ACSM'S Health & Fitness Journal:
Departments: Fitness Focus
Thompson, Dixie L. Ph.D., FACSM
Dixie L. Thompson, Ph.D., FACSM, is the director of the Center for Physical Activity and Health and professor and department head for the Department of Kinesiology, Recreation, and Sport Studies at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
Disclosure: Author declares no conflicts of interest.
Brought to you by the American College of Sports Medicine http://www.acsm.org
We have all heard jokes about home exercise equipment gathering dust or being used as a rack for drying clothes. Can people really use this kind of equipment as a way to improve their health and fitness, or is this approach doomed to failure? Millions of dollars are spent each year on personal fitness equipment, but what steps can consumers take to help make the investment yield fitness dividends?
CHOOSE YOUR EQUIPMENT CAREFULLY
The first decisions will be your budget and what to buy. Your investment can range from an exercise mat and some exercise DVDs to a piece of equipment that costs thousands of dollars. You also must consider your exercise preferences, the amount of space you have to put the equipment, and any physical limitations that will have an impact on your exercise. It is important to explore your options carefully. Refer to Web sites and magazines that provide informative customer reviews of products. Also, try out the equipment before you buy it. The variations in sturdiness, comfort, and ease of use among devices are dramatic and are not always related to the cost. When making your purchase, consider the warranty and the return policy. For more information on choosing home exercise equipment, refer to ACSM’s free online brochures: http://www.acsm.org/brochures.
It is wise to invest in an activity that you know you find enjoyable, especially if you are spending a lot of money. Treadmills, rowing machines, stationary cycles, and elliptical machines can be expensive, but a well-designed machine can last for years. If you have never used these machines before, it is wise to try them out before committing to a purchase. People also invest in strength training equipment. Like aerobic equipment, the investment can range from dumbbells to full gyms that can cost thousands of dollars.
SET GOALS, SCHEDULE, AND MONITOR
Once you have selected your equipment, you need to develop a wise game plan for using it. Examine your day, and identify the time blocks in which you could fit exercise (early morning, just after work, after dinner, etc). One of the most important aspects of maintaining an exercise program is designing it to fit your preferences. For example, if you hate getting up early, it may be difficult to stick to an early morning regiment.
After identifying the time(s) of day that you will exercise, decide how many days per week and how many minutes per day you will devote to this task, and schedule it into your weekly routine. Start out slowly, and progress toward your ultimate goals. If you are unsure about what appropriate goals are for you, consult a fitness professional. Also, it is imperative that you track your progress. You can use a traditional exercise diary or one of the many electronic applications that are now available. Research shows that daily monitoring helps people maintain an exercise routine.
Regardless of whether you exercise on your own or with others, having people support your efforts is important. For the home exerciser, finding support might be easy or difficult, depending on the individual situation. Ask for the support of those in your household. They may be willing to exercise with you, or their contribution may be to agree to not disturb you while you are working out. For each household, this will be a different negotiation. If there is not anyone in your household that will provide emotional support for your exercise efforts, look for friends, coworkers, or maybe an online support group that will give you encouragement. Having a person or group of individuals who will provide you reinforcement for your efforts is important regardless of where, when, or why you exercise.