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Do-It-Yourself Fitness

A back-to-basics approach may be edging out high-tech exercise trends, experts say.
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WebMD Weight Loss Clinic-Exclusive Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

It wasn't so long ago that we thought the best way to exercise without going to the gym was to turn our bedrooms or living rooms into fully equipped home gyms. We pushed aside our stereos, TVs, even our beds to make room for everything from treadmills to stationary bikes to total gym machines.

For some, this approach worked - and still does. But some experts say they believe that increasingly, people are turning away from high-tech home equipment and getting back to the fitness basics.

"I think we went through an age of technology which we thought was going to put us in better shape but look what's happened: we're not," says Ken Locker, MA, ATC, a certified athletic trainer at Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.

As we became disenchanted with, or overwhelmed by, the equipment, many of us turned them into expensive clothes racks, says Locker, a spokesperson for the National Athletic Trainers Association. "Even when we had them in our homes, they were frequently inconvenient or even difficult to use, so we didn't use them -- at least not as often as we needed to," says Locker, who was an athletic trainer with the Dallas Cowboys during three Super Bowl seasons.

Moreover, says former Navy Seal instructor Phil Black, some home gym equipment became so advanced that it began to overwhelm even professionals.

"When I found myself getting confused in a fitness store and didn't know what to buy, I figured what chance does the average person have of finding what they need?" says Black, a personal trainer in San Diego.

The result, these experts say, has been a kind of low-tech backlash. Among the hottest workouts now, they say, are simple routines that use little equipment other than the body itself.

"The original weight machine was gravity, so if you work against gravity with activities such as push-ups, sit-ups, chin-ups, even walking, you have a pretty powerful way to get in shape," says Locker.

Functional Fitness

In addition to being simple, inexpensive, and easy to do almost anywhere, experts say the low-tech approach offers another benefit: It's the best way to increase our "functional fitness."

"Functional fitness is what you need for getting through your everyday life -- picking up that can of paint, getting down on your knees to get the dog's ball when it rolls under the sofa, taking your grandchild out of a car seat," says Black.

Personal trainer and fitness author Jeff Rutstein agrees.

"Fifty years ago, people were more active in the course of their daily living, so we could do all these things. Now we are a sedentary society, so as we age, we have to reteach our body some basic moves just to be able to do things that make up daily living," says Rutstein, author of Rutstein on Fitness.

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