Aerobic exercise is an important component of a healthy lifestyle. Find out more about aerobic equipment that can help keep you fit.

Millions of Americans walk or run on treadmills or use other types of equipment to get aerobic exercise, and according to the National Sporting Goods Association, they spend billions of dollars every year on home aerobic equipment and gym memberships. The benefits of aerobic exercise done on these machines include better cardiovascular health, improved bone and muscle strength, and an increased sense of well-being.

Aerobic equipment simulates the movements of aerobic exercises such as walking, jogging, rowing, skiing, hiking, biking, and climbing. These activities rhythmically and continuously move your large muscles — the key to getting your heart beating fast enough and long enough for aerobic conditioning.

Using Aerobic Equipment at Home or at the Gym
It costs money to set up aerobic equipment in your home or join a health club, but for many people the convenience and reliability of an indoor aerobic workout are worth the investment. Here’s a rundown of the most popular aerobic machines:

Treadmill. Treadmills are the most popular type of aerobic equipment both at home and in gyms. Walking or running on a treadmill can strengthen your lower body and improve cardiovascular conditioning. Many treadmills have monitors to check your blood pressure and heart rate, and you can increase the intensity of your workout by changing the incline or the speed. A treadmill can range from a simple foot-powered belt on rollers to an electronic model that cost several thousand dollars and comes programmed for a variety of speeds, grades, and monitoring options, like telling you how many calories you’re burning.

Stair stepper. These machines put less stress on your knees than real stairs, but should be avoided if you have knee or hip problems. Stair climbers (which look like escalators) are fairly strenuous and may not be appropriate for a beginner.

Stationary bike. This type of low-impact aerobic equipment can be especially valuable if you have arthritis and are unable to walk for long periods of time. It is also a good choice if you are overweight because it gives your heart a workout without putting stress on your back, hips, and knees. Like the treadmill, stationary bikes range from inexpensive and simple to costly models that simulate various types of outdoor terrain.

Elliptical trainer/cross trainer. These machines exercise both the upper and lower body, creating an excellent cardiovascular workout with low-impact, fluid body movements. Like the stair stepper, these aerobic machines can be fairly strenuous for a beginner, so you may want to try one out at a gym before buying one for home use.

Rowing or ski machine. Because you are using both your upper and lower body on these aerobic machines, you can burn a lot of calories as you tone major muscle groups and get a good cardiovascular workout. Both of these pieces of aerobic equipment require an above average amount of coordination to use properly.

Consult with your doctor before you start using aerobic equipment. You should also be trained and checked out by an exercise specialist or trainer to make sure you’re using the proper technique for the aerobic equipment you choose. To avoid buying an expensive piece of exercise equipment that you rarely use, try a machine several times before you buy one. Make sure you enjoy using it. To avoid injury, start slowly and gradually build up your routine over time; always include a warm-up and cool-down period in your workout routine.

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