Exercising at home shouldn’t be an exercise in frustration. But for those faced with the choice of which type of cardio equipment to purchase, there is the potential for confusion—even if one has already utilized many different types of equipment at the neighborhood gym. Issues of cost and workout effectiveness are figured into many online consumer buying guides, but in the end the choice is an individual one. Here are quick pointers for six types of cardio equipment, as noted by Harvard Health Publishing.

• Cross-country ski machine: This machine allows exercise of arms and legs simultaneously, as in cross-country skiing. The sliding motion is easy on the knees. On some machines, users have to move one ski forward to make the other move back. On others, the skis move independently. In addition, certain ski machines use ropes, while others have stationary handgrips. Check out all these types to see which one is most comfortable. Look for a wide foot bed for stability.

• Elliptical trainer: This machine provides a circular up-and-down motion that’s a cross between a ski machine and a stair-stepper. It provides a nearly impact-free workout, which is easy on the joints. Resistance and grade can be adjusted automatically or manually on some models, and levers with handgrips to work the upper body may be available, too. It may take a little while to get used to the unusual motion. Look for comfortable handlebars and nonslip pedals with curved ridges. Try the machine out at varying speeds and grades to make sure it feels stable.

• Rowing machine: Rowing machines work the back, arms and legs simultaneously, offering as close to a total-body workout as available from a machine. Unless someone is used to rowing, the motion initially may feel unfamiliar, and some people find it hard on the back. When purchasing one, consider pulley models instead of piston models for a more realistic rowing experience.

• Stair-stepper: This machine provides a low-impact workout that approximates climbing flights of stairs. Some modes have levers with handgrips to work arms, too. Beginners may find stepper machines strenuous, and the motion can be hard on the knees. Look for machines that provide independent foot action and are equipped with handrails and large stair platforms.

• Stationary bicycle: An exercise bike takes no training and is easy to use, although it can be uncomfortable for long stints. While riding isn’t as effective in preventing osteoporosis as weight-bearing exercise, it does provide an excellent cardiovascular workout. Look for a model with a comfortable, adjustable seat and toe clips. If the seat is too hard, find out if the seat can be replaced with a cushioned model bought separately.

• Treadmill: This machine enables walking or running indoors. Some models offer a flexible, less joint-jarring surface. Opt for a motorized treadmill. When purchasing one, look for a strong motor (the machine will last longer), a belt that’s long and wide enough for one’s stride, a sturdy frame with front side rails for safety, and an emergency stop device. Users should be able to adjust the speed and grade so walking can take place at a comfortable pace.

In the end, it will be each person’s own experience that determines which type (or types) of equipment best accord with their exercise goals. Knowing what kinds of equipment are on the market is the first step toward making an informed and satisfactory choice.

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