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The Best Home Gym Equipment for Any Budget

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Cardio Tools: Pedometer vs. Elliptical Cross-Trainer

Steal: Walking Fit Kit by Gaiam

This easy-to-use pedometer and motivating instructional CD is your best bet for walking off the weight quickly and effectively. On the CD, veteran walking instructor Madeleine Lewis offers technique tips on maximizing your calorie burn, from taking smaller strides to pumping your arms at your sides. She'll keep you motivated as you log in steps.

Cost: $15 from

Splurge: EFX5.23 Precor Elliptical Fitness Crosstrainer

It doesn't come cheap, but diehard elliptical devotees will love that the butt-sculpting backward motion on this superior home version runs just as smoothly as the forward movement. You'd be hard-pressed to find a better at-home sweatfest.

Cost: $4,199 at

Sculpting Tools: Contour Weights vs. Bench

Steal: SPRI Contour-Weights

You can't help but get wrapped up in these beanbag-like neoprene-covered weights, which range in size from 1-pound handweights to a 30-pound barbell. Strap them around your arms, wrists, and ankles, or drape them around your neck to add resistance to any move.

Cost: From $9.95 for 1-pound handweights to $79.95 for 30 pounds. Each comes with an instructional exercise guide at

Splurge: Empower EM 20

You can actually store up to 32 pounds of colorful vinyl dumbbells in this fold-up, space-saving fitness bench. It also comes with a follow-along 20-minute workout DVD that will help you tone every inch of your body from head to toe.

Cost: $359 on Also available on and

Cross-Training Tools: Balance Trainer vs. Reebok Deck

Steal: Bosu Sport Balance Trainer 45cm

We love this slightly smaller version of the Bosu balance trainer because it's portable and compact. It has everything the traditional Bosu has (except for the hard base), allowing you to strengthen your core, then stow your equipment effortlessly.

Cost: $59.95; comes with a foot pump and exercise manual when you purchase at

Splurge: Reebok Deck

Sculpt muscle everywhere — easily — with this combination cable station, exercise bench, and aerobic step. You can work out with the bench at an incline or decline using the attachable resistance tubing for strength training. There's extra storage space in back to stash dumbbells, bands, and other gear.

Cost: $249.94 at and

Flexibility Tools: Self-Massage vs. Pro-Massage

Steal: Yamuna Body Rolling

Roll these 4- to 9-inch balls across your body's knotted muscles to simulate a self-induced sports massage that releases muscle tension and increases blood flow.

Cost: Balls range from $15.50 to $23.95; book and DVD guides are extra. Available by calling 800-877-8429, or log on to

Splurge: Thai Massage (not shown)

This form of massage uses assisted stretching to increase flexibility. More than just kneading your muscles — a therapist places you in stretches and yoga poses, gently pushing your joints and muscles to their fullest range of motion, says Missy Lane, Thai massage therapist at the Exhale Spa in Santa Monica, California.

Cost: Ranges from $125 to $250 per hour, depending on spa and location. Try Exhale Spas ($125 for 60 minutes) in Boston, Chicago, and New York City;

Originally published in Fitness magazine, April 2006.