You don’t have to purchase an expensive gym membership or buy a lot of fancy equipment to get in shape. In fact, some people get in great shape simply by doing exercises that use their own body weight. Most of us, however, will want a little bit of gear to help us out. Here are our picks for six inexpensive pieces of exercise equipment for your routine.
- Jump rope (about $15). Jumping rope can improve aerobic and anaerobic capacity and power, coordination, balance, agility, and speed. It makes for a good warm up by getting your heart rate up. Jump ropes are also lightweight and easily portable so you can take them with you when you travel. Jumping rope, however, is not a good idea if you have knee problems.
- Elastic bands ($10 to $15 each). Elastic bands provide resistance training that will strengthen and tone your muscles. To start, you should get one that has just enough tension to allow you to do 10-12 reps of an exercise three times. You should also get a second elastic band that has more tension so that you can work your way up. You can tell how much tension an elastic band has by its color: Light-colored bands generally provide less resistance and darker colors will be thicker and add more resistance.
- Dumbbells ($6 to $60 a pair). Lifting dumbbells will tone your muscles. You can also use them to add resistance to other workouts such as walking or lunges. To give yourself a wide range of weights to suit the strength of various muscle groups, purchase an adjustable set of dumbbells for about $50. Adjustable sets will give you a 5- to 45-pound weight range.
- Medicine ball ($25 to $50). A medicine ball can be used in a multitude of ways to exercise all of your body parts. You’ll also find a wide variety of them, including ones with handles or a rope through the middle for easier use. First figure out what exercises you want to do and then choose a ball of the appropriate size and weight to match the exercises. You may need to buy more than one if you plan to base most of your workout on medicine ball exercises.
- Stability ball ($20 to $40). A stability ball is designed to improve your balance and work your core muscles: the abdomen, chest and back. These muscles are the ones that stabilize the rest of your body and help you maintain good posture. Use a 45-centimeter ball if you’re under 5 feet tall, a 55-cm ball if you’re 5 feet 1 inch to 5 feet 7 inches, and a 65-cm ball if you’re taller.
- Exercise videos ($10-$20). No matter what your preferred exercise, there’s an exercise video out there for you. Exercise videos can help keep you motivated and can also help you make sure that you are doing the exercise properly. Try to build a collection that helps you improve balance and build or maintain your overall conditioning. The best videos will provide warm-up and cool-down routines as well as offer a blend of aerobic, strengthening and stretching exercises.