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Finding the Right Fit

November 09, 1998|CONNIE KOENENN

A buyer's guide to aerobic and cardiovascular exercise equipment:

Treadmills

Assessment: Offer a natural exercise and almost infinite capacity to adjust the level of exertion.

Buying tips: Test the treadmill at different speeds; listen to the motor for signs of laboring; be aware the belt motion should remain smooth. Most are motorized, although they come in manual models. The number of users and their weights should be considered here. At the very least you want the console to tell you your speed, distance and time expended.

Price: From $400 for manual models to $3,000-plus for motorized models.

Stationary Bikes

Assessment: Offer a familiar motion and relatively inexpensive price. You can read or watch TV while exercising.

Buying Tips: Test the seat and overall pedal action, looking for noise or vibrations. The knee should be slightly bent when the pedal is farthest from your body.

Price: From $200 to $1,500.

Stair-Climbing Machines

Assessment: Excellent for low-impact calorie burning, although may be too strenuous for beginners. You can read or watch TV while working out.

Buying Tips: Steps should stay parallel to the floor at all times. The step platforms should be large enough so you can avoid slipping and give your feet a good grip. Consider the stability of the machine and how easy it would be to move around your house. Look for electronic features such as calories burned, distance traveled and a timer.

Price: Hydraulic or manual steppers: $200 to $1,200; motorized, or electric, $1,500 and up.

Cross-Country Ski Machines

Assessment: Excellent aerobic conditioners and calorie burners, but some find them awkward to use.

Buying Tips: May be dependent action (one leg striding forward pushes the opposite ski back) or independent. Machines should have grips or poles for upper-body exercise.

Price: From $200 to $2,000.

Rowing Machines

Assessment: A near-full-body workout and relatively inexpensive. An unfamiliar motion for most people that requires considerable exertion. May be inappropriate for people with problem knees or backs.

Buying Tips: If space is a problem, look for a style that folds up for storage.

Price: From $200 to $800.

Elliptical Cross-Trainers

Assessment: Offer a versatile, no-impact aerobic workout, with foot plates that allow your feet to rise and fall in an oval motion.

Buying tips: Machines vary widely in motion and shape of the ellipses.

Price: Usually $500 to $1,000, but some models fetch as much as $4,500.

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More buying tips are available in the Fitness Products Council's guide, "How to Buy Exercise Equipment for the Home." The free booklet may be ordered from the council at 200 Castlewood Drive, North Palm Beach, FL 33408; or by e-mail at jhsgma@aol.com.

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