Last year, Americans spent about $4.2 billion alone on at-home exercise equipment, triple the $1.3 billion spent in 1990, according to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association. Most bought treadmills, the country's No. 1 choice for the home gym.
Considering the billions of dollars spent on exercise, we are clearly on the right track. But exercise doesn't have to be so costly. Instead of spending thousands of dollars on a home gym, you can actually spend less than $100 and burn just as many calories!
All you need are a few essentials: a step, jump rope, exercise bands, and a pedometer, according to Kathy Kaehler, "Today Show" fitness contributor, celebrity trainer and author of How to Get a Hollywood Body; in Just 30 Minutes a Day'(Broadway Books, $22.95).
The products' simplicity, low cost and effectiveness make them enticing, says Ed Howley, past president of the American College of Sports Medicine in Indianapolis. They are part f a larger national movement that embraces boot camp style fitness programs that stress traditional, or military-style calisthenics.
"We are seeing a movement back to the 'old fashioned programs' like push ups and dips, and things that don't require any equipment at all," Howley says.
One of Kaehler's favorite exercise aids is the step. In the 80′s, the step was to exercise what the crimping iron was to hair. Though the step gave way to elipticals and spinning bikes during the last few years, it has remained an essential ingredient to Kaehler's exercise programs for a clientele that includes Michelle Pfeiffer, Penelope Ann Miller, Jami Gertz and Justine Bateman.
"I find it to be the quickest way to pump up the heart rate and burn a lot of calories, while taking up minimal space," says Kaehler.
More than making your heart pump, the step quickly produces visible results. "Women who do step consistently have great legs and glutes," says Kaehler, who uses step routines in her new workout video, "Kathy Kaehler Basics: Workout Class
Might as well jump!
Pull out that old jump rope and get back into the swing of things. Not only is jump roping fun to do, but the benefits are immediate and lasting.
During each minute of fast-paced jump roping, a 140lb person can burn approximately 11 calories, according to the ACSM fitness book. It also raises your heart rate, increases stamina, strengthens your core, arms, legs and heart, and developing hand-eye coordination and rhythm.
Kaehler incorporates jump roping into the routines of most of her celebrity clients. While you may have mastered the rotating rope in your youth, Kaehler reminds us that it is a skill that needs practice.
"We have all done it - just maybe not for several years. Give yourself the opportunity to get good at it again."
Kaehler's advice: "Wear good shoes and try to practice on a hardwood floor, or any other flooring that gives a little. Buy a good rope."
When you are appropriately equipped, see how many consecutive revolutions you can do. Then, challenge yourself to do a few more.
If you are continually tripping yourself up on the rope, Kaehler recommends that you "concentrate on the form. It isn't a big jump _your feet are barely leaving the ground. It is less about arm movement and more about wrist movement. Concentrate on moving from your elbow on down."
Once you have mastered the basics, challenge yourself and change up your routine by adding scissor steps and knee lifts.
She's with the band
For a well-rounded fitness routine, resistance training must be included. But that doesn't mean that you have to lift heavy weights. Used for years by physical therapists, resistance bands are an effective alternative to traditional free weights, especially for range of motion and functional training.
With varying resistance (according to the band as well as hand placement), the degree of difficulty is easily adjusted depending on the exercise and your level of strength. Unlike traditional weights, bands create resistance on both the up and the down motions, creating a
More controlled, continuous and efficient movement. Kaehler notes that, "When using weights, however, the benefits of the down motion can be minimal, as un-experienced exercisers tend to drop the weight down."
In addition to the workout offered by bands, Kaehler likes them because they are convenient. "Bands are great because they are light weight, easily folded and stored away, and you can travel with them."
Most bands come in packages of three, each color representing a different degree of resistance. Kaehler suggests that you rotate through all three during a workout routine, choosing a colored band for each exercise that allows you to do 8-10 repetitions before your muscles fatigue.
Stepping it up
Fitness walking was rated as the most preferred form of exercise last year, according to a recent study published by the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association.
That's not surprising, says Howley and others, considering walking can be done anywhere, anytime, and doesn't require much money.
"In terms of raw cost, is very economical," says Howley, "It doesn't require any equipment except a good pair of walking shoes."
If you want to add an additional, low-cost piece of equipment, calculates the number of steps taken, as well as distance walked and sometimes even calories burned.
"A pedometer is a very good motivational device. Even for a person who doesn't do traditional exercise, it records incidental activity. For someone not doing much physical activity, at the end of the day they still have 5000 of steps recorded. It makes it easy to add another 2000 or 5000 more."
Before setting out on a walk, decide on a step goal. United States Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson recommends that every American take at least 10,000 steps per day.
At the end of the day, with 10,000 steps behind you, you will wonder why you spent so much on that unused gym membership.
Exercising outside the box
All in the Cards
They may not be your typical exercise props, but, "cards are a fun training tool to increase range of motion during lunges and squats," says Kathy Kaehler, who incorporates a deck of cards into the lunge and squat routines of her celebrity clients like Julia Roberts and Penelope Ann Miller. "They make you get down a little further in order to place each one on the ground. Start with a stack of 10 or 15 cards. Once they are all out of your hands and on the floor, that set is done!"
Don't designate the gym as your only exercise area. Your kitchen actually has a lot to offer too, says Richard Giorla, owner of Cardio Barre in Studio City. Use your kitchen counter to plie your way to great legs and butt, make your stomach taut with standing reverse ab crunches, sculpt your arms with counter top push ups. When your hands are close together, you target your triceps; when they're further apart, you work your chest. Do calf raises while emptying the dishwasher. Then grab a pair of soup cans and try overhead tricep presses. Or use the cans for bicep curls to train the other side of your arms.
Who ever said multi-tasking can't involve exercise?
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Laurel House is a published author, nationally recognized magazine writer, healthy living spokesperson, national and local morning television show expert, and healthy living advocate. Her website is ChickNotesGuide.