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Gym Toys Demystified

Are you interested in some of those nifty little home gym gadgets you see advertised in infomercials and fitness magazines? Why not let Mama help you decide which is best? Before you buy fitness equipment that is fated to become an expensive coat rack, take a look at what factors you should first consider:

  • Cost: While cost is definitely a factor, being penny wise and pound foolish is inadvisable. Low cost equipment is often poorly made. Be sure to consider the warranty when purchasing exercise equipment.
  • Space limitations: Can the product be folded for storage. Can it be placed where it won’t be blocking household furniture?
  • Child and Pet Safety: Children and pets like to play with cables and rubber products. Is there a way to keep the equipment out of reach of your two-legged and four-legged children?
  • Versatility: Products that can only be used for a few muscle groups or for one aspect of fitness will soon be subject to the “boredom factor.”
  • Training Other Muscle Groups: Home gym equipment should give a well-rounded workout.
  • Portability: If you like to take your equipment on the road, your options are a bit more limited. Bands and deflatable products such as the stability ball are probably the best option. Your choice depends upon how much you travel. If you only go away once a year, there is no need to choose equipment based on portability. On the other hand, frequent business travelers may want to choose portable equipment.
  • Usability for family and roommates: Your equipment choice becomes less expensive when family members and roommates also use it.

Now let’s look at the various products:

Exercise Balls

Exercise balls are probably the one of the most economical, portable and versatile forms of home exercise equipment. They are also referred to as stability balls, fitballs, balance balls and gymballs. Prices range from $10-$40, depending on the quality. The higher priced balls usually have a burst resistant property. Working out on an exercise ball requires active deep core muscles. This makes them excellent for developing the balance needed for athletic performance enhancement. Every muscle group in the body can be exercised. The balls can be deflated and taken on vacation!

Resistance Tubes and Bands

Contrary to popular belief, exercise tubes and bands are not just for beginners. They come in varying resistances, some of which are downright challenging! The price is also right. Bands and tubes range from $5-$25.

Skier’s Edge

The Skier’s Edge is also a lateral training device, but with more “bells and whistles” than the Pro Fitter, and at a considerably higher price. The company makes different models for different types of skiing.

Total Gym

Like the Skiers Edge, Total Gym has many products that come in a wide range of prices. The Total Gym is a dynamic pulley system set up on an inclined glide board. Exercises can be done either from the incline or decline position. The machines have varying levels of calibrated resistance which represent a proportion of the user’s body weight. The pulley system enables you to perform exercises in three planes of movement, without any restrictions on range of motion. The Total Gym web site has an exercise library featuring over 100 exercises.

One of the most unique features of the Total Gym is the option to feature the Pilates Accessory Package. Unlike the traditional Pilates Reformer, the Pilates exercises on Total Gym can be done either on an incline or decline position.


The Bowflex is another cable/ pulley system that focuses on more traditional movements, such as the type you would find on traditional gym-based weight training equipment.

Optional accessories include an attachable DVD player, and an “I-Trainer,” which evaluates your workouts and tracks your progress. Personal trainer and Pilates Professional June Kahn designed this system, which uses the stability ball along with the Bowflex equipment.

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