Dr. K: Buy right exercise machine to ensure that you’ll use it

DEAR DOCTOR K: I’m interested in buying a high-quality cardio exercise machine to use at home. Any advice?

DEAR READER: Cardio machines offer good aerobic workouts that burn calories and fat. They simulate everything from cycling to walking and running, rowing, skiing and stair climbing. I have an elliptical trainer in my basement: It allows me to exercise every day, regardless of the weather. (And here in Boston, the weather is not always very pleasant.)

The price of a cardio machine can vary greatly. How much you pay will depend upon whether a machine is motorized or programmable, and whether it measures heart rate, calories burned, time elapsed and so forth.

Here are some popular types of equipment – along with what to look for in each machine:

• An elliptical trainer provides a circular up-and-down motion for a nearly impact-free workout. Levers with handgrips to work the upper body are available on many models. Look for comfortable handlebars and nonslip pedals with curved ridges.

• A cross-country ski machine lets you exercise arms and legs simultaneously. The sliding motion is easy on the knees. Look for a wide foot bed for stability.

• Stair-steppers provide a low-impact workout that approximates climbing stairs. Some models have levers with handgrips to work arms, too. The motion can be hard on the knees. Look for machines that provide independent foot action and are equipped with handrails and large stair platforms.

• A treadmill enables you to walk or run indoors. Opt for a motorized treadmill with a strong motor, a belt that’s long and wide enough for your stride, a sturdy frame with front side rails for safety, and an emergency stop device. You should be able to adjust the speed and grade.

Be sure to try out any equipment you are considering purchasing before buying it. Some people just don’t like certain machines. And if you don’t like using it, you won’t. That’s money down the drain.

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