Leibowitz says she is "really happy" with the Torso Track and values the convenience of exercising at home. "When you have a baby, you don't get out," she says. But even with her array of home equipment, Leibowitz still goes to a health club two to three times a week. "I like going to the gym because it has everything and it has the space," she tells WebMD.
Porcari and others emphasize that people should not buy fitness devices -- even good ones -- in the hopes that they will motivate them to exercise. "In all honesty, there's only a small percentage of people who have the internal drive to exercise at home," says Porcari.
An article in the March issue of Consumer Reports, which reviews 12 popular home gyms, echoes that sentiment, noting that a survey of its readers taken a few years ago found only 25% of respondents who had bought exercise devices within the previous five years were still using them. More people -- almost 50% -- stuck with home gyms.
For those who want to work a home gym into their exercise routine, Consumer Reports evaluates models based on how well stations adjusted to users of varying sizes and strength levels, whether the exercises provided a full range of motion for muscle groups, and whether the motions were safe and effective.
Scoring high on all measures was the Hoist Multi-Gym H210, followed by the Body Solid Multi-Station EXM-1500S. The H210 goes for a pricey $1,700, while the EXM-1500S was rated a CR Best Buy at $700. The least expensive machine, the Total Gym 1000 for $200, ranked in the middle as good overall, but it is limited to about half of a user's body weight and therefore may be inadequate for stronger users, according to the magazine.
Some home devices -- particularly those that cost less than $200 - may also not be built to last. Len Kravitz, PhD, assistant professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico, advises users to become familiar with a product's warranty and return policy. Consumers often must foot the shipping bill for returning a device, and some companies tack on a restocking fee. It is also a good idea to check the Better Business Bureau to see if there have been any consumer problems with the manufacturer.