March 24, 1998 in Features

Top-Rated Fitness Equipment For … Under $20 Some Of The Best Exercise Equipment Is Simple And Cheap

Art Carey The Philadelphia Inquirer
 

When it comes to exercise, I’m cheap.

One of my fitness heroes is a guy I read about in a muscle mag who keeps his bod buff by pumping cannibalized car parts. Just for kicks (and to disconcert the neighbors with more evidence of my subversive nuttiness), I sometimes bench-press a 200-pound jeep axle, and a few years back I wrote an article explaining how I built my own dandy backyard gym for only a nickel.

In short, you don’t have to spend a barrel of bucks to look like a million.

So you can imagine how thrilled I was to get a press release from the American Council on Exercise ranking the top five exercise products for less than $20. The list was based on a survey of 3,000 ACE-certified personal trainers and group fitness instructors across the country.

Without further ado, the list:

Jump rope

This is how we wrestlers passed time and kept in tip-top condition when we weren’t lifting or grappling on the mat. Beginners can start out with just a few minutes of jumping per day and work up to continuous jumping for 20 minutes or more for an enthralling cardio workout. Also sharpens coordination and reflexes, and it’s fun.

Thorlo brand socks

Designed to prevent blisters and keep sweat away from feet, Thorlo brand socks come in a wide variety of styles for different activities, such as walking, inline skating and tennis.

Water bottle

Most of us spend most of our waking hours dehydrated, which means our bodies are not operating optimally and we’re not feeling as fan-dan-tastic as we could. Adequate water is especially important during vigorous workouts. (Just look at the puddles on the floor within 10 minutes of the start of your typical spinning class.) The standard recommendation: at least a cup of water for every 15 minutes of exercise. Ergo, a water bottle is a workout necessity.

Dumbbells

Consider yourself, well, a real dumbbell if you’re not lifting weights or doing some kind of resistance training. Dumbbells take up very little space, are handy and portable, come in weights ranging from one pound to 100 pounds, and are useful for a wide variety of strength-building exercises.

You don’t have to invest in a heavy-duty barbell set, or spend hours in the gym, to reap the benefits of weightlifting. Here’s what I tell reluctant iron pumpers: Buy a couple of dumbbells — maybe two five-pounders to start. Keep them next to the sofa in the TV room. Every time there’s a commercial break, do a couple sets of presses, curls, lateral raises, etc. When you can do a set of 10 to 12 reps with ease, move up to heavier dumbbells. This way, ladies, instead of becoming a couch potato, you’ll be a couch tomato. Likewise, you guys will metamorphose from sofa spuds to sofa studs.

Resistance tubing and bands

They’re a nifty way to tone and strengthen all the major muscle groups, plus they’re convenient, easy to use, and compact enough to take anywhere. You can buy them at most sporting goods stores and drug stores (they’re staple tools in some physical therapy regimens), along with instruction booklets and videos to help get you started. A cheaper alternative: Go to the hardware store and buy some long bungee cords. An even cheaper alternative: Use an old bicycle inner tube. To vary the resistance, just knot it in different places.

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story:

Don’t bother

The fitness pros queried by ACE weighed in not only on the best and the cheapest but also the worst and the hokiest. Here’s their list :

1. Abdominal gadgets. All those ab rockers and crunch cradles, usually ridiculously overpriced.

2. The ThighMaster. Sorry, there’s no such thing as spot-reducing. The promised results are unattainable unless part of a whole-body fitness program.

3. Protein powders and supplements. In short, the actual benefits usually don’t live up to the claims.

4. Fat-burning/weight-loss pills. The wages of affluence and overindulgence cannot be absolved by a pill.

5. Anything by Tony Little or Denise Austin. The ACE-certified fitness pros have a poor opinion of the merchandise pushed on home-shopping channels by these two exercise gurus.

This sidebar appeared with the story: Don’t bother The fitness pros queried by ACE weighed in not only on the best and the cheapest but also the worst and the hokiest. Here’s their list : 1. Abdominal gadgets. All those ab rockers and crunch cradles, usually ridiculously overpriced. 2. The ThighMaster. Sorry, there’s no such thing as spot-reducing. The promised results are unattainable unless part of a whole-body fitness program. 3. Protein powders and supplements. In short, the actual benefits usually don’t live up to the claims. 4. Fat-burning/weight-loss pills. The wages of affluence and overindulgence cannot be absolved by a pill. 5. Anything by Tony Little or Denise Austin. The ACE-certified fitness pros have a poor opinion of the merchandise pushed on home-shopping channels by these two exercise gurus.


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