While some people enjoy the camaraderie of working out at a fitness club, others prefer to exercise in the privacy of their own home.

Those who are buying fitness equipment for their personal use should visit a specialty fitness retailer who understands exercise, answers questions and demonstrates the proper use of equipment, according to exercise physiologist and fitness consultant Elizabeth Quinn.

Quinn, who reports on sports medicine for About.com, believes good home exercise equipment choices are treadmills, elliptical trainers, stationary bikes, recumbent cycles, step machines, cross-country ski machines, rowing machines and resistance equipment. The biggest challenge is often deciding which product is right for the person or family who is going to use it, she says.

“There is not one piece of equipment made for everybody. Getting in shape at home requires self-motivation, tenacity, setting attainable goals and at least one piece of the right kind of equipment,” says David Utinski, who owns and manages The Body Quest Store Inc. in Springfield, Ill. “Very rarely do people come in to get a whole room of equipment. However, exercise is a serious thing to do as far as changing your body and your lifestyle. That’s why we always qualify the customer who is buying the equipment.”

The person who is selling equipment should always ask several questions, says Utinski. How much space is available? How many people are using it? What are their activity backgrounds? Do they have any health or orthopedic problems? “Let’s say someone just had bypass surgery. We’ll set him up with something with heart-rate controls,” Utinski says.

Since manufacturers are continually coming out with new equipment, it’s important to do some research. For example, Nautilus Inc. recently introduced the Schwinn 460, an elliptical machine that lets users vary stride lengths dynamically.

Designed for home use, this machine incorporates three foot-driven motions — stepping, walking and running — with an integrated handlebar system to engage upper- and lower-body muscles. It works both sides of the body and features 11 workout profiles built by fitness professionals from Nautilus.

It also includes a backlit touch-screen console, a water-bottle holder, contact and telemetric heart-rate chest monitoring and an angle-adjustable fan.
Elliptical trainers are a no-impact machine, Utinski says. “With elliptical trainers there is no impact on knees, hips, backs or ankles. They are kind of like putting together a ski machine and a bike.”

But these machines are not for everyone. That’s why treadmills have long been a popular piece of aerobic equipment for home use, according to Quinn. When buying a treadmill, she suggests looking for a solid smooth action, a steady pace, safety shut-off, wide belt and incline settings.

Utinski adds treadmills should have an all-steel frame, a motor with continuous duty horsepower and a hardwood deck. Stationary bikes and elliptical trainers should also have a steel frame. No matter what machine you choose, warranties are important. “Don’t buy something that has a ninety-day warranty,” he says. “That is a big red flag.”

Where you set up the equipment is important, too. “I tell them to put it right in front of a TV. That way you can exercise and watch television, too,” Utinski says. “Putting exercise equipment in a basement isn’t a good idea, unless you have a nice room with a TV set up for the equipment.”

Of course, good quality equipment can be pricey, Utinski says. Once the equipment is purchased and set up in the home, it’s important to use it, no matter what.

“Everybody knows how to eat right. If you don’t eat after 8:00 p.m. and get up in the morning and spend thirty minutes every single day kicking butt on that treadmill — or whatever piece of equipment — you will start seeing results in thirty days,” Utinski says.