Exercise care when you buy fitness products
Looking for an easy, convenient way to exercise regularly? A piece of home exercise equipment could be the answer for you, but before you whip out your credit card and spend $400 to $3,500, stop and reflect. Will you use it? These tips can help you think hard about this potential purchase:
1 Consider the upside. A piece of fitness equipment could allow you to exercise in the comfort and privacy of your home, so your workouts wouldn't depend on the weather.
2 Leaving the house might not be so bad. The best things in life are free. Without spending a dime, you could get a good workout by walking on a sandy beach or in a shady park before or after the heat of the day. Many area malls offer mall-walking programs in the early morning.
3 Consider low-tech options. If you realize you'll only exercise at home, you don't have to buy a high-tech piece of equipment. For $20 to $40, buy some free weights and an exercise ball for stomach crunches. Another option is a bicycle trainer. You can mount your neglected conventional bicycle onto this low-cost piece of gear, and voila! Instant stationary bike.
4 Opt for something you truly enjoy. If cycling is your thing, consider a stationary bike. If you enjoy hiking, consider a stair stepper. Motorized treadmills are the most likely to be used regularly by their owners; elliptical exercisers also are popular.
5 Save big bucks by buying used. Thousands of consumers out there want to get rid of barely used fitness equipment, so why not take advantage of that? You can find deals trough classified ads, secondhand stores, yard sales and these Web sites: http://tampa.craigslist.org/, www.freecycle.org, www.sharingisgiving.org, www.freecycleamerica.org, www.reuseitnetwork.org and www.freesharing.org.
6 Check for recalls. Call the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission toll-free at 1-800-638-2772 or visit www.cpsc.gov to see whether the equipment has been recalled. Register with the manufacturer in case there's a future recall. Secondhand equipment may not have a warranty, but manufacturers may help you if you have problems.
7 Beware of hype in TV commercials. Some manufacturers claim you'll get results if you use their equipment three or four minutes a day, three times a week. Such claims can't be trusted. Calculate the total cost of the equipment, including shipping and handling, sales tax, delivery and setup fees.
8 Take it for a test drive. If you've tried exercise equipment at a gym or fitness center, home machines can be quite different. Go to the store dressed for a workout and test the gear before you buy.
9 Clarify service and return policies. Make sure you know what repairs can be done for you. You may have to return a heavy piece of equipment through the mail or haul it to an authorized service center.
10 Weigh an extended warranty. Because home exercise equipment can develop problems, an extended warranty may have merit. Consider spending the money for one if a new piece of gear has a warranty with less than a year of parts-and-labor coverage.
Laura T. Coffey
Sources: Consumer Reports (www.consumerreports.org); Federal Trade Commission