Consumer Reports Names Top 6 Workout Machines


By: , SparkPeople Blogger

Despite New Year's resolutions to get fit, sales of gym memberships are taking a downturn. That doesn't necessarily mean that people aren't exercising. In fact, home workout equipment sales are up, according to Consumer Reports. Their February 2009 issue will feature reviews on fitness products from heart rate monitors to treadmills. Lucky for you, you don't have to pick up the magazine to get a few product recommendations.

Consumer Reports tested 40 conventional exercise machines, ranging in price from $200 to $3,300, for exercise range, ergonomics, construction, safety, and more. According to their website, "The pricier machines generally have sturdier designs and more features, but there are bargains that can offer a good workout." Based on their testing and evaluations, Consumer Reports recommends these 6 Best Buys:

The PaceMaster Platinum Pro VR non-folding treadmill, for $2,000

The Epic View 550 folding treadmill, for $1,300

The Sole F63 folding treadmill, for $1,000

The LifeCore Fitness LC985VG elliptical exerciser, for $1,100

The Spirit XBR25 recumbent stationary bike, for $1,200

The Omron HJ-112 pedometer for $30

I'm not surprised that machines costing $1,000 or more would be of higher quality than inexpensive models or the too-good-to-be-true products that you see advertised on TV. Is it really a "best buy" to fork over that kind of dough to get fit? While these machines might offer cool features and good construction, I don't think most people are in the market to spend this muchŚnot in this economic climate, at least. I'm still planning to read the full report, which ranks running shoes, smaller pieces of home equipment and, hopefully, some less expensive options.

You could always buy a gym membership, which gives you access to far more than a treadmill, for less than $400 a year. And you can get fit for little to no money, too: Here are 25 ways to get in shape for $25 or less. Want to spend $0? Join to get all the best fitness tools, videos and workout plans that you can do at home or at the gym for freeŚnow that's a deal!

Do you think these "Best Buys" seem like good deals? What fitness products would you like to see reviewed?

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  • 147
    Have a used NordicTrack & Gazelle that were super cheap off Craigslist. Resistance bands, ditto. Online exercise videos, a good pair of walking shoes & my dog are more practical for me than the 4 digit suggestions. :-) - 9/17/2016   12:33:49 PM
  • 146
    I have the recommended Omron pedometer and love it. - 5/15/2010   7:14:57 AM
  • 145
    I don't have the room to have work out machines. I would use the work out gym where I live and save my money. Plus there is activities you can do outside also.
    - 4/7/2010   1:38:04 PM
  • 144
    They're all out of my budget comfort zone too with the exception of the pedometer. To be honest I would love to see you all review the bodybugg, and a few heart rate monitors. Oh and the treadclimber. I love that machine, but since my gym took it out I didn't get to use it long enough to see if it lived up to it's claims. - 1/30/2010   6:00:52 AM
  • 143
    Almost all the equipment is out of my budget except the HRm and I have a HRM watch that tracks calories burned too I got off amazon for $25 - 11/5/2009   11:21:14 AM
  • 142
    In january 2008 I bought myself a ProForm treadmill. Sears was having a sale. I have really got my monies worth. It sure does work well. I like it very much. I live close to a gym but my gym (treadmill) is open any time I want to use it. But the gym isn't. - 4/25/2009   8:05:39 PM
  • 141
    The PaceMaster consistently makes this list. I bought a PaceMaster Pro 12 years ago and it is still going strong after all these years and thousands of miles. For all the years I've had this, it definitely works out cheaper than a gym membership. I absolutely love it. Not only is it sturdy and obviously well made, the height of the "screen" and handrails are perfect, not too high, not too low. I highly recommend this machine for anyone who is in the market for treadmill. You will not be disappointed. - 1/16/2009   12:17:20 AM
  • 140
    The wii also has a game from jillian michaels the trainer from biggest loser it si called " Jillian michaels fitness ultimatem" When you exercise it tells you how many calories you burn it is good to work out. - 1/15/2009   8:45:57 AM
  • 139
    3 of the top 6 machines are treadmills. i was a bit disappointed cuz i was hoping to see other kinds of creative machines. another fitness product that i'd like to be reviewed is wii exercise games. in addition to wii sports and wii fit, are there any other wii games that are good for exercise? which ones? - 1/15/2009   1:45:30 AM
  • 138
    I bought a Pacemaster professional treadmill for $1200 in 1993 and it's still going strong. They honor the warranty - two years ago the frame cracked and they replaced the whole thing free of charge. The motor works great. The tread and bed have been replaced once - normal wear and tear- for $300. If you prorate it, the treadmill has cost me $93.75 a year. Not a bad investment for a reliable, solid piece of equipment. - 1/14/2009   11:27:20 PM
    We got our Schwin's Ergomic Stationary Bike at a Yard Sale for $35.00, my large ball for $1.00 at a different yard sale, my 3 layer step thing for another Dollar at another sale. I also have another piece of equipment that Sears sells for over $200.00 for $14.95 at a Thrift Shop. I got my 1 pound weights at the Dollar Store for a buck each and my 3# ones at WalMart for $2.00 each.
    All this with SP and I'm set. If I ever get more agile I have a set of 4 Richard Simmons Sweatin' to the Oldies series tapes. - 1/14/2009   8:07:14 PM
  • 136
    I bought my Epic View from Costco for around $800 and I've been very happy with it. Still, it's just not the same as the gym quality treadmills. - 1/14/2009   5:46:10 PM
    CORRECTION that was suppose to be 10,000 steps each day!!!!!!! Not 1000 - 1/14/2009   3:44:56 PM
    I am a big person and hate going to the gym (free to military) that is closest to me because most of the people there are military, so I work out at home when I can. I do get atleast 1000 steps in a day at work, one advantage of working at a school. When I am not busy running the kids or running my homebased business and can get in a workout I end up doing a walking dvd that I have come to love, it has 1, 2 and 3 miles on it! I have like 4 different ones and can manage to do one of them when i workout! With all my health issues I suffer from to much will hurt me in the long run! I am only 35 and my doctor is talking about a knee replacment so I take things as easy as I can get them!!!! I do love to walk is about the best thing for me!!! I broke down and got a great pedometer that I where everyday except the weekends...those are my down times!!!!! - 1/14/2009   3:42:14 PM
  • 133
    I bought my stationary bike for $175 at wal-mart. it's a gold's gym model and it's does just what it needs to! It's way more sturdy than some of the cheap ones you find elsewhere. Because dropping $1,000 on gym equipment is not my plan! I really wanted to find a nice elliptical for around $200, I should have bought one at the time I bought my bike, but I didn't have that much money. Because now they are all ridiculously more than they used to be! dang it! - 1/13/2009   12:52:09 PM
  • 132
    TFronck, Let us know what YOU think, lol! It looks like it would be a great workout. - 1/13/2009   12:11:36 PM
  • 131
    I just "won" a Malibu Pilates chair on E-Bay. Does anyone use one of these. I saw an infomercial for them and thought they looked amazing!! Le me know what you think! - 1/13/2009   11:59:32 AM
  • 130
    I have that pedometer, in fact in my pocket right now and it is great, worthwhile, this is my 3rd pedometer and the first that hasn't broken, cracked or fallen off of me. Also the handy info tracker on the computer is interesting. - 1/13/2009   10:22:13 AM
  • BERTHA1976
    I live in Independence MO. At the Sermon Center you can get a membership for $15.00 a year for an Independence resident. Weight equipment and cardio equipment. - 1/12/2009   11:15:37 PM
    You clearly don't live in a big city for two reasons. 1) Cheapest exercise equipment- a good pair of sneakers. 2) An annual gym membership is NOT under $400! At least not in DC. I pay $55 a MONTH= $660 a year. UGH. But, hey, at least this way there is the extra motivation of not wanting to waste all that money!!! - 1/12/2009   5:59:55 PM
  • 127
    Check out Craigslist for good quality, used machines. In this economic climate, many people are looking to purge items they spent big bucks for. - 1/12/2009   2:43:55 PM
  • 126
    I agree whole heartedly. Buying a machine for thousands of dollars is CRAZY. Unless of course they allow you to pay 20 bucks a month with very low interest or if you happen to have the cash lying around. LOL I prefer the gym because I need the surrounding atmosphere to get me INTO it. I hardly ever use the Ab Lounge I bought. - 1/12/2009   2:07:54 PM
  • 125
    I like a lot of variety in my workouts, so I have a nike plus for my ipod (to track my running) and a gym membership for everything else (I don't like running on treadmills:-( I also really love spin class, but it is difficult for me to always make my classes fit my schedule so I don't go as often as I would like. This year my thoughtful wonderful husbadn bought me my very own spin bike for the hosue:-D We don't have a lot of extra room, so next weekend we are going to re-arrange the garage, put an extra TV and an area rug there and make a mini gym with the bike, workout videos and hand weights...I can't wait. We both belong to different gyms, so this will be a nice way for us to work out together sometimes:) - 1/12/2009   12:46:34 PM
  • 124
    I bought a SOLE Treadmill at the After Thanksgiving Day sales at Dicks Sporting Goods store. I had done my research online, and they got rave reviews. Now when it is really crummy outside, I can't use the weather as an excuse not to exercise. And since I spent the money, I feel guilty not using it. The number one motivator to date has been to walk while watching Biggest Loser. It is hard to watch that show and sit on the couch! :) - 1/12/2009   10:31:56 AM
  • 123
    One of my customers gave me an "Orbitrek" elliptical cuz he felt sorry for me using the staicase in a smoke-filled casino for a workout. He bought a bowflex and the orbitrek was in his storage shed. well, today the machine is in my extra bedroom in front of a TV and get 20 minutes minimum daily use. I keep increasing my usage every week. What can I say???? OMG, I am a new person!!! I have lost a lot of inches, feel in shape @ 54 yrs. of age, and am starting to look like the person I know and love. I still have to find my free weights to do wiast twists and side bends to reshape my thick middle but all is well w/ this machine. - 1/12/2009   9:35:53 AM
    Am sure that I also read in Consumer Reports that the best all round body workout machine was a rower. And it was easy to store. So, I'm thinking that I might be able to get a similar workout, even say while watching my favorite PBS programs, using a handled resistance band, with the bands crossed, as in one of the Spark People exercise videos. Those are far less expensive and VERY easy to store.
    This weekend I unburied the Nordic Track ski machine we bought years ago and that has been gathering dust. I think I can read and exercise on it at the same time in the winter, when it's too icy to walk safely outside. I've seen these and things like treadmills, used, at our local Habitat ReStore. So do check out such places. But be sure to try the item to see if it works.
    As for pedometers, I've learned that accuracy and usability cost a bit. A good tool is so much easier to use and more reliable that it saves money in the long run. But it can be a challenge figuring out where the sweet spot is in terms of cost. Top of the line in price doesn't mean top value. In any case, be sure to get one that has buttons that are hard to bump into and thus reset. This is important if you are wearing it all day and it clips to your waistband over your hip. Seems I'm often resting things against my body there. It's also important for it to have, or for you to add, a leash of some sort. Mine works it's way off my bod when I sit down. You won't necessarily hear it fall, and you don't want to keep having to look for the dang thing or pay to replace it. I use a colorful cord and a safety pin to keep it attached to me. One of the things I realized after I used a pedometer for a bit, and learned how far were 10,000 steps, if done all at once, was that many places in our town were actually within walking distance. Even if your town is not walkable, consider gradually figuring out where to park your car or get off a bus at some distance from your target so that you get more, and more interesting, walking in. Or walk one way and take the bus back. Lots of permutations ! - 1/12/2009   9:23:40 AM
  • 121
    Do you really have to spend that much for a pedometer. The one I have is really cheap and worked well for a few days. Yesterday didn't seem to do its job.

    We bought the best recumbent bike that Sears had on sale a few years ago. It is beginning to have a few minor maintenance issues, but we have been able to handle it with a can of 3-N-1 oil. The maintenance is something to keep in mind before purchasing a bike. In some ways, a gym might be cheaper.

    And I love Spark People and the spark videos with Coach Nicole. Cost $0.00 - 1/12/2009   7:52:51 AM
    I LOVE my Omron HJ-720. So much so that I gave one to my roommate. I love that I can hook it up to my computer and track my efforts. - 1/12/2009   5:12:25 AM
  • 119
    I have a Gazelle a Abswing, a Total Gym 1100 and lifecycle (spinner) a thigh master (it works) and a thigh machine. I get a lot of workout on these machines. It's my own personal gym along with my 32 inch plat screen tv. I have my own Circuit at home why bother going to the gym. - 1/12/2009   12:15:47 AM
  • 118
    The Y here in the west San Fernando Valley is $64/mo for a family membership and $37/mo for an individual membership. Good trainers, well equipped, and hooked up to the Fitlinxx system, so you can track your workouts online. Plus a great pool, classes, and a bunch of other things that you don't get at your basic Bally's or 24-Hour Fitness. - 1/11/2009   11:43:45 PM
  • 117
    would love to buy a treadmill but cannot afford it at this time.....another item for my wish list. - 1/11/2009   11:31:21 PM
    I'm not surprised to see higher-end equipment rated so well; in some cases, you do get what you pay for. However, I've seen ads for the Bowflex Treadclimber and I'd love to see this rated. - 1/11/2009   10:06:01 PM
  • 115
    i just saw this i am going to get one. cant wait. - 1/11/2009   7:56:42 PM
  • 114
    I have the Omron HJ-112 pedometer which was a Christmas gift for myself. I read a lot of reviews before purchasing it. But, I didn't pay $ 30.00 for it. I paid $ 19.99 plus S& H from

    I hope you keep posting exercise equipment reviews. It's nice to know what product is best for the money. - 1/11/2009   6:59:37 PM
    The Omron HJ-112 has got to be one of the best things I ever bought. For Christmas, a family member got me an Omron with the tracking software you can upload to. Yeah, I know, I can put the info on a spreadsheet or something. But it really has been a motivator, wanting to get over 100% on all my goals. In fact, I'm ready after two weeks to increase my goals, because these are getting too easy.

    I also have a treadmill, but only paid $600 for mine. Worth it's weight in goal, especially on those days wild horses couldn't drag me out for exercise.

    I have, though, started walking outside in the cold, snow and ice the last couple of weeks and find it strangely enjoyable.

    As far as gyms go, I've been a member several times. And never went past the first week.

    First rule of fitness: find something you like and stick with it. For me, that's not going to be a gym. - 1/11/2009   6:25:25 PM
  • 112
    I used to be a gym goer but found that I wasn't attending as often due to shift work (both my husband and I) and a pain in the butt to drag my son out (and let's say he really didn't want to go most of the time). So I bought a treadmill, an elliptical, free weights, a bench and a stability. I already had an all in one at home gym that I purchased at the age of 19 (and yes it still works fine). Now there's no excuse and I don't have to worry about the weather, my son not wanting to go or the most important reason: what time it is (due to my shift work). I can work out whatever time I wish. - 1/11/2009   5:00:03 PM
    I purchased a treadclimber (Bowflex) 5000. I have free weights (GNC), stability ball, Reebok step and had a total gym. I like it all, but my favorite workout is walking the bike trail with my daughter in the spring, summer and fall. We take my grand daughters and enjoy the fresh air.
    On a special note: Those that have small children or are on a fixed income, the YMCA has scholarships for lower rates or even free to single moms on fixed incomes!!! - 1/11/2009   4:46:45 PM
  • 110
    To Dolmadez...I just got the Biggest Loser 2 DVD and I've used it a couple of far...I like breaks the workouts down to 10 minute intervals which is great for me since I am extremely out of shape and have not exercised for an extremely long time. You can pick and chose a routine and the amount of time you want to work out...I hope that helps...Tammie - 1/11/2009   3:22:02 PM
  • 109
    I have an elliptical at home that I purchased during a department store sale. It's half the price of the one shown and is still a quality machine. I've used it quite a bit and it's held up wonderfully. It was a good purchase. You can get good quality exercise equipment less expensively. Plus there's always garage sales. No - I'm not kidding! People will practically pay you to take their equipment away so they don't have to look at it in the corner not being used. I find it much easier to work out at home because there are no excuses. Not the weather, not the time. I can work in a mini workout if I don't have much time. - 1/11/2009   3:21:02 PM
  • 108
    I've had that omron pedometer for about a year now, and I LOVE IT! Had to replace the bettery after 6 months, but it's been extremely reliable and easy to set up. Highly recommended - 1/11/2009   1:14:33 PM
  • 107
    Where are these $400 gym memberships? The Y here is almost $700/year. - 1/11/2009   12:28:31 PM
  • 106
    A few days ago, I bought a pedometer from Dick's Sporting Goods for about $16. The salesperson recommended it because it was small and light. However, when I put it on and walked around the house with it, it popped right off! Small and light doesn't work well if you have extra fat around your waist. I returned it and paid an extra $24 for a $40 pedometer. It has a lot of functions and can be worn on a lanyard as well as a belt clip, but I wish I had known about the Omron. I could have saved $10 and had a pedometer with excellent reviews! I'll try it for a day or two to see how it works. Otherwise, I'll return it and buy an Omron. - 1/11/2009   11:35:02 AM
  • 105
    If someone is going to invest that much money on a piece of fitness equipment I would recommend trying out the home version of Free Motion machine by Nordic Track. It's much more versatile than any average cardio equipments. You can do strength training and/or upper body cardio with it. If you want to do lower body cardio you can always do rope skipping, fast walking, jogging, or swimming. These are low cost and very effective cardio exercises. For something to stay at home to build muscles and heart health at the same time, this Free Motion is the best way to go. - 1/11/2009   11:31:20 AM
  • 104
    If you use the equipment, it's worth the investment. If it gathers dust or is used as a clothes hanger, then it's a waste of money. I have a NordikTrac ski machine and it is worth every penny. If equipment isn't comfortable, doesn't work smoothly or breaks down, it won't get used. - 1/11/2009   11:23:33 AM
    I have a ProForm treadmill and love it. I've lost 2 pedometers so I think I won't invest in another. Exercise equipment is expensive and so many of us tire of what we have so I look around my community for low cost or free exercise groups to work out with. Because I'm over 50 I called my local office of the aging and they put me in touch with several groups-free! Some use machines but most are floor exercises with certified instructors. Also the stabilizer or Swiss ball is a cheap way to get a great workout. I use it so much at home and never think of it as a workout routine.
    Getting fit does not have to be expensive. - 1/11/2009   9:57:22 AM
  • 102
    I bought a treadmill 11 months ago...a Gold's Gym Crosswalk with the arm workout. It has 12 different programs and I love it!!! DH and both lost 30 lbs. using it. I cannot say enough about how nice it is to have it in the house. I agree with the gym's only having certain hours, makes it a pain to try to get there. I spent about $600 on the treadmill and it has been worth every penny we spent.

    I am scheduled to deliver my baby at the end of February and then run a 5K Mother's Day weekend so I am glad to have this in the house to use whenever I can so that I can stay in shape and then get back in shape as soon as possible after delivery. - 1/11/2009   9:25:02 AM
  • 101
    Great. - 1/11/2009   2:09:02 AM
    I have the Omron HT-720IT and LOVE IT ... I think it's worth the few extra bucks to have the download option (actually, you can get it for the same price that's shown in the article if you internet shop ... ) as it's really great to track your steps over time, for your own progress and competitive 'streak'! - 1/11/2009   12:40:47 AM
  • 99
    I have the Omron HJ-112 pedometer and I have been recommending it to others who are interested in getting one. The only thing I don't like about it is that there is no low battery warning. It just suddenly stops working and shows the battery symbol. I wish it gave me some warning so I could change the battery before it totally stops working. I think the more expensive machines probably are sturdier, but I don't think the average person can afford to spend $1000 or more for a piece of equipment. Anything I have seen under $200 is a waste of money in my opinion, but I think there are some decent machines available in the $300 - $800 range. I have a Proform treadmill and recumbent bike and a Nordic Track elliptical. All of them seem pretty sturdy. The bike I have had for 5 or 6 years and it gets used regularly in the winter. I had a Sportcraft treadmill (we paid $200 for it) previously that I did not like. The belt seemed to move with a very jerky motion and would seem to slow down and speed up without touching the controls. Even though I did not weigh more than what it was rated for, I think I may have been too heavy for it because once I lost some weight it worked better, but I still got rid of it and bought the Proform. A friend of mine had one like it and she loved hers, but she was probably close to 100 pounds lighter than me. If you live close enough to a gym to go there regularly a membership might be a good idea, but for those of us in rural areas that would have to drive several miles to a gym, it is less practical. - 1/10/2009   10:27:36 PM
  • 98
    I just bought the Omron pedometer that you showed, and it is wonderful. I can already tell that I walk more steps because of it.

    We have some home equipment - treadmill, elliptical, recumbent bike - that went unused for a while, but now I use them regularly and am so glad I don't have to leave the house. - 1/10/2009   9:41:42 PM

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