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Explainer:

  • The beginning of the year is a great time to muzzle some of the most common excuses for not working out — "I'm so busy!" "The weather is so bad!"

    How?

    By investing in home exercise gear. In one study, people with home gyms were 73 perfect more likely to be active than those without one. Don't worry about knocking down walls, either; you need only one tool to get your heart rate up for a cardio workout and some strength equipment to firm up.

    We have pinpointed the best options for your budget, along with some extras to help you meet your workout goals.

    Enter to win a brand new home gym

  • Cardio

    Choose at least one, and do 30 minutes five or more times a week.

    Budget buys between $20 and $80

    Burn 110-plus calories in just 10 minutes with the Reebok Adjustable Speed Jump Rope. You can also add weight to the handles to sculpt shapelier arms. You'll need at least a 9-foot ceiling and a body that can take high-impact exercise. ($20; amazon.com)

    An indoor alternative: Step while watching TV, or pop in a DVD for a challenge. Reebok's Incline Step includes slanted risers (for variations that target different muscles) and a 20-minute DVD. ($80; amazon.com)

    Exercise DVD fans can spice up their routine with Gliding Discs. Stand on them and slide around the room for a low-impact workout that hits underused muscles like the inner thighs. ($23 for discs and 3 DVDs; glidingdiscs.com)

    How to shop for cardio equipment

    Mid-priced between $599 and $1,000

    Pedal off pounds pain free with the Vision Fitness R1500 bike. There's no hunching over handlebars on this recumbent ride, and the cushioned lumbar supported seat is so comfy, you may not want to get off. ($599; visionfitness.com)

    LAMARIANA
    Jim Mcknight  /  AP file
    Gyms have high-priced elliptical trainers but you can find affordable no-impact models for your home gym, too.

    Baby your knees and burn megacalories. A no-impact elliptical trainer like the Nautilus E514 mimics running, and you can reverse directions to work more muscles. This model is so smooth, it feels like high-priced gym models. ($999; nautilus.com)

    Fair-weather walkers and runners will like the Horizon Fitness T203 treadmill. Its cushioning system provides more shock absorption at the front of the belt where your foot lands and is firmer at the back where you push off. ($1,000; horizonfitness.com)

  • Strength

    Choose at least one product, and do 2 or 3 workouts a week.

    Budget buys between $5 and $35

    For a high-intensity strength and cardio routine, grab a kettlebell. In just 20 minutes, you can burn up to 400 calories and firm all over. GoFit offers a 10-pound kettlebell with a beginner DVD. ($35; gofit.net)

    Image: kettlebell
    FitnessFactory.com
    A kettlebell is good for a high-intensity strength and cardio routine.

    Rubber resistance bands and tubes mimic machine moves and target back, hip, and inner thigh muscles that are hard to hit with dumbbell exercises. Braided Xertubes are a bit pricier but more durable than traditional models. ($30; spri.com)

    Perfect for beginners, dumbbells are easy to use. Choose lighter ones for small muscles like triceps, heavier ones for larger muscles. (from about $5 a set; available at retailers such as Sears)

    Mid-priced between $30 and $300

    Make body-weight moves like planks and leg lifts more challenging with Contour-Weights (you'll probably want two). Secure the long neoprene tube around your waist, drape it over your leg, or hold it like a bar for upper body exercises. Available in 6, 9, 12, and 15 pounds. ($30 to $57; spri.com)

    Avoid dumbbell clutter but still challenge yourself with heavy weights (key for fast toning) with Stamina's Versa-Bell weights. You get 9 dumbbells in 1: A simple click transforms the weight in Q   2.5-pound increments, from 5 to 25 pounds, m ($300 per pair; staminaproducts.com)

    This portable device is like a gym in a bag. Attach the TRX suspension trainer to a door, put your hands and feet in the handles, and you can do more than 300 exercises. ($200, includes guide and DVD; fitnessanywhere.com)

    Slim down with Kettlebells

  • Excellent extras

    For a flatter belly: Exercising on a stability ball activates more ab and back muscles for faster firming. The TrainerBall makes it easy: Moves are printed right on the ball. ($30; trainermat.com)

    Smart fitness gear

    For better balance: Basic moves like stepping forward and back become more challenging on the 6-inch-wide Beamfit Activity Beam. The result is a gentle strength and flexibility workout that targets your core and improves stability. ($125; beamfit.com)

    Image: Magneto by cycleops
    cycleops.com
    The CycleOps Magneto bike trainer provides progressive resistance.

    For cyclists: Turn your bike into an indoor cardio machine by hooking it up to the CycleOps Magneto bike trainer. It even provides progressive resistance: As you pedal faster, the difficulty increases without you having to shift gears. ($270; cycleops.com)

    More from Prevention
    17 ways that exercise sends your health soaring
    5 workout mistakes that slow down results
    10 ways to get fit and firm at home
    8 fat-minute blast

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