I'm lazy. Very very lazy.
posted by jiiota at 6:08 PM on June 3, 2007

I was reading that johnstonefitness website the other day and there was a rundown of what he had in his home gym and he had an elliptical that he got for $150 and he was saying just get an elliptical, it doesn't have to be pretty. So, maybe those ones are OK for home grade. I know home-grade isn't OK for everything. For example chin up bars and exercise balls have weight limits so if you are doing chins with a dip belt on a doorframe mounted chin up bar, maybe that is beyond what it is intended for. And bench presses with an exercise ball? Yeah, that thing could pop like a balloon. The way I do it is work out at the gym on equipment that I think I might want to buy until I really know exactly what I want and what I plan on wanting it for down the road and go from there.
posted by dino terror at 6:11 PM on June 3, 2007

iPod Mini = $200, Nike+ shoes = $100, Nike+iPod kit = $29, arm band = $29, audible.com account = $15/month. So the total is $360, and $15 per month for the audible account. Likely far less than any exercise equipment would cost.
posted by jiiota at 6:16 PM on June 3, 2007

iPod mini?

Most people don't use them, hence they are usually a waste of money. Get some free weights, some running shoes and and iPod and you are all set. If you use them, and keep using them, then you can consider getting more expensive stuff.
posted by caddis at 6:33 PM on June 3, 2007

I've always been in the best of shape when the workouts have been as convenient as possible.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:41 PM on June 3, 2007

Sorry, not the mini- the iPod Nano is what I meant. I always get them confused. You can't even buy the mini any more. I'm stupid.

The iPod Nano is meant for running- it has a flash drive (as opposed to the full ipod, which I think has a hard drive, which is bad for running). The Nano is also the only one that works with the Nike+ kit.

If you're not familiar with it, the Nike+ kit tracks your runs. It's pretty spiffy. It includes a pedometer, and when you finish running it automatically uploads your run data to the nike site.
posted by jiiota at 6:44 PM on June 3, 2007

Speaking from personal experience, yes. They are a waste of money. Number one worst value-for-dollar expenditure commonly made. It's amazing they continue to have a market. There is no product less likely to return value to it's misled owner.
posted by scheptech at 6:56 PM on June 3, 2007

you can always track your run for free using www.mapmyrun.com.
posted by ruwan at 7:00 PM on June 3, 2007

There are a few used sports equipment stores in my neighbourhood. I'd look for one of those and get something good quality with a little wear. My old gym was kind of ratty, but the machines were always in good working order. Most of the things I see aimed at the home are already pretty shitty in the store.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 7:01 PM on June 3, 2007

The reason I bring up all the ipod nonsense is that I also have a $1200 treadmill sitting unused in the garage. Speaking only for myself, I won't stick with something unless I enjoy it. In addition to running outside with the audible account, I have taken up a karate class and joined a rock climbing gym, both of which I have actually managed to keep up because they're fun. The treadmill is quite boring.

Actually, would you like to buy my treadmill? I'll sell it to you cheap.
posted by jiiota at 7:15 PM on June 3, 2007

Get yourself a stability ball and do 35 situps every time your computer shows an hourglass. If your computer is as crappy as mine your have rock-hard abs within a couple of months.
posted by any major dude at 7:20 PM on June 3, 2007

You can hire them. Rent one for a month or two. If you use it, buy one. If it mainly just sits there gathering dust, don't. :)
posted by -harlequin- at 7:28 PM on June 3, 2007

I had a Proform Rebel combo eliptical trainer/exercise bike and the year that I had it conveniently accessible in my basement and used it every weekday morning was the best shape I've been in. I'm a wuss about weather and I've never liked to run, so the "simple" suggestions that other people are making have never worked for me. But being able to roll out of bed, into sweats, and be on the machine in under 10 minutes with a book, music, or tv was the killer combo for me. So get something sturdy-ish, but not gym quality, and actually use it and you'll be in good shape

I think so many people put off exercising because of answers like the ones some people are giving in this thread that imply that there's a "right" type of exercise to do. i.e., "Don't do Foo! Bar is a much better way to get fit!" Whatever you actually enjoy enough to do on a regular basis is the "right" exercise, and that's going to be different for everyone.
posted by MsMolly at 8:04 PM on June 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

Definitely worth buying a machine if you're actually going to use it. Ellipticals and treadmills are notorious for breaking down, getting squeaky and wobbly. Consumer Reports just reviewed ellipticals a few months ago. I'll email it to you, as a site membership is required to access the ratings.
posted by HotPatatta at 8:08 PM on June 3, 2007

What MsMolly said.
posted by jiiota at 8:12 PM on June 3, 2007

We have a stationary bike. It's good, but it's not low-grade consumer. More like low-mid grade commercial.

People buy exercise equipment all the time, then don't use it. It ends up on, for example, ebay. That's where we got ours, very affordable. A bit of research into the matter should fix you up just fine.
posted by Goofyy at 5:19 AM on June 4, 2007

We have an elliptical (as well as a Smith machine, weight bench, and a bunch of free weights). They get used almost daily. What helps this is that we have a long family room and therefore can keep the machines are in a little cleared-out area behind the couch in line with the TV, so whoever's working out can throw on a movie or watch TV. If the machines were tucked away in the basement, I don't think they'd get used as often.

Our elliptical was in the sub-$1000 range, and while it does feel less substantial than the kind one usually finds at a gym, we still get good workouts on it. It is rather squeaky, though, and while it doesn't keep us from using it we do have to turn up the volume on the TV if we're watching while one of us is working out.

If you're the kind of person who will use an elliptical if you buy it and you have a good place to put it, I say go for it -- but research your choice first. Ours was kind of an impulse buy and while we've gotten our money's worth out of it, I've since seen other ellipticals in the same price range that don't squeak like ours does. Read consumer reviews (you can get a one-month membership to consumerreports.com for pretty cheap if you want to check out the review HotPattata mentioned), and try it out before you buy it. Also, craigslist and newspaper classifieds might be a good place to get a deal on one that is just collecting dust in someone's basement.

(And folks, I'm a runner too, but there is a whole host of legitimate reasons why the OP might not want to run: knee problems, no streets/parks nearby that are viable for running, unreliable weather, etc.)
posted by AV at 5:26 AM on June 4, 2007

I've had a concept II indoor rower for about 10 years. I used it a lot until I got a gym membership recently (I still use it occasionally. I've noticed that the gyms use the same (or older) unit. If you can set up your exercise equipment facing a TV you are more likely to use it. However, if you are like me the only way to lose weight is weightlifting. You might want to look at a bench and power blocks.
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:28 AM on June 4, 2007

You're talking about a piece of equipment you're going to use four or five times a week.

"Professional level" equipment is designed to be used nearly around the clock seven days a week by people of all shapes and sizes. You don't need a professional level piece of equipment because you're not going to put that much stress on it.

Buy a reasonably nice home machine with the features you want (a heart monitor is nice.)

Given that working from home I think its a great idea, go for it. And good luck!

[You should still get to the gym just for a change of pace (heh) every now and then and to make your membership worthwhile.]
posted by wfrgms at 6:35 AM on June 4, 2007

I got a Schwinn Exercise bike from the 70s for $25 bucks off craigslist and it's been awesome. The best things about it are that as with anything made by Schwinn in the 70s, it's built like a lovely steel tank, and it uses mostly traditional bike parts (for example, the tension on the wheel is supplied by what are essentially brake calipers) making it easy to repair should it ever break.
posted by drezdn at 7:49 AM on June 4, 2007

Please reread BrotherCaine's comment about the Concept II erg. If you're not totally bonded to the elliptical idea, and if you have the budget for it (about $500 used), these are the way to go.

Concept II rowing machines are home-compatible, but also used in gyms and boathouses as a, I'd dare to say, de facto standard. This is not the same as a rowing machine you'd buy at Sears: they take years of heavy use and abuse.

The workout is all over, you can customize to your needs, and the digital monitor keeps track of all kinds of neat data (meters rowed, time, Calories, power). Though the footprint is rather large when in use, the Concept II can be split into two parts and stood on end for storage. Very useful.

I had a model C, there are one or two newer models, but the improvements are mostly in the digital bits.
posted by whatzit at 8:01 AM on June 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

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