Want to exercise at home? Buy a treadmill

Q. I would like to purchase a piece of cardiovascular equipment for my basement so that I can begin exercising at home. I've found that during the winter months, I'm not willing to exercise outside. What piece of equipment do you think is best?

A. The only piece of cardiovascular equipment that promises plenty of variety for all fitness levels is a treadmill. Over the years, my clients who have purchased bikes, elliptical machines or stair steppers end up wishing they had purchased a treadmill instead.

A treadmill provides the options of walking, running or climbing and can accommodate beginners as well as elite athletes. You just can't find a more versatile piece of equipment.

If you have not been exercising consistently, I would suggest you choose a less expensive model for your first treadmill purchase. Though I am in favor of high-quality treadmills, I like to be sure my clients are going to use it first before they drop big money.

If you can get four or five years out of a $500 to $800 treadmill, it's worth it. Then when you're ready to replace it, you know that you're going to use it and you know what you're looking for.

For example, some people like the bells and whistles on a treadmill -- heart rate monitor, personal programming, incline/ decline options and so forth. But others find all they really want is for it to move.

Before you purchase

Here are a few things to keep in mind when purchasing a treadmill:

Plan before you shop. Cost and space constraints should be a major consideration. Think about where you want to put it and how that space can accommodate the piece of equipment. For smaller areas, check into the treadmills that fold up.

Consider quality. Treadmills are available in a wide range of prices, so be sure and test the equipment to make sure your treadmill is sturdily constructed and can accommodate your size and fitness level.

Checking out Consumer Reports for quality ratings on name-brand products is always a good idea before you buy. Fitness equipment that has been lightly used may provide quality at a lower cost.

Be careful of extra features. A treadmill that provides you with a printout of your heart rate during your run may be appealing, but you may not actually use extra features and gadgets regularly. In many cases, extra features add up to extra cost, so be sure you're getting something you'll really use.

Trainer tip: Running on a treadmill still requires good footwear. Consider purchasing two pairs of shoes, one for the treadmill and one for outside. Make sure your footwear is appropriate for your foot shape, size and activity. Visit your local shoe store to make sure the shoe you're wearing is right for you in order to prevent injury.

Nicki Anderson is a certified personal trainer, author and owner of Reality Fitness in Naperville. Contact her at RealityFitness1@aol.com or see www.real-life-weight-loss.com.

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