About half the country has made a New Year's resolution to get fit. The other half is thinking about it.
With that in mind, I rang in 2011 with my own resolution: to check out some of the most popular As Seen on TV exercise gizmos to see if they would do any good.
With the help of a trio of personal training/fitness specialists, I tested six pieces of equipment, each priced under $20. Two turned out to be really worthwhile. The four others ranged from lousy to laughable. (See photos of the gizmos here)
Shake Weight, $19.95 Biggest Waste of Money
"Go from flab to fabulous," says the workout DVD that came with this device — the most expensive of the six in my test. "It's a total gimmick," says Krissy Ray, 24, one of my three exercise consultants, all from Advocate Fitness.
But if you want a good laugh, watch the slow motion clip of the audience using Shake Weights in the Sept. 16 "shared experience" segment on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. "This is filthy," says Fallon guest, actress Emma Stone. "It's practically pornographic." (http://bit.ly/c3ce9P)
Duo Wheel, Everlast, $14.95 Worth it
"That thing's awesome," says exercise specialist Seth Shanahan, 27. "We really like this," says Ray. "I'm a frequent user," chimes in trainer Jesse Perez, 35. In fact, all three trainers say the ab wheel is part of their fitness regime. They pronounce this one solidly made with easy-to-understand instructions.
Twist Board, Everlast, $12.99Don't Bother
"What is this?" asks Perez, puzzled by what this swiveling disc is supposed to do. Because it's hard to stay balanced on the thing, "It just makes everything more dangerous. You'd probably be better off doing exercises on the floor," says Ray. "This thing is just weird," she says.
"If you're on a budget there's other things you should spend your money on," says Shanahan.
Gel Flex Tube, Bally, $11.95 Definitely Not
"A total bomb. Not worth it," says Shanahan. And he says the instruction sheet is "stupid." "Everything you do on this feels really goofy. All the motions are unnatural," agrees Ray, adding, "The concept is really garbage."
"This would not really do anything," says Perez.
Deluxe Speed Rope (aka jump rope), Valeo, $12.95 Great investment
"I would take a jump rope any day over a $1,000 treadmill," says Perez. You can go slow on a treadmill and get comfortable but when jumping rope, "You can't cheat," he says.
"These have been around forever. That's because they're effective. Jumping rope is as good as any cardio exercise you can do," says Shanahan. "You can get a lot accomplished in a short amount of time," he says.
Ellen says: I'm now sold on jumping rope (portable, packable) but my personal preference is a leather or segmented jump rope. Learn more at drjump.com.
Chin-up/Sit-up Bar, Valeo, $15.95 Good idea but ...
Shanahan says a bar is one of his favorite pieces of exercise equipment but this particular one "is a piece of junk." When it's wedged into a doorway you can't use it for pull-ups — although instructions show you can — because your elbows hit the door frame.
Also, the foam handgrips are misplaced, says Ray: "They made it wrong."
Other door frame products with curved mounts solve the elbows problem but check user comments online before buying to avoid problems.
Your home gym?The experts I consulted say you don't need expensive gear to get a thorough workout at home. They recommend a high-quality jump rope for cardio. And to work all your muscles, invest in two quality resistance bands — one heavy, one medium — at $11 or so apiece. "What we're saying is 'keep it simple' which is better than using all these fancy toys," says personal trainer Krissy Ray.
Before you buy home exercise equipment:+Go online and check the comments.
+Consult with experts at a gym.
+Think about the assembly. Who will do it? How much will it cost?
+Treadmills and stationary bikes can be picked up cheap at yard sales.
+Keep it simple. Jump rope and resistance bands are cheap, effective.
+Remember that fitness takes hard work. Period.
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