Tired of the same old workout? Exercise and Nutrition Scientist Kathleen Alleaume uncovers the best fitness devices to give your workout that extra ‘oomph’.
A pedometer is a great way to increase your activity levels since it makes you more conscious of just how much you’re moving – and will improve your chances of taking a few extra steps each day. This is all you need to keep track of your daily activity and keep you motivated. For as little as $30, there’s no excuse not to get your hands on one! You can find them at most sports stores, major department stores and online at www.pedometersaustralia.com. For plenty of great tips and support, visit www.10000steps.org.au.
Not only will you feel the burn, you’ll hear it too by transforming your iPod into your personal workout coach. A virtual program called Nike+ lets your iPod Nano talk to your joggers with the wireless Nike+ iPod Sport Kit. Your iPod’s display screen will give you information about your workout, such as the time lapsed, distance completed and calories burned. Not only will it track your performance, you’ll get instant feedback while you exercise. You can also synchronise the device with your computer, then log into nikeplus.com to track your progress and join a virtual race! So crank up your favourite tunes and make every trip to the gym or park a new challenge. You can buy the program through the online Apple Store or at www.nikestore.com.au. Nike+ iPod Sport Kit, $48.
Heart rate monitors
Whether you’re trying to lose weight, improve your fitness or increase the effectiveness of your workouts, look no further than a heart rate monitor.
This user-friendly device can help you find the right pace and intensity of exercise to achieve your goals. It monitors the rate of your heart during exercise to ensure you stay within your target heart rate (THR) zone: the desired heart rate that allows you to exercise safely while getting maximum benefits from your workout. Training in this zone (usually at moderate intensity) has been shown to reduce body fat, blood pressure and cholesterol, and has a low risk of injury. Prices start from $70. Available at most sports stores.
If you have limited time (and space) for exercise, a jump rope may be just the thing for you. The best part about skipping rope is that it’s portable, cheap and can be done anywhere. Just 10–20 minutes is enough to burn 490–980kJ, improve your cardiovascular fitness, tone your muscles and achieve an entire-body workout.
If you’re new to jumping rope, start out with a 10-minute workout. As you get fitter, increase the duration, or add variety by alternating jumping intervals with lower-intensity exercise – such as marching on the spot – until you can build up to 20 minutes of exercise.
Good jumping form includes keeping your shoulders relaxed and your elbows in and slightly bent. You should have very few upper body movements and the rotation of the rope should come from wrist movement. Be sure to jump on a flat, even surface and have patience – you might get tangled up more than once when you first start out! Prices start from $10 and jump ropes can be found in most major department stores and sports outlets.
If you are looking for a low-impact strength training workout, then pick up a resistance band. Resistance band training is very beneficial for people who are looking for simple, inexpensive fitness equipment that can be handled easily.
Lightweight and compact, the bands provide continuous resistance throughout each movement, making it an effective way to build muscle and burn fat. Most bands come in different colour-coded resistance levels, so you can vary your workout based on your fitness. Start at a comfortable resistance, then, as your muscle strength and endurance improve, challenge your muscles by moving up to a thicker, more resistant band to increase the intensity of the exercise. Prices start from around $40. Available from most major sports outlets and www.amazon.com.
Best fitness apps
A fitness app is an inexpensive and effective way to plan your workouts and track your progress. But with so many fitness apps now on the market, it can be hard to determine which one is the best for you. Here are three of our favourites (all available on iTunes):
You can’t beat this free app – it uses GPS and real-time voice coaching to guide you through your workout. You can use it for any sport, from roller-skating to sailing, and it stores your workout details so you can track your data and monitor your progress over time. There is also a ‘pro’ version available for $4.49.
Run Mate ($3.99)
Designed for both beginner and intermediate runners, this app is like having your own personal trainer. You can design your own running program or use one of the pre-programmed workouts to train for your first 5km race.
All-in Fitness ($2.49)
This health and fitness app is used by more than 1 million people around the world. It features HD video, photos and audio clips detailing more than 700 exercises and yoga poses. It also has a database of over 300,000 foods with a kilojoule counter, as well as a progress tracker and a pedometer.