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Top Treadmills and Ellipticals plus, Tips for a Smokin’, Butt-Firming, Thigh-Toning Workout

Survey reveals nearly one in four dieters using smart phone apps 
Consumer ReportsYonkers, NY – Can’t squeeze into your jeans? Not happy with what you see in the mirror? For consumers whose New Year’s resolution is to eliminate unwanted inches and pounds, Consumer Reports has the skinny on shopping for home exercise machines such as treadmills and ellipticals.

February 2012 CoverIn addition to exercise machine Ratings and buying advice, Consumer Reports has seven tips to add some sizzle to your workout including two advanced moves, the “side step” for toning problematic inner and outer-thighs and the “squat while you pedal” move for firming your quads and butt.

The tips come courtesy of the testing organization’s technical experts who have logged hundreds of hours and thousands of miles testing exercise equipment in CR’s labs.

The report also includes results from an online survey of more than 3,000 Consumer Reports readers who shared their diet strategies.  Overall, 23 percent of the 2,680 dieters who were following a diet plan said they concurrently used an app.  The survey also revealed that 69 percent of readers had followed their own diet and exercise regimen.  But when it comes to commercial diets, there is one standout.  Of those who subscribed to at least one commercial diet plan in the past three years, 88 percent said they’d tried either Weight Watchers or Weight Watchers online.  More survey details are available online at www.ConsumerReports.org.  

Consumer Reports put 35 treadmills and 18 elliptical exercisers through the paces .  The top-rated non-folding treadmill, the Precor 9.31, costs a cool $4,000 and offers excellent construction. But consumers on tighter budgets can find solid choices in the non-folding Sole S77 at $1,900 and the folding ProForm Performance 600 and Horizon T202, both $800.  All three are Consumer Reports Best Buys.

The top-scoring elliptical, the Octane Fitness Q37ci, costs $3,100 and is solidly built, has four heart-rate programs, comes with a chest-strap heart-rate monitor, and earned very high marks for safety.  If you don’t need the heart rate monitoring and can forgo certain other features, Consumer Reports recommends the Octane Fitness Q37c for $500 less.   

Consumer Reports also tested 10 regular pedometers, three GPS watches, and three cell phone apps that claim to measure steps and distance through your phone’s movements.  CR identifies the Sportline Step & Distance SB4202 ($5.00), a conventional pedometer available at Walmart, as a Best Buy.     Consumer Reports also recommends the Mio Trace Acc-Tek ($30.00) and the Omron GOsmart Pocket HJ-112 ($30.00). As for cell-phone apps, CR named the Accupedo pedometer widget (for Android) at $4.00 and the Pedometer Pro GPS+ (for iPhone) at $3.00 Best Buys.

And, in a first for Consumer Reports, the magazine is sharing Ratings data from subscribers who have purchased home exercise machines.  Owners of 1,302 elliptical machines and 1,891 treadmills reported on overall satisfaction and problems they experienced with the most common brands.  Owners were highly satisfied with their purchases overall, but there were brand differences.  Sole was the top-rated treadmill brand, while ProForm rated lower than all other elliptical brands.  Among elliptical exercisers, ProForm received more complaints than other brands about being difficult to adjust to the needs of different users and having a poor range of workout options.  NordicTrack scored substantially worse than the other brands for being bulky and difficult to set up. There were no differences among treadmill brands in the rate of problems. 

Techniques to Ramp Up Your Workout

Consumer Reports’ technical fitness experts have logged hundreds of hours and thousands of miles testing treadmills and elliptical exercisers at CR’s labs. Here are some of their tips for adding some sizzle to your home (or gym!) workout: Log on to www.ConsumerReports.org for the rest of CR’s techniques.

  • Try an interval program:  Alternating between high and low intensities can burn more calories than a similar duration of exercise at a single intensity.  
  • Don’t lean on the machine:  Don’t put your weight on the hand rails of your treadmill or elliptical because that reduces the workout you’re giving your muscles. If you’re having trouble balancing, lower the intensity.
  • Squat while you pedal:  This is only recommended for advanced users.  Want an extra workout for your quads and butt? Try exercising in a squat position when using the elliptical.  To prevent injury, keep your chest upright and your back flat, and don’t let your knees go past your toes.
  • Side step:  This technique is also for advanced users only.  This one is a little tricky and should be done with some supervision, at least the first few times you do it. But it’s worth the effort if you aspire to work your inner and outer thighs. With the treadmill off, stand sideways with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent and torso tilted slightly forward. Start the machine at its slowest speed and walk slowly, stepping sideways without crossing your legs.  Increase the incline for more of a challenge.

The tips and home workouts report are available online at www.ConsumerReports.org.


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