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Tips for Buying Home Fitness Equipment

Whether you want to lose weight, increase your strength, boost your endurance or maximize your flexibility, you can find the right exercise equipment to meet your goals. In fact, selecting the right equipment hinges on determining your goals first.

Avoiding the Muscle Hustle: 

Looking for a way to keep fit, stay limber or lose weight? A diet of regular exercise can help.

Which exercise is best? The one you're really going to do. For some people, that means working out at home on exercise equipment.

If you're considering buying exercise equipment, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers this advice: Evaluate advertising claims for fitness products carefully. The FTC has sued marketers of electronic abdominal exercise belts for claiming that users could get "six-pack abs" and lose inches in a short time. The Food and Drug Administration has never cleared any kind of electronic abdominal muscle stimulator for weight loss or obtaining "rock-hard" abs. While some electronic muscle stimulators may temporarily strengthen, tone or firm muscles, they will not lead to major muscle-toning or a major change in appearance.

Tips for Buying Exercise Equipment

Looking for a way to shape up? Keep fit? Stay limber? A diet of regular exercise can help. Different types of exercise benefit the body in different ways: some improve flexibility; some improve muscular strength. Others enhance physical endurance, and still others improve cardiovascular and respiratory efficiency.

Good Intentions Require Follow-through The benefits of exercise are widely known, but the keys to maintaining an exercise program can be elusive. Unfortunately, relatively few consumers stick with their programs: basements, rec rooms, and yard sales are stocked with costly stationary cycles, treadmills, and rowing machines that have been underused, neglected, or turned into clothes hangers. Good intentions are no match for stretching, walking, lifting, swimming ó or any other regular physical activity. Which exercise is best? The one youíre really going to do.

Buying fitness equipment for home workouts can represent a sizable financial commitment as well as a lifestyle change. The Federal Trade Commission advises work-out "wannabes" to exercise good judgment when evaluating advertising claims for fitness products. Before you buy, the FTC suggests you ask yourself the following questions:

What Are Your Goals?

Whether you want to build strength, increase flexibility, improve endurance, or enhance your health, look for a program that meets your personal goals. Remember that the best route to overall fitness and health is one that incorporates a variety of physical activities as part of a daily routine.

Will You Really Use Exercise Equipment?

In theory, exercising at home sounds great. But if you donít use a piece of equipment regularly, it can burn a hole in your pocket without burning off any calories. Before you buy, prove to yourself that youíre ready to stick to an ongoing fitness program. Set aside some time in your day for physical activity ó and then do it.

Can Exercise Equipment Help You Spot Reduce?

No. No exercise device can burn fat off a particular part of your body. To lose the proverbial spare tire or trim your hips, you must combine sensible eating with regular exercise that works the whole body. The reason: Everything you eat has calories and everything you do uses calories. Your weight depends on the number of calories you eat and use each day. Increasing your daily physical activity will burn extra calories.

Can You See Through Outrageous Claims?

Exercising regularly can help you shape up. But some companies claim that you can get results by using their equipment for three or four minutes a day, three times a week. Sounds fabulous, right? But realistic?  Not really. Hereís how you can spot the fantasies when youíre sizing up claims by equipment manufacturers:

     Any ads that promise "easy" or "effortless" results are

     false. Many ads that make big promises about the

     number of calories youíll burn also may be deceptive.

     Indeed, some of the claims are true only for athletes

     who already are in top physical condition; others may

     not be true for anyone.

     Claims that one machine can help you burn more

     calories or lose weight faster than others can be tough

     to evaluate ó especially when you canít read the

     "scientific studies" mentioned in the ads.

For these claims, apply two rules:

     Equipment that works the whole body, or major portions

     of it, probably will burn more calories than devices that

     work one part of the body.

     The more you use your equipment, the more calories

     youíll burn.

Thatís why itís important to select equipment that suits you and your lifestyle. A study might show that a different device burns more calories an hour, but if itís uncomfortable or difficult to use, chances are it will gather dust rather than help you burn calories.

Have You Checked the Fine Print?

Look for tip-offs that getting the advertised results requires more than just using the machine. Sometimes the fine print mentions a diet or "program" that must be used in conjunction with the equipment. Even if it doesnít, remember that diet and exercise together are much more effective for weight loss than either diet or exercise alone.

Many ads also feature dramatic testimonials or before-and-after pictures from satisfied customers. These stories may not be typical. Just because one person has had success doesnít mean youíll get the same results. And endorsements ó whether theyíre from consumers, celebrities, or star athletes ó donít mean the equipment is right for you.

Can You Try the Equipment Before You Buy?

Before you buy any exercise equipment, try it out. A few minutes at a sporting goods store while youíre wearing street clothes isnít very helpful. Test different types of equipment at a local gym or recreation center. Better still, go to the store dressed for exercise and give the equipment a full work-out.

Have You Shopped Around?

Before you buy, check out articles in consumer or fitness magazines that rate the exercise equipment on the market. Much of the equipment advertised on television or in magazines also is available at local sporting goods, department, or discount stores. That makes it easier to shop for the best price.

Donít be fooled by companies that advertise "three easy payments of ..." or "just $49.95 a month." Before you buy any product, find out the total cost, including shipping and handling, sales tax, delivery, and set-up fees. Get the details on warranties, guarantees, and return policies: A "30-day money back guarantee" may not sound so good if you have to ante up a hefty fee to return a bulky piece of equipment youíve bought through the mail. Check out the companyís customer service and support, too. Who can you call if the machine breaks down or you need replacement parts? Try any toll-free numbers to see whether help really is accessible.

Occasionally, you can get a great deal on a piece of fitness equipment from a second-hand store, a consignment shop, a yard sale, or the classifieds in your local newspaper. But buy wisely. Items bought second-hand usually arenít returnable and donít have the warranties of new equipment.

The FTC advises consumers to:

  • Ignore claims that an exercise machine or device can provide long-lasting, easy, "no-sweat" results in a short time. These claims are false: You can't get the benefits of exercise unless you exercise.

  • Don't fall for claims that a product can burn fat off a particular part of the body - for example, the buttocks, hips or stomach. Achieving a major change in your appearance requires sensible eating and regular exercise that works the whole body.

  • Read the ad's fine print. The advertised results may be based on more than just using a machine; they also may be based on restricting calories.

  • Be skeptical of testimonials and before-and-after pictures from "satisfied" customers. Their experiences may not be typical. Just because one person had success with the equipment doesn't mean you will, too.

  • Do the calculations when you read statements like "three easy payments of ..." or "only $49.95 a month." The advertised cost may not include shipping and handling fees, sales tax, and delivery and set-up fees. Find out the details before you order.

  • Get details on warranties, guarantees and return policies. A "30-day money-back guarantee" may not sound as good if you have to pay shipping on a bulky piece of equipment you want to "return to sender."

  • Check out the company's customer and support services. Call the advertised toll-free numbers to get an idea of how easy it is to reach a company representative and how helpful he or she is.

The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261.

Source: Federal Trade Commission

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