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Best Home Gym and Exercise Equipment

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With at-home fitness equipment, you can set workout goals and monitor progress from the comfort of your home. Read our guide to find the best home gym and exercise equipment for you. We explain the varied benefits of treadmills, ellipticalsexercise bikes and other equipment that help people lose weight, increas strength, improve athletic performance and rehabilitate from injury.

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What features matter most when choosing exercise equipment?

Informative display options

For top of the line models of cardio equipment, consumers should be able to view as much exercise data as possible on one large, backlight screen. If all data is not present at once on the screen, the information, such as calories burned and distance, should toggle automatically or able to be switched with the push of a button.

  • Time & distance monitoring: The display should include distance traveled and total time spent exercising.
  • Calories burned: This display option tells the exerciser how many calories they have burned so far.
  • Resistance level: The consumer can easily see the resistance they are working against and change it as needed.

Pre-programmed fitness routines

Ideally, fitness equipment should come with several pre-programmed routines, each meant to meet certain health and fitness goals such as weight loss, fitness testing or heart health. Some cardio machines include more than 40 pre-programmed workouts.

  • Routines based on biological factors: Whatever routine a consumer chooses, they should be able to input height, weight and sex so that the machine can tailor the routine to the consumer.
  • Fat burning mode: People who are exercising to lose weight may require a different level of resistance than people who are exercising to maintain a healthy weight, improve heart health or gain muscle mass. Machines with “fat burn” modes combine speed, resistance, time and biological factors to provide a challenging workout.
  • Heart rate controlled workouts: Some equipment includes workouts based on the percentage of your maximum heart rate during exercise. For example, keeping the resistance and speed so that your heart rate is at about 55 percent would be beneficial for overall heart health while reaching 85 percent of your maximum heart rate would be more challenging and contribute to accelerated fat loss.

Vital sign monitors

Fitness equipment should let consumers keep track of their vital signs as they are exercising so that they know they are maintaining an optimal level of exertion.

  • Heart rate monitors: Most fitness equipment includes contact sensors that read your heart rate by placing your hands on the handles. Machines that can read telemetry heart rate signals allow the user to wear a compatible chest heart rate monitor and see their beats per minute on the display screen. Since heart rate training is a relatively objective way to track improvement in fitness, especially if wearing a reliable chest strap, this metric is especially important to athletes.
  • Breathing rate monitors: Some equipment also measures how quickly you are breathing.
  • Caloric monitors: The equipment should measure how many calories you are burning as you are working out. The formula for this number varies based on the machine and what data they ask for, but a general rule of thumb is to act as if the machine overestimates your caloric expenditure, since you would be burning some of those calories doing something else if you weren’t exercising. Plus, assuming overestimation, (in reality, you burned less than the 400 calories the machine says) allows for less junk food “rewards” after exercise.

Varying resistance levels

Fitness equipment can be set at various resistance levels to change the intensity of the workout. The greater the resistance, the harder the consumer has to work.

  • Incline mode: Stair steppers, exercise bikes and treadmills all have an incline mode, which simulates walking up a hill. Top of the line treadmills reach an incline of 15 percent, and some even have a decline mode to simulate downhill running.
  • Pre-programmed interval training: Many of the programs included with exercise machines include intervals, in which there is a period of intense work followed by an easier rest period.
  • Push-button resistance: By pressing a button on the machine, the consumer can manually raise or lower resistance. The ability to change resistance and speed via handlebar buttons is an added plus so the changes can be made as quickly as possible.

Video displays

In addition to the informational display, some fitness equipment comes with video displays.

  • Customizable videos: Some product models allow consumers to watch television, browse the Internet or use apps while exercising.

Comfort and convenience amenities

Exercise equipment sometimes provides additional features for the convenience of the people using it.

  • Water bottle holder: There may be a cup holder or bottle holder on the side of the equipment so that consumers can drink water while they are exercising.
  • Contoured seat: Some exercise bikes have a contoured seat with a soft back to help riders feel more comfortable while using the bike.
  • Media tray: Treadmills, exercise bikes and other equipment may include media trays so that users can view tablets, phones, magazines or books while using the equipment. Ideally, this space would be above the display or any buttons so you don’t have to look down to see it.
  • Fan: A built-in fan with a few different power settings is an underestimated plus in cardio machines.
  • Speakers: Built-in speakers will generally play the audio of whatever it’s connected to via a 3.5mm jack, but some machines have Bluetooth speakers.

Smart data tracking

Smart data tracking is available on some models of fitness equipment, it tracks your workout progress and allows you to save the data.

  • USB drive: Export workout data to a USB drive via a USB port. Insert USB drive into a computer and load data onto a specified data tracking website.
  • Bluetooth or Wi-fi connectivity: Automatically sync workout data to compatible apps such as Apple Health Kit or MyFitnessPal.

Types of exercise equipment


Treadmills feature a moving surface to help consumers walk or run while remaining stationary. Treadmills come in two main forms: manual and motorized. A manual treadmill has no motor and is powered by your legs. These devices usually only have a couple of incline settings. A motorized treadmill can have anywhere between one and five horsepower. The more horsepower, the faster you’ll be able to run on the belt.

Stair steppers

These machines simulate walking up stairs. Consumers can change the resistance level to give their leg muscles a more intense workout. The most popular brand of stair steppers is the Stairmaster. Most of these machines function similarly and added features such as Bluetooth and wireless heart rate monitoring are perks.

Stationary bikes

These machines offer a bicycle riding experience while remaining stationary. When customized to fit the consumer’s body, exercise bikes can offer many of the same benefits as treadmills without putting as much pressure on the user’s knees. There are three main types of stationary bikes: recumbent, upright and indoor cycling (spinning) bikes. Recumbent bikes allow the user to be seated with back supported and legs pedaling in front of them whereas an upright bike’s pedals are below the body and the core has to keep the body stable since there is no reclined back support. Still, the user remains seated using an upright bike. Spinning bikes have a weighted flywheel, not a motor like the other types, and let the user pedal while standing up.

Rowing machines

Rowing machines work both the arms and the legs with simulated rowing. Users must coordinate arm and leg movements to push forward, often in conjunction with a virtual display.

Elliptical machines

Elliptical machines are a broad term for machines that have two footplates and two arm handles and require you to move at least your legs back and forth to burn calories. Within the elliptical category, what sets machines apart are whether or not the arm handles move and the adjustability of the footplates. Moving arm handles provides a more challenging aerobic workout and activates the upper body. Adjustable foot pedals to add an incline or increase stride length so legs best mimic running are ideal options. There are also seated ellipticals and elliptical/recumbent bike 2-in-1 machines. Some companies categorize machines with a greater range of motion and more features as “gliders” or “striders.” Steppers also have two foot plates but may not have handle bars and only provide the motion of the legs moving up and down.

Specialty Equipment

Some at-home cardio machines are novel and effective at burning calories. The Jacob’s Ladder 2 is the more compact, home version of the Jacob’s Ladder, a motorized ladder that requires the consumer to climb rungs of a ladder that continuously rotate like a stair stepper. This is a full body workout because you’re standing, using your arms and legs to climb at various speeds. The Concept 2 SkiErg mimics the motion of cross country skiing, where the user holds a strapless handle in each hand and pulls down using the hips for a full body cardiovascular and endurance workout. Multi-functional, sport-specific machines such as the Technogym Skillmill and Matrix S-Drive Performance Trainer are more suited to a fitness facility than the home due to their features being more tailored towards serious athletes.

Who should buy home exercise equipment?

People who want to lose weight

Most weight loss programs include exercise, and people who are trying to lose weight may find at-home fitness equipment to be a convenient option. They may work out two or three times a week in order to meet their weight loss goals.

People concerned about heart health

People who have a family history of heart disease or are recovering from their own heart disease may want to exercise in order to strengthen their heart. They may have to follow doctor’s orders about how much they can exercise or how intense the exercise can be.

People recovering from an injury

Exercise can help people recover strength in their muscles after an injury. Depending on the type and severity of the injury, exercise equipment may help aid recovery.

Athletes looking for convenience

Amateur and professional athletes may find that although they have access to gyms and/or usually train outdoors, they’ll want to train when they are home to achieve their performance goals. Weather or unwillingness to travel to the gym cannot be a factor to miss training for these athletes, thus the insurance of knowing they can train at home drives them to purchase fitness equipment.

Exercise equipment FAQ

What equipment do I need for a home gym?

When you start a home gym, it is useful to have a variety of equipment.

For cardiovascular fitness, you can buy things like a treadmill, a rowing machine or a stationary bike. For muscle strengthening, you can purchase items like weight sets (barbell and/or dumbbell), a workout bench and resistance bands.

If you want to make a real investment, you can buy a complete home gym machine that offers more options for primary and accessory exercises.

Are home gyms effective?

Yes, home gyms can be very effective; however, to improve their usefulness:

  • Set your home gym up for user enjoyment. Feel free to incorporate music, entertainment and climate controls into your gym.
  • Try it out first to see whether or not it's something that you truly feel comfortable using.
  • Be sure you have a space for it where it won't be intrusive.

Home gyms can be more effective than gym memberships because they're convenient and accessible at any time.

How long will an elliptical machine last?

An elliptical machine's life span generally depends on its quality and design, but some can last up to 20 years or more. Maintaining and caring for your elliptical machine helps extend its life. Make sure you follow the maintenance directions for your machine, which may include lubrication and cleaning.

Are stationary bikes worth it?

A stationary bike can be a great way to burn calories and get some low-impact exercise. Adding some dumbbell weights for conditioning movements can help tone up muscles not being used during your workout.

What do you do with old exercise equipment?

When you have old exercise equipment that you no longer use but still functions, you can:

  • Sell it on secondhand or auction websites.
  • Sell it to used sporting equipment stores.
  • Donate it to places that need equipment, like senior centers or low-income physical rehab centers.

If your equipment doesn't function, there are plenty of services that can pick it up for junk or recycling.

How much do stationary bikes cost?

Stationary bikes come in a variety of prices. For example, a ProForm GR 80 recumbent costs about $250, while a Peloton, a more tech-savvy option, costs around $2,000.

Do home gyms build muscle?

If your fitness goal is to build muscle, home gyms can help — the weights and resistance machines you buy for your home gym can be just as effective as those found in a commercial gym. Remember: Buying quality equipment and following a muscle-building program gives you positive results. Squats, dead lifts and presses you can do at home are all examples of primary exercises that build muscle.

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    Author reviews for exercise equipment companies


    Famous for introducing the indoor ski machine to the market, NordicTrack also manufactures all sorts of exercise equipment, including exercise bikes, rowers, ellipticals and treadmills.

    Read 2443 Reviews

    Bowflex has developed complex and effective machines in the strength training category for decades and recently launched the Bowflex Max Trainer series. The Bowflex Treadclimber targets a specific audience since it’s made for walking.

    Read 223 Reviews

    ProForm treadmills are the official treadmill of the Boston Marathon, and many of the athletes competing in the race use ProForm equipment to train. This company is owned by ICON Health and Fitness, which also produces NordicTrack fitness equipment.

    Read more about ProForm
    Johnson Health Tech

    Johnson Health Tech owns at-home fitness equipment brands Horizon and Vision Fitness. Horizon has made a name for itself as a budget fitness equipment brand. It offers affordable, portable equipment for casual home users.

    • Plenty of programs: Consoles usually come pre-loaded with a dozen or more programs; the average piece of equipment has 14 programmed routines. The top of the line Horizon treadmill, the Elite T9, includes 44 workout programs.
    • Wi-Fi capability: Some models include Wi-Fi connectivity to sync workout data to ViaFit, which can then transfer data to many fitness apps.
    • Small size: The equipment is meant to be portable, and both Horizon and Vision offer folding ellipticals, a rarity in the home equipment space.
    • Passport compatibility: Users can link their exercise machines to a Passport box, which connects to a TV, providing virtual tours of scenic worldwide destinations. The scenic routes adjust the courses’ terrain and audio as you tailor your workout intensity.
    • Relatively inexpensive: Horizon equipment is designed for budget users. Most models sell for under $1,000.
    • Sprint 8 interval training: Vision Fitness offers a preprogrammed Sprint 8 workout program on some ellipticals, treadmills and stationary bikes. This program is a 20-minute interval session with 30-second sprints and 90-second active recovery intervals.

    Compare Reviews for Top Exercise Equipment Companies

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