Ah, the New Year. So fresh, so uncorrupted, so full of promise. As with all new things, be they babies, automobiles, bottles of wine or running shoes, it is hard to imagine the new year older, dented, empty or scuffed. That is how so many people view their shiny, immaculate New Year's resolutions — before they expire on the dust heap of reality.
As every well-meaning individual who has ever failed to live up to their New Year's resolutions knows, it is easy enough to get started in on that diet, anger management, exercise regimen or quitting-smoking program. It is keeping up with it once the early days of January fade into the past that is the challenge.
While we can't pretend that any one item will provide you with the spare time or ironclad resolve so often required to fulfill those elusive resolutions, we know from experience that having the right tools helps. We also know that these tools don't need to cost a fortune to be effective either.
In this New Year's edition of Forbes.com's continuing series on Affordable Luxuries — goods and services that cost $200 or less — we argue that you don't need to be wealthy to get healthy. In an age where gym memberships cost hundreds of dollars per year, personal trainers around $100 an hour and state-of-the-art exercise equipment in the thousands, it might strike some readers as unrealistic that $200 will have much impact. Allow us to demure.
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Take, for example, the wrist-mounted Polar F11, which not only monitors heart rates but also creates its own workout program that tells wearers how much they need to exercise to reach their goals. A suntanned personal trainer with rock-hard abs can do the same thing, but the F11 only costs $159.
Speaking of nifty devices you can wear on your wrist, for runners and cross-country skiers there is the Garmin Forerunner 2001, which tracks the amount of calories burned, keeps count of how much distance you've traveled and, best of all, provides GPS navigation so you never have to worry about getting lost. Not bad for $160.
To help keep track of all that weight you are losing, there are few bigger motivators than a scale, and few scales are as high-tech — and affordable — as the Tanita BC553 Body Composition Monitor, which has a list price of around $120. It not only tells you your weight but also body fat, body water percentage, bone mass, basal metabolic rate, metabolic age and muscle mass.
Of course, not all exercise equipment needs a microchip to be effective. Some times, the old-fashioned way, such as the $150 chrome, 45-pound dumbbell set from Ivanko, is the best way. For building upper body strength nothing beats daily reps. And, better still, you can use them just about anywhere.
The downside to dumbbells is that you can't exactly sling them in your suitcase for your next business trip. To help you exercise while on the road — or anywhere, for that matter — there are few better things than a good pair of running shoes, such as the adiStar Control from Adidas. At $120, these sneakers aren't inexpensive, but they are lightweight, durable and designed to reduce over-pronation.
And, yes, no shoe in the world, no matter how beautifully designed, will actually get you on the road to fitness But if you at least have the right gear, you've taken the first steps toward getting there.
© 2012 Forbes.com