The Benefits of Using Stationary Bikes

Although new exercise routines and regimens seem to appear on a daily basis, and treadmills and ellipticals continue to be the most popular cardio pieces in the gym, don’t overlook the original piece of stationary exercise equipment, the bike. The benefits of using an exercise bike are numerous and diversified. It is a great workout for beginning exercisers, elite athletes, those returning from injuries, or someone doesn’t have the space or budget for a high-end treadmill or elliptical.

Other than training your cardiovascular system and burning calories, the single most significant benefit to using a stationary bike is that it allows you to do those things without the pounding and impact of weight bearing exercises. An exercise bike allows you to train while giving your skeletal system and joints a break. So physiologically, you can see how it is useful to every type of exerciser.

Although there are dual action bikes (with upper body arms) available, most bikes in use today are lower body upright and recumbent bikes. Don’t fall into the trap believing that because you are not using your upper body, you are not getting a good workout. The largest muscles in the body are in your legs and when you put them in motion against resistance, you will get a great workout.

Stationary bikes are a great way for first time exercisers, overweight users looking to lose weight and those needing a low-impact workout to begin an exercise program. They are fixed motion pieces that require very little coordination and are relatively easy to use. You can elevate your heart rate and burn calories and fat without the stress of a weight bearing exercise.

For elite athletes, the bike provides a great complementary cross training workout, while reducing the risk of developing overuse injuries. You can get off your feet and give your joints a break from impact activities, yet you can continue to train your cardiovascular system. Each activity you do works your muscles differently. The bike can also add variety to you workout routines.

Finally, if you are recovering from an injury or joint replacement, the bike can be an integral part of your recovery and help get you back on your feet doing what you love to do.

Finally, cost and space. These are two of the biggest factors or hurdles people encounter when trying to decide on a piece of fitness equipment for the home. If you can’t commit to at least $1,500 for a quality treadmill or a $1,000 for a quality elliptical, a stationary bike may be the better option for you. There are many quality choices for under a $1,000. Or, if you are tight on space, the bikes take up less room and are portable. Just wheel it out in front of the TV and you are on your way to a healthier future.

Summary of Benefits

  • Trains cardiovascular system
  • Burns calories
  • Low impact
  • Easy to use
  • Low risk of injury
  • Helps develop leg strength
  • Excellent form of cross training
  • Can add variety to weight bearing exercise routines
  • Bikes take up less space
  • Are typically more affordable
  • Are portable

So if you’re in the market for a new piece of cardio equipment, consider an exercise bike for a great low impact workout that you can easily fit in your home.

Treadmill Drive Motors and the Question of Horsepower

The treadmill motor horsepower rating is probably the single most recognizable spec that jumps out at a consumer when he or she begins to do their buying research. It is most likely because we have all heard this term since we were young, and many of us think we know what it means. As tends to be our way of thinking, we usually believe bigger is better. However, the truth is, the ratings and numbers can be very confusing and ultimately incredibly misleading. Here are some tips to help you sort through some of the terms and numbers you may have read about to find out what is really important when trying to understand this integral part of the treadmill.vision treadmill motor

Poor horsepower ratings

Unless the treadmill has a strong motor, you will easily wear it out. First, check to see what rating terminology the manufacturer is using. Terms like “treadmill duty” and “peak duty” have been used to mislead consumers in the past to raise the rating number (remember the assumption that bigger is better). What do each of those mean?

  • Treadmill Duty – somewhere in between peak and continuous. Treadmill duty measures the likely horsepower for an average user at an average speed over an average period of time. But because it is an average, it is not a true representation of power.
  • Peak Duty – Maximum horsepower a motor can generate when working at its hardest. This is only sustainable for a short time. Or Peak duty motors measure power at the highest possible rpm with minimal load. But since an efficient motor is not going to run at this high rpm all the time, it is not an accurate horsepower measurement.

Look for Continuous Duty horsepower

When shopping for a treadmill, look for a Continuous Duty Rating (CHP). A continuous duty motor measures the minimum horsepower delivered at all points during a workout, and is a commercial grade standard applied to treadmills used in health clubs and higher-quality home treadmills. Continuous duty motors are the highest quality available. They are more powerful, they last longer, and they deliver smooth performance.

Minimum recommendations have always been at least 1.5 CHP, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a treadmill with such a low rating these days because of all the marketing hype. However, if done right, a 1.5 CHP motor with an RPM rating below 4000 would satisfy the needs of 90 percent of home users.

The importance of RPMs

Rotations per Minute (RPMs) is really important in motor design. The relationship between continuous horsepower and RPM is torque. This is the most significant factor when determining the best suitable motor for you needs. The lower the RPM of a motor, the more torque it will have – torque being the measure of a tendency to cause rotation; in other words, the power to turn. This allows the motor to last longer. I strongly recommend a motor with an RPM rating of 4000 or lower, but never more than 5000.

This is crucial because this is where a lot of manufacturers begin to play with, and boost, the ratings above 2.5 in to the 3.5 and 4 HP range. In a lot of those cases, if we examine the plate stamped on the treadmill, you will find RPM ratings in the 7000 to 8000 range. This is how they can get away with these bloated HP rating numbers. These motors are spinning way too fast and working way too hard to last the years you should expect out of a quality treadmill. RPM tinkering is only one way in which a manufacturer can boost the horsepower rating of a treadmill motor.

Electrical requirements

Finally, there are the electrical requirements needed to support a larger HP motor. Most homes today have either a 15- or 20-Amp circuit, which you plug the treadmill into.  Most 20-Amp lines will only support 2.4 horsepower from an electrical motor for a continuous period of time. So all the “extra” horsepower, if the rating is true, is nice but totally not needed and never really used.

On a related note, it is nice to have a big, strong, powerful motor in your treadmill, but it is just as important to surround that motor with up to date quality components (more on that later). If done properly, the motor won’t have to do all the work so the load can be shared amongst all the integral parts. They reduce the need for overblown horsepower ratings and produce a much more efficient running treadmill – A sort of brains over brawn scenario.

What this all means is that the customer should be more concerned with how well all these parts of the treadmill work together, rather than with a hyped up horsepower rating placed on a website or printed in a brochure. Look for a solid motor with CHP rating and low RPM’s and go from there.

Fitness Equipment and Location, Location, Location!

I’m sure we are all somewhat familiar with that chant. They say it’s all about the location! When it comes to fitness equipment, location is also very important. Not necessarily which room will the equipment look best in, but which room is best for the product itself. Put it in a place that you like to be. There is no need to make using the equipment a hassle by going somewhere in your home you don’t want to be.

If you prefer looking outside at nature, people passing by or just the traffic, go ahead and put the product in front of a window. If you like to watch TV, then you can put your fitness equipment near a TV. Or, go ahead and buy a TV to put in front of your fitness equipment!

You may reference your Owner’s Guide for particular instructions, but generally you want your product in a finished, temperature-controlled part of your home. The unit should be on a level, stable surface, and make sure that you have enough space around the entire unit for safety (reference Owner’s guide for specific measurements). Humidity, heat and cold can all negatively affect how the product will operate, and if it doesn’t affect it immediately, it can cause problems later on. To that note, we highly recommend keeping equipment out of garages, unfinished basements or unenclosed sun rooms and porches.

These are just a few small tips on getting the most out of your product, and helping the product work its best for you. Think of it as any high-priced electronic item. Would you want to put that in a damp musty basement, and then hang out there? No, I didn’t think so.

 

 

Use Internet Product Reviews and Claims to Your Buying Benefit

Buying the right fitness equipment for your home gym can be a daunting task. If you are like most people making a significant purchase for your home, you will probably turn to the Internet to do some research on product reviews, or even make a purchase. It has become almost second nature for a majority of the population these days.

Although the Internet is a wonderful invention that has significantly changed the way we live our lives, it has also become a source for an incredible amount of misinformation and marketing chicanery. Like shopping or researching in any channel, you should consider the source. A combination of affiliate marketing websites, product reviews and pay-per-click advertising can make your research more challenging. However, there is a ton of accurate and legitimate information out there. Here are some tips to help you find reliable information.

Get Information Directly From the Source

Use manufacturers’ websites to find correct product information (features/specifications) and local distributors’ websites for information on where you can actually try, test and talk to a sales professional about the products you are interested in. Exercise and your health are very personal, and what is right for your friend or cousin, may not necessarily be right for you. I encourage you to take the time to educate yourself on the programs and equipment options that are available to you.

Be wary of the temptation of late night infomercials

Some fitness “gadgets” sold on TV are of inferior quality and questionable design. However, there are some very successful workout programs out there. If you do watch infomercials, don’t forget to do your research before making a purchasing decision. Look for those products that offer a guarantee without charging fees for returns, show results from actual customers and have research to back up their claims.

Educate Yourself on Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing websites have grown significantly over the years. Affiliate marketing is using one website to drive traffic to another via methods such as search engine optimization, paid search engines, email marketing, loyalty programs and product reviews. The affiliate is then compensated when the customer purchases from the original merchant.

Affiliates can help manufacturers generate awareness and sales through their large network. Affiliate websites are usually sales or content focused. Affiliate sites that are content focused often promote product reviews. Consumer product reviews are generally the most credible. If a specific website features product reviews they should list their review methodology and their experience in the health and fitness space to help you decide for yourself if the review is credible. Look for websites that offer original content and not just content that is copied from the manufacturer.

Read credible product reviews

Product reviews can be a very useful way to get the inside scoop on a product you’re considering purchasing. However, the source of the reviews should be considered. Some online shopping sites are well known for their reviews, and a manufacturer’s website tends to be a good bet. Look out though for websites with no negative reviews. Not to say it’s impossible, but tread carefully as sites with purely positive reviews may not be transparent.

Fortunately there are ways to spot fakes and bogus reviews. One study conducted at Cornell University, found that fake reviews focused more on narratives and superlatives than concrete product descriptions – probably because reviewers rarely have actual experience with the products. According to the website www.wikihow.com, the following tips can be used to spot a fake review.

  • First, check to see if the outgoing links on reviewed products include an affiliate tracking code.
  • Look at what else is on the site.
  • Look to see if the date of the review is current or has been changed recently. Often fake reviewers will change dates to make their page look more recent that it really is.

Affiliate reviews may contain questionable ethics, as low and behold, the products they are trying steer you to buy from their partner merchant often end up as the “number-one rated” or “best buy” when they really are not. Of course, there are award-winning and number-one products out there, but it is a good idea to confirm directly with the manufacturer or awarding entity to make sure the award is accurate.

If someone else praises a product, we’re more likely to think it is worth our time and money. Yep, there are still some fabricated reviews out there but that is why you should look for products with multiple reviews from multiple people. There should also be reviews that are not 100% positive.

When Reading Blogs, Look for Full Disclosure

Paid bloggers is becoming another way for corporations to spread the word about their products on the Internet and to create buzz. It is a relatively inexpensive way to advertise. And bloggers are very eager to turn what was once a hobby, in to a way to make money. The Internet is becoming so populated with paid bloggers, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) is considering imposing new laws regulating how products can be pitched on the Internet. Full disclosure of compensation is one way in which a blogger would have to inform their readers about the products they choose to talk about. It probably won’t happen soon, but the fact they are looking into it is      recognition enough that this practice should be monitored.

Use the web to educate yourself on certain models and specifications, and then go talk to a fitness professional at a nearby store and try different models to see which one fits your body properly. The experience will be worth your while and will help get you on the right track to a healthier lifestyle.

Test a Treadmill Before You Buy – The 5 & 5 Demonstration

Once you step into a fitness equipment retailer, it can become daunting to think about trying out all of your options. Aside from checking out aesthetics, testing the performance of a piece of equipment, including a treadmill, is equally important. Here are a couple of tips to help you through the process.

I like to demonstrate the best qualities of our new T40 and TF40 treadmills with what I call the “5 & 5” Rule. It really helps display the durability, quietness and stability of our treadmill frames and consoles. Start by placing a set of car keys and any loose change you can gather into the side cup holders. Turn the treadmill on and touch the 5 percent incline and the 5 mph buttons on the console. Then stand four to five feet from the treadmill. If you’re the sales person, ask the customer to do this. By standing back from the machine, you will notice the console’s ‘ease of use’ as well as the great aesthetics (especially the Touch screen).

Proceed to jog or run on the treadmill. What you will see is not only a quiet and comfortable looking treadmill, but one that is well-built, reliable and sturdy without any shaking or side-to-side wobbling. If the treadmill is leveled properly on the floor, the keys and change will not make a sound!

Try this test and you will agree that the Vision Fitness treadmill is a top-of-the-line piece of fitness equipment.

Some of the Best Elliptical Features: Incline and Foldable Frame

There are numerous choices when it comes to Elliptical trainers. But which choice is best for you? There are a number of things to consider when purchasing an elliptical for your home: How does the elliptical feel, what price point are you most comfortable with, which features you require, where will you put the elliptical and how much space do you have to work with. Two extremely popular choices are folding ellipticals and Suspension Elliptical™ trainers. Both choices offer space saving qualities, help you maintain proper form and provide the user with a great feel.

Folding Elliptical

Vision Fitness was the first company to develop and deliver a folding elliptical and recently, we’ve created the next generation of folding ellipticals for those who are ‘tight’ on space. The Vision Fitness XF40 features a highly durable, welded-steel frame design with patented folding pedal arms that allow compact storage. It is easy to fold and offers a hydraulic assist that effortlessly lowers the pedal arms (similar to how a folding treadmill ‘drops’) when it’s time for your workout. When it’s folded, there are four wheels for easy maneuvering from within a room or moving the elliptical to another room.

XF40 folding elliptical trainer

 

The space-saving features are great but I know some are asking, “How does it feel?” Quite simply, the feel is great. The XF40 folding elliptical offers everything that a traditional ellipticals offers and more. Superior motion, zero foot pedal spacing, premium oversized footpads and multiple handgrip options all provide a comfortable fit for multiple users. Of course, not everyone requires a folding elliptical. Perhaps you are looking for something that offers a little more variety but are still conscious of space? Keep reading!

 

Suspension Elliptical™ with incline feature

Most Vision Fitness Suspension Elliptical trainers offer a unique ‘incline’ feature that have become very popular over the years.

Quite simply, the incline of the trainer changes the angles of your legs while working out. Benefits of having incline are numerous:

  • Proven to burn more calories
  • Activates & targets more of your leg muscles, which is great for toning
  • Increases intensity, making your workouts more challenging
  • Decrease the effects of ‘muscle memory’
  • Provides the ability to increase length of stride when the incline is increased
  • Ability to change your routine and reduce workout ‘boredom’
  • Provides a customized feel for multiple users (i.e. Families)

Some incline ellipticals require the user to manually adjust the incline. Typically, this can be tedious and frustrating for a user. Ellipticals that have automatic/electronic elevation are generally better since they offer more range and don’t require the user to pause their workout to make the desired adjustment(s).

Another really useful feature of the incline elliptical is the ability to target specific muscle groups quickly and efficiently. When you pedal forward on an elliptical and change the incline, you incorporate different sets of muscles. When you pedal backwards and change the incline, you target the same muscle groups but different parts of the muscle. Going backwards and forwards, while using the incline, is a great way to change up your routine, utilize all of your leg muscles and minimize the dreaded ‘workout boredom’ that most people encounter at some point.Vision Fitness Suspension Elliptical Trainer

The Vision Fitness S7100, S7200 and S70 all offer the incline feature as well as the other benefits of a suspension trainer. Although the suspension trainers do not fold, they do take up considerably less space and offer the following advantages over most traditional ellipticals:

  • No track/wheels
  • Superior stability
  • Incline
  • Small footprint
  • 2-inch pedal spacing, which keeps the hips aligned properly
  • Vision’s ‘Perfect Stride’

Whether you choose a suspension trainer that offers incline or a space saving folding elliptical, the bottom line is to choose what feels best to the person(s) who will be using it. Remember, the best piece of fitness equipment is the piece that you will use and enjoy.

Tips for Purchasing a New Exercise Bike

During my days as a sales representative, it always amazed me when people in need of an exercise bike would typically ask a lot of questions about bikes, but would rarely get on and try them. There are many exercise bikes on the market and, like any other product, there are designs that will fit your needs and others that won’t. The most important thing to do is try out a variety of models and choose the best one for you. Here are some tips on what to look for in an exercise bike.

Comfort

There are two major frame styles of bikes from to choose: recumbent and upright. The number one question I received over the years was, “Which is better, recumbent or upright?” There is no right or wrong answer. Both styles keep you moving and raise your heart rate. Because both styles of bikes require you to sit, a comfortable seat is extremely important.

Recumbent bikes

Vision Fitness R40 Recumbent Exercise Bike

Vision Fitness R40 Recumbent Exercise Bike with reclining seat feature.

This is a great option for users who require extra lumbar support. Many recumbent bikes, like the Vision Fitness® R20, now offer adjustable mesh seats which tend to be more comfortable and use a more breathable material that significantly reduces the amount of sweat build-up.There are also seats, such as that on the R40, which have an additional “recline” feature, allowing the user to be slightly tilted back, thus opening up the diaphragm and enabling easier breathing. It is a wonderful feature for pregnant women who would like to (comfortably) continue their cardiovascular training. A “walk-thru” recumbent bike makes it easier for a user to comfortably enter and exit the bike. This is particularly important for those who have sustained a lower-body injury and/or users with mobility setbacks.

Upright bikes

For the average person who is used to and enjoys a more traditional bike, an upright frame is the way to go. Much like with the recumbent, a comfortable seat is extremely important. Ensure that you have enough padding/comfort so you can sustain your workout for your intended duration. Remember, if you’re not comfortable on any given piece of equipment, you won’t use it!

Adjustability/Stability

The more adjustability you have, the more you can customize your perfect fit. Recumbent bikes have a front/back seat adjustment, while upright bikes have an up/down adjustment.

Check the seat adjustment for ease of use. It should have a very simple lever to pull, and the seat should slide smoothly to accommodate your height. If it is a struggle to adjust the seat, check out alternative bikes. If the bike will have multiple users, seat adjustments that contain a numbering system might be best. Numbering systems are an easy way to remember your preferred position and quickly adjust.

The stability of a bike is also very important. The last thing you want is for your bike to be rocking back and forth or from side to side. Better bikes have adjustable stabilizers to provide a more stable ride. Shake the recumbent exercise bike while you are sitting on it. Poorly made recumbent exercise bikes wobble as you peddle. A quality machine should not move at all after you’ve properly stabilized it.

Quiet/SmoothVision Fitness R40 Recumbent Exercise Bike

Quality components are important for any piece of mechanical equipment. Exercise bikes are no different. Higher-end bikes will use a wider internal drive belt, which provides more surface area and a smoother, more fluid feel. Make sure the pedals of the recumbent exercise bike move in a smooth motion. It should feel natural and not make any funny noises. If you need to move your legs at unnatural angles, the machine is not a good fit.

Finally, purchasing an exercise bike is an investment in your health and wellness. Take the time to seek out a specialty store in your area and speak with a trained sales associate. They are there to help you find the perfect piece of equipment and assist you in reaching your goals comfortably and efficiently.

7 Tips to Consider When Purchasing a Treadmill

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Walking into a fitness store can be an overwhelming event. There’s typically a wide variety of equipment to view and consider buying for your home. But it doesn’t have to be a fearful experience. Armed with some sound advice, you can find the perfect treadmill to bring home and enjoy for years to come. Knowing a little in advance what you may be looking for will help your specialty fitness retailer provide suggestions on the treadmill for you. Here are seven tips to consider when purchasing a new treadmill.

1. Never ever buy a treadmill you don’t have an opportunity to try first

This advice should be applied to the purchase of any piece of fitness equipment. The way a treadmill fits and feels to you is perhaps the single most overlooked consideration and will have a tremendous influence on whether or not you enjoy using it and whether or not you want to get on and use it again. Reviews are helpful, but do not rely on reviews alone.

2. Space and placementFolding treadmill

Know where you want to put the machine and measure the space before you go shopping. If you are considering a folding unit, know that this feature adds to the cost of any unit and ask yourself if it is a necessary feature, meaning will you actually fold it up when you are not using it.

3. Don’t think that just because you plan on walking that the motor isn’t important

Walking can, in many cases, create more work for a motor than running. This is because at slow speeds the amount of time your foot is in contact and “dragging” or being pulled across the deck surface is longer than when running. Your push off at the end of a running stride will also “push” the belt. This push is missing while at walking speeds. This “push” also occurs when walking at inclines, both of which assist the motor. When the motor is running fast it also has the assistance of inertia.

4. Programs are not bells and whistles

There is a varying degree of quality and effectiveness in programming options, but in general, programs should help you achieve your goals faster while keeping you engaged in your workout. Ask yourself if your current or past “routine” is getting or had gotten you the results you are after. Ask your sales consultant if the unit has any programs that are specific to the goal you are trying to achieve. Great examples of this would be Sprint 8®, Glute Burn, 5K, HR Control and Virtual Active™ programs.

5. Controls

Are the controls for speed and incline displayed and accessible in a way that is easy and comfortable for you to use when walking or running on the treadmill the way you will use it at home? Can you change speed and incline while running or walking at full stride or a high incline without jeopardizing your safety? Again, it is important that you try the treadmill before you buy it, go shopping in comfortable, preferably workout, clothing. Don’t forget to consider the design of the side steps: Are they wide enough, and are they slip resistant?

6. Where you buy is important

Buy from a dealership/salesperson that you can come back to for support and questions after the sale. Although a treadmill purchase can be a pricey endeavor, remember that it is still a mechanical item with many moving parts that must work in unison. And even the very best quality exercise equipment has the potential need for support and service.

7. Prepare yourself for an investment

Know that a quality treadmill should last you for many years and that it is a long-term investment. Although everyone should work within their budget, don’t skimp where you don’t have to. This purchase is a long-term commitment to yourself, and you’re worth it. You don’t want something you won’t enjoy, and you don’t want to buy a treadmill every couple of years.

Print these buying tips out, write them down or save them in a file on your computer. However you choose, make sure you consider these tips when walking into any fitness store to make the next treadmill purchase for your home.

What to Look for When Buying an Elliptical

Shopping for an elliptical can be a little trickier than shopping for a treadmill or bike. The feel of an elliptical’s footpath is very personal. What may feel perfect to one person, may feel short and choppy to the next. Body size, hip width and upper torso dimensions can all play a role in choosing the elliptical that is right for you. It is important that you try a few different brands, preferably at a specialty fitness store where you can receive some expert advice as well. Here are a few tips on what to look for when shopping for a new elliptical trainer, or cross trainer.

The first thing you should think about when buying an elliptical is whether or not you are comfortable with the motion/movement of a particular brand’s unit. Unlike treadmills and bikes, each manufacturer’s elliptical will have a different feel. Some of that is due to a company’s philosophy, but in reality, much of it is due to the different patents that vendors have on their machines. Once you feel comfortable on a machine, you then have to analyze whether or not the design of the elliptical puts your body in a natural position for working out. Remember, you are going to be using this machine at least three times a week for 20 to 30 minutes. If the elliptical is not designed properly, your body will eventually “rebel” in the form of discomfort and pain.

You need to pay attention to three things when analyzing whether or not the manufacturer took the time to design the unit properly.

  1. Pedal spacing
    This is the distance between the pedals. Many ellipticals, especially on the lower end, will have 5-6 inches between their pedals, placing the hips too far apart. This can lead to pain and discomfort in the hip joint. If you have ever seen your footprints in the sand or snow, you’ll notice how close together they actually are when you walk or run. Pedal spacing in the 2-inch range or less is the most desirable.
  2. Arm spacing
    Just as with the pedal space, the distance between the arms is important as well. Many elliptical arms measure 22-23 inches apart. This is too wide and will put undo stress on the shoulder joint. An acceptable range here would be from 16-18 inches apart.
  3. Posture
    While engaging the upper body, does the unit pull you forward causing a bend in the lower back? If it does, run – don’t walk – away from that elliptical because it will cause you lower back pain for sure.

Finally, if your budget allows, look for an elliptical with some sort of adjustable incline.

elliptical incline

By changing the elliptical incline, you can target different muscles and change the pedaling motion from a running feel to a stair climbing motion.

The ability to adjust the incline will challenge you more, help you achieve your goals quicker and will work the quads, hamstrings and glutes at different angles. This can better develop and tone your lower body. It also adds variety to your workouts and can help prevent you from hitting those dreaded plateaus that can happen from time to time, because you will be constantly challenging yourself and your muscles with new levels of intensity. Fitness and personal growth most occur when people are pushed outside of their comfort zone. The ability to adjust the incline on your elliptical will do just that.