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Workout Devices Get Rated

Experts Argue Pros, Cons of the Latest Exercise Equipment

Bowflex

Bryant: "This is a system that involves resistance rods or bands. It's been around awhile and is good for resistance training. It's reasonably compact and can be used to do a variety of exercises. More experienced users might be more critical -- they won't experience what they get in a gym. But for the average user, it would be good for resistance training."

Fichera: "The Bowflex is a superb strength-training machine. When you use those cables, it forces you to challenge primary muscles in the shoulder, chest, and triceps as well as support muscles. In fact, it allows you to challenge all major muscles in the body. The machine itself provides smooth range of motion and is the most versatile machine around. I highly recommend it."

A word of caution: Grabbing cables from behind could mean a pulled muscle. "But if you have a workout partner, he can pull the cable in front of you to get you started," Fichera tells WebMD.

The Gazelle

Bryant: "The Gazelle really tries to provide low-impact exercise, but the swinging movement is not necessarily great because it can be quite uncomfortable. The advertisements really play up the successively wide range of motion you can get. But it could be difficult -- even problematic -- if you do it repeatedly. They also tend to over-hype what you can expect to achieve."

Fichera: "This [As Seen on TV product] is advertised as a low-impact exercise machine, but what you get is almost no impact. It does provide very smooth range of motion. The problem is, your body performs actions that are not natural. They can potentially be dangerous because of extra stress they put on hips, knees, ankles, and lower back. Also, it's not made for very tall people."

Inversion/Gravity Tables

Bryant: These have been marketed to people with back problems and for exercise. When the body is inverted, or turned over, the spine supposedly gets some relief from stress of gravity. People perform abdominal exercises and others from the inverted position. His concern: "The blood pressure in your eyes and blood vessels in the head and neck area are increased, which could be dangerous for individuals with heart disease, stroke, or glaucoma risk factors."

Fichera: "I was advised never to exercise in the inverted position. Inversion puts a lot of pressure on the lower back. Men especially have this problem because they hold a huge portion of their weight in the upper body region. When they are inverted, the pressure shifts to the lower body, which can put pressure on the spine. For a certain percentage of the population, this could be very hazardous. There are other ways to strengthen the spinal muscles."

Kangoo Jumps

Bryant: "These aren't shoes, they're devices you wear on your feet. The intent is to lessen impact associated with weight-bearing exercise. Some preliminary research conducted at a couple of universities has shown they may be right. But one concern might be that it alters a person's gait, which could cause other orthopedic problems."

Fichera: "It looks like these are good for softening high impact, but it would not generate results an athlete is training for. It also looks like it would throw your posture off and potentially create an injury. When you land, it's not guaranteed you will land properly. I'm not sure it's safe for older or heavier people."

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