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Workout Devices Get Rated

Experts Argue Pros, Cons of the Latest Exercise Equipment

Indoor-Cycling Bikes

Bryant: These are "pretty effective -- they can be adjusted to match individual body dimensions. The speed can also be adjusted. However, most people don't know exactly how to adjust these bikes. There are bike-fitting and ride-along videos to teach you. One of the best out there is Le Mans Webmaster -- it helps keep you motivated."

Fichera: Indoor-cycling bikes "provide a very smooth form of low-impact exercise. But I don't think they have the variability in resistance that a standard bike has. Also, in classes you are pushed way beyond your comfort zone. To get results, you have to feel some degree of discomfort or burn. I can't see someone doing it in their own home."

The Total Gym

Bryant: "This has been around for quite some time. It allows you to perform functional exercise movements like pull-ups. People can get a reasonable dose of resistance exercise. It's not for people who have trained at a high level in a gym. But for a home device, it does give a minimal dose of exercise."

Fichera: "I've only seen this in a video, but it looks like a good piece of apparatus, particularly for beginners. My question is, does it provide enough resistance? There's a time when the body reaches adaptation, and you have to increase resistance to get benefit. It doesn't look like you can get much more with this system. Also, I'm concerned that some of the exercise motions could put too much stress on ankles, knees, and the lower back."

Trampolines (Mini)

Bryant: "This is another effort to minimize impact from weight-bearing exercises, just like the Kangoo Jumps. Theoretically, you can get a good aerobic workout if you move at an aggressive enough speed. But it's hard to sustain that high rate. It also would be hard to get much calorie burn. There is a free-flowing nature to your movements, which could help in managing stress. It has a soothing effect. But that's largely theory."

Fichera: "Mini trampolines are great; they can allow an aerobic workout that is non-impact. As opposed to jogging outside, you can jog in place. There's a good amount of calorie burn, because you challenge your leg muscles and, indirectly, your abs. You also get a decent cardio workout. It's safe, fun, different."

Fichera's mother is a prime example of staying fit with minimum equipment: "She's 71 years old, and she uses her mini trampoline two or three times a week. When she can't go out for long walks, she gets her trampoline out. She also plays in four bowling leagues. Plays handball twice a week. In fact, she beats women a third her age at handball."

Some "As Seen On TV" products live up to their hype. But buyer beware. "I'd want to try it first, see what it felt like, if it were me," Fichera tells WebMD.

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Reviewed on August 11, 2003

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