After several years of reading your columns, I have finally convinced
myself to follow through with my New Year’s resolution and start a
regular exercise program at the ripe old age of 72, but I am confused and
frightened by all of the strange-looking equipment at my local health
club. Even some the equipment I thought I might be most comfortable with
– like stationary bicycles and treadmills – are all computerized now
and very confusing. Whatever happened to the simple stationary bike where
you could just climb on the seat and start pedaling or the old-time manual
treadmill where you just started walking without pushing a lot of buttons
to make it work!?! I don’t know anything about computers anyway.
yes, the good old days! But, like everything else, the fitness industry
has changed too. Remember the ’54 Chevy that you thought was so
"cool" when you were 22? Compare it to the new 2004 SUV that you
might be driving now and, perhaps, you can see how fitness equipment has
evolved over the years too. However, you shouldn’t be intimidated by all
of the "bells and whistles" on the high-tech equipment at your
persistent problem for most health clubs is member retention because
people, in general, are very indifferent about exercise and usually don’t
stick to their exercise program for very long. As you can imagine, New
Year’s resolutions to lose weight and get back in shape are notoriously
shortlived. When health clubs first became popular back in the fifties in
the days of Vic Tanney, Jack LaLanne, Ray Wilson, and other fitness
pioneers, exercise was a novelty, and the public flocked to gyms and
health spas across the country. But as the novelty wore off, and people
became bored with exercise, the fitness industry responded to the
challenge by improving the quality and appearance of their equipment and
adding lots of fancy "thingamajigs" and "whatchumacallits"
to keep your attention and to make exercise more fun.
end result is that modern exercise equipment – especially the
cardiovascular equipment – now offers computerized screens that tell you
what distance you have traversed, how many calories you have burned, and
much more. By keying in your age, fitness level, and other data, the
machines can adjust your workout with variable time, speed, and
resistance; change the grade of incline or decline; measure your heart
rate, and even talk to you during your workout. You can plug in your own
ear phones and listen to your choice of music or even watch television
from a remote or dedicated monitor, and some equipment is even hooked up
to the internet.
treadmills have flexible decks under high density rubber treads to reduce
the impact on your bones and joints and reduce the incidence of injury. In
recent years, they have been somewhat supplanted by the popular elliptical
machine – a kind of suspended treadmill that allows you to literally run
"in the air" with no impact whatsoever. Stationary bikes now
come in standard, racing, and recumbent style, and stairclimbing machines?
- Well, it’s hard to make climbing stairs any easier, but the bells and
whistles do make it more tolerable.
most fitness equipment is more modern and streamlined in appearance than
it was 40-50 years ago too. Even the traditional free weights are rubber
or vinyl coated in many cases to reduce the clanging and banging of
yesteryear. The resistance training equipment allows you to isolate
specific muscle groups like never before using a variety of resistance
mechanisms including selectorized weights, resistance bands, hydraulics,
and even air compression.
stick to your New Year’s resolution and understand that there is a
simple learning curve associated with using today’s modern fitness
equipment. With a little tutelage from one of the club’s fitness
instructors, you will find most of the equipment to be very user-friendly,
and in no time at all you will be singing the praises of modern technology
and enjoying your exercise more.
Evans is a 38-year veteran of the health and fitness industry and a
nationally recognized consultant on fitness for seniors. He is chairman of
the advisory council for RSVP of San Diego County and host of the popular
radio talk show "Forever Young" on KCBQ 1170 AM (KCBQ.com).
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