Before you buy that infomercial exercise machine, consider this

Home exercise equipment is the stuff late-night infomercials are made of. But it can also be a highly effective way to help you get fit.

“In terms of exercise compliance, home-based exercise overcomes a lot of barriers, and that’s why, for a lot of people, it’s the preferred option,” says the director of UNSW's Lifestyle Clinic, exercise physiologist Chris Tzarimas.

Some at-home exercise equipment is better than others, but it’s worth trying before you buy.Credit:Getty

However, home exercise needn’t cost much, if anything: a bag of rice and a chair go a long way.

“Typically, a home-based program might involve walking or speed walking and some bodyweight exercises,” Tzarimas says.

“So, modified pushups or modified chin-ups, where your feet are still in contact with the ground and you’re not lifting your entire bodyweight, or chair exercises depending on the functional capacity of the person or squats… can all really help you to increase your fitness and tone-up.”

He adds: “You can achieve great results with very little. Everyone should try giving that a go first before getting drawn into these late-night TV ads.”

But, if you do want to up the ante with some equipment, Tzarimas advises investing in basics first:

“There’s a range of fitness equipment and tools that can help you at a minimum expense, so if you buy yourself the latest heart rate monitor, exercise bands and exercise tubes to do resistance training; These are all low-cost and highly effective and allow you to simulate a gym at home.”

If you still want to go bigger, first consider what is best suited to your lifestyle and likes; out of the gym, local community programs or home-based exercise, which are you likely to enjoy and commit to the most?

Enjoyment, Tzarimas explains, is “very important” in ensuring compliance.

“And it is a bit of trial and error. There are perceived preferences but you really don’t know until you immerse yourself in the experience … you don’t know until you actually do it.”

It is for this reason that he suggests hiring exercise equipment to try it before you buy it.

“For some people having stationary exercise bike or treadmill in the living room is a great idea because, while they’re watching TV, they are getting fit and moving,” Tzarimas says. “Why don’t you kill two birds with one stone? But, it doesn’t work for others – you just don’t know.

“Exercise hire is a huge industry now, so for people who don’t want to invest a large amount of money in the equipment, they can take out a three or six-month lease and if you find you do adhere to then make the larger investment and buy the equipment.”

While at-home exercise equipment can be a worthy investment, Tzarimas cautions against believing what can be often hyped-up promises on TV.

“I don’t see how ab crunchers can be beneficial,” he says, by way of example. “People often purchase them to improve their waist and their abdominal musculature but that’s more a matter of weight management, so [it] isn't going to be as effective as aerobic-based or cardiovascular exercise.”

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