Sunday, September 28, 2008

fitness gadgets

I don't want to specifically endorse any commercial products. However, I know that most people are familiar with a variety of fitness gadgets on the market- for example, Sunday morning TV is filled with infomercials for all sorts of exercise gadgets.

In general, the best form of exercise is something that you do regularly, so anything that inspires you to exercise more is good. One of my medical school professors liked to say "The best exercise for you is the best exercise for you," meaning that there is no one perfect form of exercise that is universal.

In general, I am not a huge fan of machines that are designed to target one body part, for several reasons. First, it is not possible to spot reduce fat in one region of the body, so machines that market themselves as "hip and butt machines" or the latest and greatest ab machine tend not to be great purchases. Additionally, they tend to be expensive and bulky.

The one targeted machine that I do like is the ab wheel, shown to the left. It's a cheap item (it should certainly be less that $20, and you may be able to get one for as little as $5), small, and does work very well for strengthening the abdominal muscles.

As I discussed in an earlier post, I like anything that makes exercise easy and more convenient. Therefore, little gadgets that allow you to exercise during small windows of time are great. One example is "The Perfect Pushup." It's a $20 item that makes pushups more fun, and probably more effective. The rotation of the handles does place less strain on the wrists, and in my personal testing, I do find that my push-ups seem to be more effective when I use it. I keep mine near the television, which is also a useful reminder for me. When I see them while I am watching TV, it is a useful cue to do some push-ups during the commercial break.

Incidently, a pair of dumbbells serves a similar purpose, and may be an even better choice. The great thing about dumbbells is that they are so versatile- you can do many different exercises with them.

If one were to look into more expensive products that target more total body exercises, there certainly is not a shortage of devices available. Of the large, bulky devices, my personal favorite is the Total Gym, which is an infomercial staple with Chuck Norris and Christie Brinkley. It's a great machine, the main drawback being that you need a large enough space to use one.

Amongst smaller gadgets, one that I really like is the BodyBlade. It's basically a stiff flat blade, that somewhat resembles a very thin ski. The idea behind the BodyBlade is that by rapidly vibrating the blade in different positions, you can strengthen a variety of muscles through repeated contractions. I wouldn't recommend it for the novice exerciser, for those who are looking for a great way to add variety to their routine, it can be terrific. It is commonly used in physical therapy, so it is ideal for people who are using the BodyBlade in therapy, and want to extend it's use to the home. I like to collect fitness gadgets to play with so that I am familiar with them for my patients, and the BodyBlade is the one that I find myself using the most often. The main downside of the BodyBlade is that it can be quite expensive (usually over $100, depending on which size you get).

Again, my goal of discussing these gadgets is not to endorse any specific product. But I do think that anything that helps cue people to be more active is helpful, and these gadgets can be useful as part of your healthy lifestyle so long as you actually use them.

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