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Exercise Options To Work Out At Home

from the Chicago Sun-Times

Balancing your job, your family, errands and your favorite Chicago events can make it tough to start -- or stay -- on a regular fitness regimen.

But thanks to news reports, magazine articles and Oprah, most of us know that a regular exercise program should be part of our everyday lives. Looking and feeling better, building stronger muscles and bones and having more energy are well-documented benefits of getting -- and staying -- fit.

For those days when you can't get to your health club or a Chicago Park District facility, or if working out in one of those places just isn't for you, consider getting your daily dose of exercise in the privacy of your own home. A tremendous variety of fitness equipment for the home is available, and it presents alternatives for just about every budget and exercise need.

Tips

**Be sure to see your doctor before beginning any new physical activity, and always take appropriate safety precautions.

**Regardless of what fitness equipment you use, reading and following the manufacturer's use and maintenance instructions is very important.

**If you're not sure what type of equipment you want, try out several different machines at a local health club for a day. Lots of health clubs offer free workout passes for potential customers, or get a guest pass from a friend.

**Not sure which exercises to start with? Look for beginner-friendly health and fitness magazines at a newsstand or bookstore. Or, get free, downloadable information online at reputable Web sites. One place to look: the Education Center page on the American Council on Exercise's site (www.acefitness.org).

Zero in on your goals and preferences. Do you want to build muscle? Lose a few pounds? Have more energy to keep up with your kids or grandkids? Do you prefer running over biking, or using dumbbells over selectorized machines (i.e., weight machines)?

At one end of the spectrum is home fitness equipment. If you have the money and inclination to turn part of your home into your own mini health club, options abound. First, you'll need to determine your budget, and then how much space you have for equipment. If you have the financial resources and room for more than one piece of equipment, work with a specialty fitness equipment dealer who can help you design a layout for your pieces.

For cardiovascular exercise, you can choose from among treadmills, stairclimbers, stationary bicycles or elliptical machines. Each can provide an excellent cardio workout.

If you run or bike outside already, you might select a machine other than a treadmill or stationary bike for home use. Why? Cross-training -- doing different things or varying the intensity of your workout -- can help the body break through the fitness "plateaus" that occur when the body gets used to performing the same exercise every day.

Whichever type of equipment you plan to purchase, trying the equipment before you buy is a good idea. Grab your workout shoes and head to a specialty fitness equipment store or a health club and test-drive a few different types of machines, so you can compare comfort, fit and features.

For strength training, several options exist as well. In general, you'll choose from among free weights, selectorized equipment, and elastic bands and tubing.

At the other end of the spectrum, plenty of other items exist around which you can build a home fitness routine. Consider getting a jump rope, which provides a great cardio workout, or an inflatable exercise ball, which is inexpensive (usually $20 to $30) and can be used for flexibility and core strengthening exercises.

If you've never thought of your VCR or DVD player as fitness equipment, think again. Local bookstores, video retailers, and Web sites offer a massive range of exercise videos and DVDs, with fitness routines to suit every interest.

Finally, it's also possible to start your home fitness program without purchasing any new equipment. Sit-ups and pushups are great ways to use your body's own weight to strength train and don't require any machinery at all.

This is one in a series of articles by the Mayor's Fitness Council, which promotes and encourages the development of a physically active and healthy lifestyle for Chicagoans of all ages. More information is available at www.chicagoworksout.com.

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