This is one of the most common questions we get asked. The idea of being able to exercise effectively without having to share mirrors (not-to-mention showers!) at the gym, is just one of the benefits of owning your own fitness equipment, so it is unsurprising that weight loss is up there on the agenda for most of us when considering our first home exercise machine.
To be honest, this article could just as easily be called “What is the best exercise machine for getting fit?” because our advice is just as relevant for anyone who gets out of breath by taking the stairs rather than the escalator as it is for people wanting to lose weight. The most effective machines for weight loss, or just for getting fit, are cardiovascular, the ones that get your limbs moving and your heart pumping. These include treadmills, exercise bikes, cross trainers and rowing machines, but which is best?The good news is that there is actually a short answer to this, and that is “the one you are most likely to use”.
It stands to reason; losing weight can be a challenge and facing a challenge requires motivation. The less we enjoy something the harder it is to remain motivated. To help keep motivated you should choose the machine that you prefer using, not the one that claims to burn the most calories or tone your tummy most efficiently. If you are just starting out on your fitness journey then for once the top tip is “take it (relatively) easy”. I include that slight caveat of relativity because if exercise isn’t challenging at all then it doesn’t really count as exercise, but by the same token you shouldn’t be trying to kill yourself either, it’s not what being healthy is about! It is much better to keep the challenge achievable and exercise little and often, than burn out on day one and never want to exercise again.
The Muscle Paradox
The more of a strain the exercise puts on your muscles the more calories you will burn but the quicker you get tired the less calories you will be able to burn. This re-enforces the importance of training at your own pace. As you gradually build up a tolerance to fatigue you will be able to exercise harder and for longer and burn more calories as you go. If you try to go too fast, for too long, too soon, you won’t be able to build up the stamina you need to make exercising easier, more pleasurable and more beneficial.
Distraction Vs Focus
Some of us are easily bored and can find exercising more tedious than challenging. Although there is strong psychological evidence to suggest being highly focused on the end goal can make the challenge seem easier toachieve, using distractions such as watching a film or TV programme while you exercise can make a world of difference to some people. If this sounds like you then consider whether a smoother experience like a treadmill or an exercise bike might work better for you than, say, a rowing machine or cross trainer. With a treadmill desk you can even multi-task by getting some work done at the same time! (Potential image caption - catching up on the New Level blog).
Treadmills are very popular because they can suit any fitness level by adjusting not just the pace but the incline too. They are perfect for starting slowly and gradually building up the intensity of the challenge over time (as long as you want to take). If the treadmill looks like your bag then the really good news is that they are probably responsible for burning more calories than any other machine in the gym making the treadmill an obvious choice for helping you lose weight. One potential downside of getting a treadmill is that although the impact is considerably lighter than jogging on the road it can be unsuitable for people with painful joints or back pain. Although, on the flip side, weight bearing exercise is more effective for good bone health and the prevention of osteoporosis than non-weight bearing exercise.
If impact on your joints (particularly knees) is a concern then an exercise bike may be the one for you. Exercise bikes can offer a good CV workout but with a minimum amount of impact. Some people prefer bikes because they allow you to sit. Recumbent bikes can also be a popular choice, especially during pregnancy or for people with more limited mobility.
Because you stand up to use them, but they are still very low impact, cross trainers or ellipticals can be a good compromise between a treadmill and an exercise bike. Cross trainers also enable you to exercise your arms and shoulders enabling you to burn more calories but this can add too much to the challenge for some beginners. They can provide a very rewarding workout but while a good quality cross trainer will almost glide along and be a pleasure to use, cheaper cross trainers can be highly uncomfortable because they are less ergonomically correct (less well aligned for your joints). Investing in a good quality brand can easily mean the difference between owning an effective piece of fitness equipment, and an expensive clothes horse.
I’ve listed rowing machines here as an example of a far less suitable option for beginners. Rowing machines are great for burning calories because they offer a full body workout. They get the heart pumping while working arms, chest, shoulders, legs and core muscles, which can be too much too soon. They are can also be incredibly uncomfortable if you are overweight or simply not used to physical exercise.
Focus On The Future
So there you have it. The best exercise machine for losing weight or getting fit is the one that you are most likely to want to use. Although all this talk of starting small and building up gradually may not seem like a quick enough fix, it is the best way to get started. Combined with a sensible diet, exercising little and often in the privacy and comfort of your own home should start to bring valuable health benefits sooner than you think. Think about how quickly the last year has gone. Imagine you’d started exercising regularly just 6 months ago, starting off small and building up gradually, think about how much fitter you could be already. Now focus on the future. Where could you be in 6 or 12 months’ time?