How to Shop for Fitness Equipment this New Year

Finding the Right Fitness Equipment for the New Year

Like many Americans, I have a New Year’s Resolution that involves physical fitness.  After all, one of the best investments you can make is to invest in yourself. I want to make working out a part of my daily routine in 2011.  There is one problem with this request, however.  As a full-time writer, I don’t always have time to go to the gym.  The obvious solution would be to purchase a treadmill or eliptical machine to put in my home but I have no idea what to look for in terms of quality and price.

I know that buying a brand new machine can be considered an investment but I don’t want to get stuck with something I never use.  Craigslist ( is a great resource for finding secondhand fitness equipment but I’m not always sure that the items being sold online are as good as they sound.  To be absolutely honest, I am 100% clueless when it comes to these things and that is why I’m glad that websites like ( exist. You can examine various different machines, search by brand, and see what others have to say about your choices.

A valuable resource for novices like me, the website offers reviews on over 50 brands and 300 models of exercise machines.  Now, how’s that for efficient?  I don’t have to jump from page to page to find an honest opinion of the Yukon Inertia ES3.5.  I can see how it rates with customers by clicking on its link, reading about the advantages and disadvantages of owning this machine, and formulate an opinion as to whether or not I want to purchase it.  This gives me plenty of time to think about my purchase without being completely blindsided by a salesperson.

Here are some things I think are important when looking for a good piece of fitness equipment:

  • The item is good working order. Notice I didn’t say brand new.  Brand new stationary bikes and weight benches cost a lot.  Not every budget can handle big ticket items like a NordicTrack AudioStrider or a Body Flex Dual Body Trainer.  That is why it is important to test things out before committing to purchase them.  Plug in all power cords, make sure that the electronic reader doesn’t have a short in it, and that all pieces move smoothly and safely.  Also, make sure that the item hasn’t been recalled.  You can visit the US Consumer Product Safety Commission ( to see a list of Sports and Recreation Related Recalls.
  • It has a heart rate monitor. Inexperience can cause unneccessary stress to your body when working out.  A heart rate monitor lets you know if the setting that your using on a piece of fitness equipment is right for you and your physique.  It will indicate whether or not you’re getting the most benefit from the exercise that you are doing and give you a guide as to where your heart rate should be for your age group.
  • It is not noisy. I don’t like being distracted by loud noises when I work out.  I prefer a machine that uses magnetic fields because it is quieter than a mechanical system.  This allows me to focus on the task at hand without feeling like I have to listen to music.  It also allows me to work out in the early morning hours without disturbing other people’s rest.
  • It is easy to repair and service. After reading a review, it is easy to know whether a particular model or brand can be repaired effortlessly.  Replacement parts can cost as much as the equipment itself and are often hard to find.  Secondhand fitness equipment, especially older models, can be hard to service.  Brand new machines come with manufacturer’s warranties which protect the consumer from unexpected damage.

Purchasing the right type of fitness equipment can help a person realize their fitness goals.  Before I run out and buy a treadmill, I am going to do my homework and get the best buy for my money.  Not only will this help me make exercise a regular part of my daily routine, it will also ensure that I get the most bang out of my buck in 2011.

Author: Charissa

Charissa is into frugal living and saving money.


My experience is the exact opposite of Jeff's comment. I've used home nordic-tracks for the last 25 years (I'm on my third), added in a stationary bike then replaced the bike with a home stepper for cardio cross-training, and use moderate dumbbells 2-3 times a week.

I tried a gym membership but it was a hassle and ultimately a waste of my money.

At home I can set up a fan, watch inspirational videos, blare motivational music, even read the laptop while I'm doing the cardio.

I find a key motivator is keeping track of your sessions - time, peak and average heart rate, and some relative measure of workout (typically machine calories, not that it's accurate, but it keeps another way to keep track of your performance over time). My current exercise log is just a test file that goes back to 2002.

You just have to decide what works for you. I know people that swear by the gym.


Note: In my youth I was a professional personal trainer at a high end health club.

I don't think buying gym equipment for the home is a good idea. Sure there are some click and set dumbell sets that are a great value, but for the most part you can get what you need by going to one of the "cookie cutter" gyms such as 24 fitness. A 3 year membership runs you $200 from costco and you can be assured that their machines are in good working order.

If all you ever want to do is some cardio on the elliptical, you're very motivated, and you really don't have the time to drive 10-15 minutes each way to the gym, then I suppose it can be a good value. However, mixing up your cardio regimen is highly beneficial for reducing body fat and increasing your cardiovascular health. This means spending time on different machines will produce more benefit per minute that spending all of your time on one. Additionally, and this goes especially for men especially, once you start to trim down you may want hit the weights once or twice a week. Weight training also has the added benefit of fighting osteoporosis and studies strongly suggest it prevents alzheimers as well.

This may be anecdotal, but I have never, in my 28 years of life or 5 years as a health fitness professional, seen someone use a piece of home cardio equipment consistently for any appreciable amount of time. Certainly not 3 years.