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At-Home Workouts: 5 Essential Items for a Home Gym

Experts name their picks for the fitness equipment you need to build a home gym.

Top 5 Items You Need for At-Home Workouts continued...

Benefits: Heart health, overall body conditioning; cardiovascular conditioning, some muscle toning, weight loss.

Choices -- $500 and over: Electric treadmill; stationary bike; rowing machine; ski machine. Keep in mind that these machines require 25-30 square feet per unit.

Choices -- $100 and under: A jump rope; stepping machine; a step-block; aerobic exercise videos and DVDs; or cable TV exercise on-demand channel. (You'll need about 10 square feet for these options.)

Trainer's Recommendations: "My personal choice is a treadmill because it's easy to do and easy to stick with," Bottesch says. "If you can afford it, an electronic one is best. But that said, the best piece of equipment is the one you're going to use -- so always choose the activity that you at least think you'll like, let alone love."  If space allows, you can choose more than one of these options for variety. But remember that they will all offer pretty much the same type of benefits.

At-Home Workout Item 2: Strength Training Gear

What Is It: Equipment designed to strengthen muscles.

Benefits: Body shaping; weight loss; functional fitness, including the strength to do everyday tasks with greater ease; for women, reducing the risk of osteoporosis.

Choices -- $500 and over: All-in-one multi-gym; adjustable weight training bench; adjustable barbells; suspension resistance trainer. (Allow 35-50 square feet per item).

Choices: $100 and under: Hand weights (free weights); low end bench; resistance bands. (Allow 20 to 30 square feet).

Trainers' Recommendations: ACE experts recommend "all-in-one" gyms because they reduce the risk of injury in an unsupervised setting. But Quist believes resistance bands are also a safe and economical way to build muscle strength. "By purchasing a few different resistances, from easier to harder, you can get a total body workout for under $50," he says. If you have a few more dollars to spend, his choice is a suspension trainer -- sort of super resistance bands that allow you to use your own body weight to condition muscles. Quist and Bottesch also recommend hand weights in three graduating sizes, like 5, 8, and 10 pounds. To increase their effectiveness, Quist recommends using them while sitting on a stability ball (see next item). 

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