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I want to invest in a piece of at-home fitness equipment. Which is the best option?

Have your eye on a new addition to your home gym? Five things to consider before whipping our your credit card.
If you’re willing to forego some of the bells and whistles, like a screen on a spin bike, you can find more expensive pieces of equipment within your budget.
If you’re willing to forego some of the bells and whistles, like a screen on a spin bike, you can find more expensive pieces of equipment within your budget. RichLegg / Getty Images

As a personal trainer and weight-loss coach, I am constantly answering health and fitness questions from my clients, on social media and in our Start TODAY Facebook group. In this column, I address some of the most common questions and roadblocks that trip people up on their journey to establish a health and fitness routine.

I want to invest in a piece of at-home fitness equipment. Which is the best option?

I see it all too often: a client gets swept up by the hype of the latest trendy workout machine, just to have it turn into a dust collector a few months later. 

Deciding which piece of at-home fitness equipment to invest in can be overwhelming. There’s a lot to consider — from type of equipment to size to price. And the decision is very personal; what works for one person may not be the best choice for another.

The client who asked me this question was planning on investing in a spin bike and wanted my opinion. She was shocked when I told her that I didn’t believe she’d use it enough to make it worth the investment.

So how can you decide which piece of equipment is worth it? Here are five questions to ask yourself.

1.  What are you hoping to accomplish?

Understanding your fitness goals is essential before buying a piece of at-home equipment. Before you start shopping, I suggest you sit down and write out the results you hope to see from a consistent exercise routine. If you want to burn as many calories as possible and lose weight, a piece of cardio equipment may be the best choice. If you want to build muscle, a piece of strength training equipment is the better option. Having this written down will help keep you focused on the big picture and avoid being swayed by fancy equipment or cool features that may not serve you in the long run.

2.  Which type of exercise do you enjoy most?

To get the most out of any workout routine, you need to enjoy the type of exercise you’re doing. Once you identify your goals and narrow down the type of equipment that will get you there, it’s time to decide which type of activity you will enjoy. Say, for example, you want to focus on cardio; a treadmill, spin bike or rower are all good options. To narrow it down, list out the types of movement you enjoy. Do you like to walk or run? Enjoy spin classes? Love being on the water? My client didn’t even like spinning — and dropping a chunk of change on an expensive piece of equipment wasn’t going to change that! That is why I recommend focusing on equipment that will allow you to do a type of movement you already enjoy. If you aren’t currently active, think back to when you were a kid. Did you love to ride your bike around the neighborhood? Were you on the track team in high school? Use your interests to inform which type of activity you focus on.

3.  Do you need coaching to stay motivated?

At-home workouts aren’t always as easy as they seem. Yes, being able to get your workout done at home is convenient, but staying motivated when you’re exercising alone is hard. Research shows that technology, when incorporated into at-home exercise equipment, can help boost motivation. If you’re someone who needs this extra motivation, at-home equipment with a virtual coaching feature may be beneficial for you. This is what I recommended for my client. In between our coaching sessions, she had a hard time staying accountable with her daily workouts. So when she wanted to buy a workout bike without any one-on-one training feature, I was not the biggest fan. Luckily, there are plenty of cardio options (including spin bikes!) that offer one-on-one coaching programs with their equipment.

4.  How much space do you have?

Space doesn’t have to hold you back when buying a piece of equipment, but it should definitely be a consideration. If you’re not looking to rearrange your home or dedicate a large piece of real estate to an at-home gym, choosing a piece of equipment that is portable or easily tucked away may be the best option.

5.  What’s your budget?

Once you’ve narrowed it down to one type of equipment, it’s time to think budget. The prices of equipment can run from a few hundred dollars to thousands. While this sometimes makes it overwhelming to choose a specific brand, it’s also great because no matter your budget, you can likely find the piece of equipment you’re looking for. If you’re willing to forego some of the bells and whistles, you can even find traditionally more expensive pieces of equipment like treadmills, spin bikes and connected smart weights at an accessible price.

If you’re just getting back into fitness, start with a budget-friendly option first to make exercise a habit and ensure you can stick with it before shelling out more cash. For example, if you’ve decided strength training is your exercise of choice, opt for a set of dumbbells and a workout app subscription over a pricier connected fitness system. This way, if you find you don’t enjoy the exercise or lose motivation, it won’t be a huge blow to your wallet to ditch the equipment and find something new to try.