Guide to home exercise equipment

Caroline Cassidy

If the thought of walking into a gym filled with lycra-clad fitness addicts fills you with horror, there are now countless ways to keep fit at home.

Home exercise equipment
Home exercise equipment

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It's the stalwart of the home exercise world - a good treadmill allows you to vary the pace and incline, thereby altering the impact of your workout from low to high, depending on your fitness levels.

If you are looking for a treadmill, you have two options - motorised or non-motorised. Though a non-motorised treadmill is a considerably cheaper option, it is best used for walking rather than running. Whatever your choice, ideally the belt on which you run should be 18 to 20 inches wide and 48 inches or more in length - this will reduce the risk of tripping or falling off the machine.

Motorised treadmills range hugely in price, from around £400 to well over £1,000, but you may not need the most expensive. Many include a digital display which provides information on heart rate, distance, speed and calories burned and these can be useful for motivation!

Exercise bikes
If you want a good cardio workout but have dodgy knees, the exercise bike is a good choice. It will give you a good workout, but is low-impact, so unlikely to place to much strain on your joints. However, if you are looking to tone your upper body as well, you may need to add a weights session to your regime as the bike increasing lower body strength only.

Just as treadmills range greatly in price, so too do exercise bikes but it is worth investing in one that monitors your heart rate, distance, speed and so on. That way you'll be able to see your improved fitness levels as you push yourself to achieve new targets. For those prone to lower back pain though, consider buying a recumbent bike which includes a chair-like seat for greater support.

Elliptical trainers
These excellent machines provide a great cardio workout and most come with moving handlebars so that you're working the upper body as well as the legs and bum. And since they are low-impact, an elliptical trainer is easy on the joints. However, they are expensive and you'll need plenty of space as they can take up lots of room.

Rowing machines
Another low-impact workout, the rowing machine works every major muscle group, toning arms, shoulders and tummy as well as legs and hips, though the upper body does most of the work. Use long, smooth strokes to ensure you get the full benefit or this excellent cardio workout.

Finding space for home gym equipment isn't always easy but that doesn't mean you can't get a good workout - if space is an issue, invest in some free weights, an exercise ball (excellent for core strength) and bungee or jump rope (for those with high ceilings!). With a little discipline you will still get an all-round workout to tone strengthen and build your fitness.

The advantage of working in the comfort of your own home is its convenience. It allows you to fit exercise in whenever you have the time or to work out in front of the TV... and since you won't have to brave the cold, wintry weather, there is no excuse for skipping it!