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 gaiam.com
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 precor.com
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 spriproducts.com.
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 fitnessem.com. Also available on amazon.com and target.com.
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 bosupro.com.
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 reebokdeck.com and performbetter.com.
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 yamunabodyrolling.com.
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; exhalespa.com.
Originally published in Fitness magazine, April 2006.