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How to Pick a Quality Exercise Machine That Fits Your Needs And Your Budget

Updated on February 17, 2014

Having an exercise machine in your home makes it easier to do your workouts. You simply roll out of bed, hop on the machine, and begin your warm ups.

Sounds great, but picking the machine that fits your needs AND your budget can be a little tricky. Otherwise, the machine likely will become an expensive clothes hanger or pet sleeping area.

The exercise machines discussed in this article are based on Consumer Reports recommendations (Best Buys - most bang for the buck) and buyer reviews.

First Things First

Where will the machine live?
Exercise machines take up a lot of real estate, so figure out ahead of time where it will reside and if it will fit in the space. Morning exercisers typically situate their machine in front of a TV set so they can watch the morning news program.

Limited space. Some machines fold up so they can be stored but unless you live in a tiny apartment or house, it seems rather inconvenient to set up a machine every time you want to use it (and you won't). Besides, they aren't exactly light.

Installation is not for amateurs.
These machines don't usually arrive assembled. If you want it to work correctly, seriously consider paying for an expert to put it together. Some negative buyer reviews are based on problems with DIY assembly. Amazon will hook you up with an expert installer.

Test Test Test.
You can save big bucks if you buy online, but test out the machine in a retail store before you reap the savings.

What is your reason for getting the machine? Do you have a goal in mind? Exercise machines mainly expedite cardio (endurance) exercise. If you want to get the most benefit from treadmills, ellipticals, and spin bikes, you should investigate high intensity interval training (refer to this article: Aerobic Exercise for Dummies (If You Are Still Spending Hourly Sessions on the Treadmill and Hoping to Lose Weight).

Treadmill Best Buys

The nonfolding least priceyTreadmill Best Buy a la Consumer Reports - AFG 7.1 AT. It costs in the $1700 range. The least expensive folding model - AFG 3.1 AT priced about $1200.

If you are experiencing sticker shock after seeing these prices, remember these are best buys - most of the models rated in Consumer Reports are pricier.

Elliptical Best Buy

An elliptical machine is a little tricker to operate than a treadmill (I try to forget my first experience on one in the health club), but once you get started, you're in for a rigorous workout.

These machines have the biggest requirement for expert installation because they are more complex machines. Apparently, if they are not lubricated properly, they make strange and unusual noises.

CS's best buy elliptical - AFG 3.1AE.

Spin Bike

For anyone who's been in a spinning class, you know that you can get an excellent workout. You can do the same thing at home with lively music and interval training. So, motivate yourself, save the cost of the spin class, and get your very own spin bike.

Spin bikes are the best candidates for high intensity interval training. You can start with 4 intervals (mentioned in the article quoted previously) and work your way up to 8 intervals for maximum value. Be sure you have a heart rate monitor so you don't exceed your max rate 80% of 220 minus your age.

CS rates the Diamondback 510ic ($800) as the best spin bike and the Sunny SF-B901 ($285) as a "good value for the money."

Register Your Vote!

If you could buy one machine for your home, which one would it be?

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