This page goes through the different options for fitness equipment, and ties them together with your goals, personal preferences, space and budget. After you have finished reading, you should have narrowed your search for fitness equipment significantly. You’ll then be able to check the options within those categories. All being well, you’ll be on the way towards your fitness goals in the time it takes for your preferred machines to be delivered.
The 3 Main Factors Affecting Your Choice of Home Fitness Equipment
Of course, secondary goals also play a part. Weight loss and overall cardio fitness are worthy targets – though most of us would also like a little tone to show for our efforts (or perhaps muscle gain). First of all, here are links to the main categories of fitness equipment covered here at Fitness Review:
Home Fitness Equipment:
Weight and Strength Training
There are more types of equipment of course, though the list of major categories has to be divided somehow. I recommend the search widget (at the top right position) as a great starting point for other types of fitness equipment.
You probably have a rough idea of the kind of equipment you’d like. A lot of this comes down to personal preferences. For every person who loves running (either on a treadmill or outside) there is one who absolutely hates it.
My personal view is that choosing equipment you enjoy and are comfortable using is more important than finding something that ‘ticks every box’. After all, fitness is a long-term endeavour and forcing yourself to use equipment you hate will only work for a while…
If you are unsure of what you enjoy, then your goals become the primary focus. I do recommend you try a few things out (one session in a gym should be plenty!) before you buy.
Sometimes your primary goal will be such that your choice of equipment narrows itself down easily. Here are some examples:
Muscle Gain: You’ll need to look at multi-gyms, free weights (or related accessories) here – only resistance training will do.
Fat Burn: If you are looking to shed weight then something to burn those calories regularly fits. There are several choices including rowing machines, exercise bikes and elliptical cross trainers which would work.
Cardio Workout: For those who want to get or stay fit then the fat burning machines also work. In addition I would consider steppers, treadmills and skiing machines.
Tone-Up: This depends on where you’d like toned! For a full-body tone-up something which mixes arms and legs like an elliptical trainer would work great. Steppers are very good for legs and butts, while if you are looking to tone up the stomach area, then you will be able to choose from several different machines which cover abs.
Now, your goals may overlap in such a way as to make a single piece of fitness equipment unsuitable for everything. That’s normal enough. Ask yourself what is the primary goal and what will best drive you to regularly work out. Once you have that in place you can look for solutions to that secondary goal elsewhere… The key thing is that as long as you solve the majority of your goals, and enjoy a machine, then go ahead and buy it. When you are seeing the success you will feel much better about covering that secondary goal (be it a 6-pack, toned arms, cardio fitness or anything else!).
In the first wave of enthusiasm for getting fit, people often overlook space and practical matters like moving equipment around and noise levels. If you need to get your equipment out each time or move it from room to room, then you are diminishing your chances of keeping going for the long term.
There are many machines which fold, have wheels or generally have a smaller footprint. On the other hand, some equipment will require a dedicated space. The biggest equipment is often the highest end (‘gym spec’), though multi-gyms and weights are also larger.
If you only have limited space, here are some options:
Fitness Equipment for Limited Space
Rowing Machines which fold
Steppers (basic models are very small)
Free Weights / Abs rollers / Kettle Bells etc
You can find the occasional Exercise Bike or Elliptical which fold, though this is not the norm.
Fitness Equipment Requiring More Space
Multi-Gyms and Smith Machines
Elliptical Cross Trainers
Non-Folding Treadmills and Rowers
Noise may be an issue (I’m thinking of the machines rather than the sound of the user huffing and puffing). This has got better over the years, though cheaper treadmills are still quite noisy and weight gyms can have clatter a lot depending on the model. If you live in a flat or work out after the kids have gone to bed, then quieter machines might be for you. On the cardio side, Ellipticals, Rowers and Bikes all fit the bill.
Schedules are increasingly full, and ‘not having the time’ is the number one reason people give for not exercising.
Well, I believe that choosing a routine and equipment based on the time you have available is a good solution. Some machines are better for shorter and more intensive workouts, while others can be used for longer periods to burn through those calories when you get the chance.
< 30 Minute Workouts
Steppers would be a solid choice here, 20 minutes of this is already an intensive cardio workout. I would also add abs trainers, and cross-trainers (elliptical) to this list.
>30 Minute Workouts
If you prefer to burn those calories slowly and less intensively then why not opt for an exercise bike, rowing machine or a treadmill instead.
If the time and goals do not line up well for you, then you could always vary your workouts. For example having a stepper for a quick blast, and then a bike for when you have the time (maybe in front of the TV!).
There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing equipment based on lifestyle. The main message to bring across here is to be realistic when making your choices. If you are deciding between two types of equipment and have a ‘nagging doubt’ that one of them really fits your schedule – then don’t force it. Fitness is a long term goal, and the fewer obstacles we put in the way the easier the path will be.
Let’s talk about money, or rather budgets and value…
You will find a wide range of prices for just about every kind of machine. Taking treadmills as an example, it is possible to pick one up for under £100 – with the top-end versions going for £1000 or more!
The key factor is this:
Where is the sweet spot between price and functionality / features?
Another way of putting it is to ask how much you need to spend to get some decent kit in each category. This is explored in a lot of detail in the Buyers Guides section here at Fitness Review.
There are good reasons to buy the budget ranges for many machines, though for me the step between the true budget fitness equipment and the mid-range items is the one with the biggest benefits.
By spending £50 to £150 more (depending on what you are after) you can have a better quality build, better tracking and monitors and quieter, smoother resistance – and even integration with tracking apps and entertainment.
Again, I have covered this area in detail elsewhere on this site. Below you will find some general guidelines.
< £50: Here you can find free weights, abs trainers, small (30cm high) stepping machines and accessories like hula hoops.
< £100: Now we can bring in budget level equipment including treadmills, bikes, rowers and ellipticals. Even in this price range you can find some with LCD screens and other extras.
< £200: Basic weights gyms and simple Smith Machines, along with many mid-range exercise machines. Between here and around £300 is where you will find a lot of value.
< £500: With this budget you can get some branded equipment with a lot of features. Robust multi-gyms are also in this range. Look for app compatibility, automatic resistance changes (bikes, rowers, cross trainers) or incline (treadmills) and built in entertainment options if you like these.
< £1000: Now you can get really demanding, here you should expect similar equipment and features to the machines you will find in a professional gym.
There are more categories, for example stairmills (like mini-escalators for your home) can go up to £10,000.
I hope that by bringing your goals, budget, space and personal preferences together – you are now considering just 1 or 2 types of fitness equipment.
The next step is to check out some reviews.
Once you set a budget and a ‘must have’ feature list you are just a couple of clicks away from having the right machine for your goals delivered right to your door.
Here are links to the main categories of reviews once again:
Weight and Strength Training