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What should you look for in an exerciser?

What should you look for in an exerciser?

Going nowhere? On the contrary, simulatingsports normally enjoyed in the great outdoors, the folks in our pictures are actually on the road to better muscle tone, endurance, and aerobic fitness.

The convenience of an aerobic workout athome is fueling consumer interest in stationary bikes, treadmills, rowing machines, and cross-country ski exercisers. As sales climb, manufacturers continually introduce "new improved versions'-- aiming to capture a share of the growing market. This adds up to a bewildering array to choose from. Many differences are cosmetic, some are gimmicky, and prices vary widely; you don't always get more when you pay more.

Monitoring your progress will help youkeep interested in using your choice of machine. But if you want an exerciser with digital gauges and an adding machine --like computer print-out of such things as pulse rate and calories burned, be prepared to pay top prices.

Here are tips from health and fitness professionalson how to shop for these pieces of equipment. "Never buy before you try,' counsels one gym director. Give models under consideration a thorough test in an unpressured situation--such as a fitness center. Marke sure you are comfortable on the seat of a rower or bicycle for at least 20 minutes.

Cross-country ski exerciser. This gives themost complete upper- and lower-body workout of any machine; used correctly, it places less strain on joints than other forms of aerobic exercise. However, mastering the technique requires real coordination. "For many, it's harder than the real thing,' one retailer cautions (this may account for the number of these exercisers that wind up on the garage sale market). Your feet move back and forth on either rolling slats or foot pads; your arms work either a pulley or a pair of pivoting poles. Pulley models approximate skiing more closely. Cost: $400 to $600.

What to look for. A hip rest will help youkeep your balance. Make sure the following adjust to your size and strength: height of the hip rest, tension on poles or pulley, height of poles or length of pulley cord. Make sure poles or cord allow your arms as full a range of forward-to-back motion as possible. Foot straps are not the plus they might seem; many people find them difficult to stay in.

Rowing machines. For total bodyconditioning, rowers are second only to cross-country exercisers in the completeness of a workout. Everyone--especially people with weak backs--must get instruction in correct technique to avoid risk of injury. Pictured above are the two main types: piston and flywheel; the latter is more like an on-the-water workout in a shell. Cost: $250 to $800.

What to look for. The lower a unit is to theground, the harder it is for a tall or heavy-set person to use it comfortably. A unit on a raised base is easier to get on and off-- important if a range of body types or fitness levels will be using it. A raised unit (like the lower one pictured above left) should have a base long and wide enough so you don't feel you're going to topple off. Shop for a heavy-duty steel frame, a pulley or pair of "oars' that moves smoothly through the full range of motion, a seat that slides friction-free on wheels or ball bearings, a "stop' at the back of the seat track, and an easily accessible resistance adjustment.

Treadmills. Motorized treadmills force youto maintain a pace, making them preferable to nonmotorized versions. An adjustable incline feature that raises the belt as much as 15 percent adds to the efficiency of a workout. Cost: $1,000 to $5,000.

What to look for. Front and side rails helpyou keep your balance; make sure side rails allow arm movement, especially if you'll be running on an incline. Avoid a front wall that your toe might strike. Speed and incline control should be easy to reach and to adjust while you are in motion (on some models, you stop, get off, manually adjust, get on, start up again). Speeds should range from 0 to at least 8 mph. Emergency on-off switch should be easy to reach. Professionals consider a speedometer--and an incline read-out if you have adjustable incline--essential; gauges for time, distance, pace, and so on are extras.

Stationary bikes. Long a favorite for homeuse, the bike was still the best-selling exerciser last year. Cost: $250 to $1,000.

What to look for. Usually the heavier themachine, the better the quality (avoid wobbly, noisy, hard-to-pedal models). Choose a bike with easy-to-reach resistance adjustment (a knob is easiest to use) and easy-to-read calibration. Seat height and angle must be adjustable in the stem, handlebar height in the neck. Make sure the resistance implement--such as the webbing around the flywheel--can be easily replaced. Buy a bike that has footstraps so you will use muscles as you pull up as well as push down on the pedal. As with treadmills, professionals say you need a speedometer and some monitor for resistance; other gauges are gravy.

Photo: Cross-countryski exerciser

Photo: Piston rower

Photo: Flywheel rower

Photo: Treadmill

Photo: Stationarybicycle
COPYRIGHT 1987 Sunset Publishing Corp.
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Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Sunset
Date:Feb 1, 1987
Words:848
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