Home Fitness Equipment: A New Interactive Experience

Today’s home fitness equipment is more versatile and more technologically advanced than ever before. Treadmill manufacturers incorporate better graphics and mobile apps to create a more interactive workout. Manufacturers of elliptical machines and exercise bikes add lateral-movement options.

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When we say that today’s home fitness equipment is simpler and more complex than ever before, don’t let your head spin more than an elliptical machine’s flywheel. As confusing as such a statement might appear to be, the truth is that the latest strength and cardio equipment has added and subtracted features in appealing ways.

Home fitness equipment manufacturers continue to make more products that have simple and functional excercises that challenge the body through natural movements and force you—instead of a machine—to stabilize your body. For example, one new home gym uses no weights but delivers a traditional strength workout. Weight stacks and excercise balls have been added to vertical-knee-raise (VKR) stations to make them more versatile.

Meanwhile, the manufacturers of elliptical machines (or ellipticals), exercise bikes and treadmills are plugging into the latest technologies to deliver more feedback and more-interactive experiences. They also are expanding the direction of motion on equipment, such as an elliptical and an exercise bike that produce lateral movements.

RUNNING MATES. If you want a new treadmill, it’s time for you to lace up for a new virtual experience, because manufacturers are changing their consoles. New features that are on tablet touch-screen consoles display graphics that allow you to simulate running in exotic places or use Internet applications that soon will let you create virtual competition against friends who reside in other parts of the world.

For example, Life Fitness is scheduled to introduce in February 2013 a treadmill for home use that has an industry-leading 19-inch touch-screen console that allows you to select programs and change settings by swiping and poking at the screen just like you would operate a tablet computer. (Other touch screens typically are 10 inches and are limited to pressing virtual buttons).

What’s really cool about the Life Fitness console is that it incorporates a new Lifescape program that has 17 different display options. The options allow you to take a virtual hike or run through the most scenic places in the world, such as Yosemite National Park, Trinity Mountains in California or the French Alps. The treadmill’s track inclines and declines to replicate the virtual terrain that you encounter on the screen. Cool! 

Use of tablet computer shelf will block some control buttons

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This program also lets you watch movies and TV through the program’s on-demand content feature. You also will be able to plug your smartphone into the console, so you can display videos that are on your Android or Apple device, says Lauren Kamm of Life Fitness. Of course, having the ability to watch content via a treadmill touch screen won’t help your workout, so we wouldn’t blame anyone for believing that such a feature merely is a sales gimmick at a time when consumers increasingly get their entertainment fix from tablets and other mobile devices.

Life Fitness hasn’t released pricing for treadmills that have the Lifescape program and the 19-inch touch screen. But commercial models that have the same features that were introduced in October 2012 start at $6,000, which is $2,151 more than what you’d pay for our premium Best Buy treadmill selection, which has a conventional console. Kamm says the program and console also will be available on Life Fitness ellipticals and exercise bikes.

In a similar but much less expensive vein, Diamondback Fitness plans to introduce a treadmill that connects with your tablet and lets you use it as a supplemental console or display. The Bluetooth-enabled console will work with a third-party mobile app that tracks results, displays real-time monitoring and gives you access to custom workouts that take you on virtual runs through famous places, such as the Himalayas and the Great Wall of China, which are displayed on your tablet. 

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