Health & Fitness

Simple Ways to Become Leaner at Home

By Helen M. Ryan, Certified Personal Trainer

There are as many ways to exercise as there are excuses not to. With objections ranging from, “I don’t have time”, to “I don’t have money”, reasons to stay inactive abound. Every year I help you overcome those objections by researching new ways for you to exercise quickly and effectively. Some of this year’s products are challenging, others simply fun, but they are all reasonably priced and offer an end to excuses.

Keeping your workouts fresh and varied are the keys to sticking with any exercise program. Boredom breeds inactivity. Along with the tried and true picks reviewed previously (see Homegrown Muscle and Time Saving Workouts) these products are worthy additions bound to put some perk back into your workouts. Mini-trampolines, weighted fitness balls, all-in-one exercise bars, water fitness toys, and a reliable source of product reviews round out this year’s choices. There is no lack of variety here…and no more reasons to skip your workout.

[Trainer’s POVs are listed following each product are pros and cons.]

Weighted Fitness Balls with Velcro®
Harbinger® (price varies)
(Price varies) – or major retailers

Weighted fitness balls are a staple in any home gym and an all-around fitness favorite. These versatile weighted balls elevate your heart rate, tone your muscles, and increase your flexibility and balance. Weighted balls are used by seniors as well as athletes, and their potential for variety is endless.

These softer of fitness balls have been my choice for years, but the slippery surface when wet has posed problems as the ball slips away. Another issue is the difficulty keeping a grip on the ball when performing single hand exercises during strength and balance moves. Harbinger has solved these problem by adding a Velcro strap to their fitness balls, which allow the ball to stay in place while you twist, jump and reach. With the fitness ball now firmly in hand, the range of exercises that can be performed is much larger than with “non-Velcro” fitness balls.

[Trainer’s POV. Pros: A great benefit of these Harbinger balls is that they really do stay in place, which make them great for agility and balance training. They can even stand in for kettlebells during simple movements due to their shape and weight distribution. They are amazingly sturdy and can tolerate fairly rough use. Cons: The lighter weights of the fitness balls, ranging from 2-10 pounds. A heavier offering would be nice.]

The JB Berns Urban Rebounder
$99.95 – and major retailers

Though rebounding has been around for quite awhile it has not lost its charm. Rebounding is still “in” at major health club chains like Crunch and Bally’s and with good reason: It elevates your heart rate, works your abdominals and increases muscle tone in your legs and butt. Jumping or running on the trampoline is surprisingly challenging, and simple moves such as squats are made more difficult by the suspended surface. The Urban Rebounder also comes with a detachable safety bar that allows you to do exercises that require more balance or security.

From a consumer point of view, the Rebounder is loads of fun. Running, jumping and dancing all take on new meaning when you spring into the air. Adults and children bounce away, not realizing how much effort is involved (rebounding is purported to burn up to 700 calories per hour).

[Trainer’s POV. Pros: Rebounding provides many exercise options, making this a great way to work out at home with few other accessories. Cardio and strength can both be performed on this one unit. Traditional stomach exercises as well as Pilates-inspired moves are more challenging than on the ground. Cons: The size of the Urban Rebounder is a drawback, and it was difficult to attach the stand to the unit.]

Lebert Equalizer
$99 – or online retailers

The Lebert Equalizer bars seem, at first glance, too simple to be versatile. However, delving deeper into the Equalizer bars show exactly how many exercises you can really perform. The portable strength training bars use your own body weight to work your arms, stomach, chest, back and leg muscles. From push ups to pull ups, and dips to squats, more muscles are used with each exercise because you are working against gravity while trying to keep your body stable.

You can easily vary the toughness of any workout by controlling the angle of your body, creating more or less resistance, or adding props such as stability balls. You can even add a cardiovascular component by using the bars as hurdles, or increasing flexibility by stretching on them.

[Trainer’s POV. Pros: I had a chance to try the Lebert Equalizer at a fitness conference and was impressed with the stability of the bars and the degree of exercise difficulty that could be obtained. I did not feel any risk of the bars tipping over, which has been my main concern. Cons: The size. I can’t see it in my bedroom.]

Aqua Fitness Set by Body Glove
$39.95 – or online retailers

Working out in water is big right now and it’s trend that continues to grow. Body Glove is bringing their Aqua Fitness Set to the market to give your body an additional challenge. The kit includes a waist belt, wrist- and ankle belts, and gloves lined with foam inserts, all designed to increase resistance and make working out in water even harder.

[Trainer’s POV: Teri McQuaid, certified personal trainer and aquatic fitness instructor, tested the Aqua Fitness Set and found it to be one of the better sets she has used. “They add a great new dimension to my water workout”, says McQuaid. “The gloves are good and I like the foam padding. It lets you adjust the resistance. And the material on all the pieces is soft – not too stiff or rough”.]

RevAbs DVD System
$79.95 –

RevAbs is a complete DVD set that focuses on one thing: getting customers as ripped abs as they can get. Though not everyone can genetically or physically sport a 6- or 8 pack, RevAbs incorporates both strength- and cardiovascular training to get you as close to the 6-pack as you can possibly get.

David Thayer, a 58-year-old cyclist from Murrieta, ran through the entire RevAbs system and shared his thoughts. He found the program easy to follow and the production quality excellent. The exercise level is aimed at intermediate exercisers, with one trainer always showing lower-intensity modifications. “The ‘Mercy Abs’ routine is the best I’ve ever done”, says Thayer. “On average, my ab strength and endurance increased a lot. I would, however, recommend anyone with over-50-year-old knees to go easy on the vertical movements”. His overall opinion? “Pros: Makes you stronger quickly. Cons: You’ll never look like the guy on the cover.”

ACE Fitness Product Finder
Free –

Though not a fitness product, American Council on Exercise’s newly re-launched Get Fit web site provides an excellent source for fitness-related articles and honest product reviews. This resource features non-biased expert reviews for fitness products spanning 18 categories, on everything from the PX90 to the odd-looking Vibram athletic shoes.  The site also offers editor’s ratings as well as ratings from users.

[Trainer’s POV. Pros: A good, unbiased resource. Cons: If you have your heart set on a certain piece of equipment, you might not like what you read.]

Helen M. Ryan is an ACE-certified trainer, certified Spinning® instructor, author and speaker. She specializes in helping people fit weight loss and exercise into their busy lives. Read Helen’s story or download her free LA’s the Place Fit Life e-book.

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